6 Tips for Creating more Sustainable Home-cooked Meals

By Leslie Maliepaard

Creating zero-waste meals for your family is much easier than you think.

But let’s face it, creating healthy meals while avoiding plastic is pretty hard to achieve. Whether it’s planning meals, sourcing ingredients or choosing plastic free options, there’s a lot to learn.

I’m a busy entrepreneur with an eight-year old daughter whom I’m home schooling at the moment, due to Covid-19. I’m preparing meals for 4 people every day in our household and to streamline the meal planning, shopping and cooking, I have to be super organised. I’ve had lots of failures and some successes, but I’m improving every day.

If there is one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s to plan your family meals properly. During busy periods this becomes even more important.

We’ve just moved home from Ireland to Austria, so to say that things are somewhat chaotic right now would be an understatement. Unpacking, cooking, home-schooling, and running The Planet Calls takes up all my time. If it wasn’t for meal-prepping, I think my family would have to pick their vegetables from the garden and prepare their own meals.

How exactly did I start making small changes in sourcing and preparing for family meals? At first, with great difficulty, since it did mean making a paradigm shift in terms of how I shopped for food and how I cooked the meals.

I plan all meals the day before to make sure I am completely organised. I also mainly look for plant-based recipes. But with a young carnivorous child in the house I have to make sure there is also meat on the menu or else she would go hungry. I love Ayurvedic recipes and often find that the Buddha Bowls offer the most sustenance, creativity and bulk for the hungry men in my house.

It would be a dream to do far fewer trips to the grocery store, but using a lot of perishables means I do need to pop into the store more often. In general, I try to use what I already have. I call it “Refrigerator Google” where I stand in front of the fridge googling the ingredients in my head. My husband cannot believe the meals I come up with, especially when he thinks the fridge is completely empty!

To help you streamline your meal times, I’m sharing my top 6 tips to prepare more sustainable meals.

PLAN TO MAKE HEALTHY MEALS
With health high up on all our lists, it’s hard to make the right nutritional choices after a long day of work. If you’ve pre-sourced the ingredients and your recipe, it is a lot easier to put together a fresh and healthy meal.

BECOME MORE CREATIVE IN THE KITCHEN
I think everyone yearns for this but doesn’t always quite pull it off. But with a little prepping, one can actually be quite creative even if you’re not the next Nigella Lawson. One creative meal I’m religious about preparing the night before, is Bircher Muesli. The muesli is soaked overnight in apple juice which increases digestibility and nutrient availability. Then just add fresh fruits in the morning. It’s a great way to start the day and to avoid processed and sugary cereals.

ADOPT A PLASTIC-FREE APPROACH
I don’t believe that one needs plastic packaged food to make a fine meal. Often when I shop and realise I hadn’t brought my net bags to buy loose fruits and vegetables, I have a mini-break down. The thought of buying food wrapped in plastic pains me. So how exactly do you wade through a sea of plastic packaged food when you’re running a household? Once again, it’s about being prepared to shop with a “ War on Plastic” mindset. I’m learning as I go, because it’s impossible to go low-plastic or zero-plastic as much as I’d like to. However, it’s the little changes that make the world of difference.

SLOW COOK YOUR MEALS
I don’t ever use the microwave as I cannot bear the thought of what the microwaves do to the chemical composition of the food. With prepping food, the frozen foods are taken out in time to defrost naturally. Cooking wise, I’ll steam, lightly boil, grill or air fry foods. I’m no Mother Theresa, so we do indulge in the occasional barbecue or pizza.

BATCH COOK YOUR MEALS
Personally, this is not my style for two reasons. Firstly, no matter how much I make, it all gets eaten the same day. Secondly, I’ve never been a fan of eating cooked foods that have been frozen. But if you have a large family and a full-time job, this option might just work for you.

KEEP YOUR MEALS SIMPLE
For me, meal preparation has to be kept simple. I experiment a lot to find better ways of doing things that match my lifestyle and all our schedules. It all starts with a good plan!

Hope those tips helped you embrace a more sustainable approach to your cooking.

 

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