The age old tale of waste not, want not

Sustainability has been a big topic lately – I find myself seeing more people, more advertising, more stories, news, blog posts and even celebrities getting on the movement.

And it is a great movement, philosophy, way of living, future proofing – whatever you want to define it – for safeguarding this beautiful, amazing place we call Earth, our home, for the next generations.

What I interestingly discovered when I read about tips for being sustainable in our own homes and for our own habits, I realise that many of these tips are everyday things that I grew up within India. Things that my mother drilled into us children while growing up, mainly, I suspect, as a way for us to not waste nothing so we want for nothing more.

This “age-old tale” of waste not want not has certainly dogged my adult life. Today I live in a one-bedroom apartment with my husband. We don’t buy anything we don’t need and if you see my fridge and pantry, I only buy the essentials so we will never throw out anything because it is off or past its use-by date.

So I thought today I might share my own practices for cooking and eating sustainably, mostly derived from my mother and cultivated over time by the values and philosophies I have shaped throughout my life’s adventures and cultural learnings so far.

One last thing before I get on with the sharing. . . I think the beauty of sustainability is that everyone, anyone can take steps toward having a sustainable kitchen that contribute to a sustainable planet.

So here goes. . .

Expand Your Cooking Skills

No matter where you stand with cooking abilities, there’s always room for improvement. When it comes to sustainable cooking, the more you know in the kitchen, the easier it is to create recipes and save money. For example, the other day I cooked beetroot and instead of throwing out the leaves, I made a simple but delicious dish using spices and lentils to create another meal. No waste, just more beautiful things to eat!

Support local, Shop Local

I love the opportunity to visit and buy at farmers markets to obtain fresh, local food. When I grew up in India, we used to get our fruit and veggies from our own garden or that from the farmers who would sell their fresh produce in carts near my home. Meeting the people who produce your food is the best feeling, allowing us to ask questions about growing techniques and even different ways to prepare all aspects of the food yourself.

Go vegetarian more during the week

My mum is a vegetarian and growing up in Northern India, a lot of our foods were vegetable-based. Meat, fish and poultry were more like a once in a while treat! Eating more fruits and vegetables is not only healthier for our bodies, it’s also healthier for the planet. Adding more green foods to your diet reduces freshwater withdrawals as well as deforestation. For me, the trick to eating more veggies is to make them taste better! Check out my recipes for vegan, vegetarian recipes for your meals. Also, growing up, our main meals were stapled with pulses – beans, legumes, lentils – which among the most sustainable (and affordable) foods you can choose because they can adapt to climate change and help sequester carbon in the soil, and they decrease methane emissions from the farm animals, such as cattle, that eat them. Plus, they’re rich in fiber, nutrients, and plant protein.

Eat Seasonally

In India, my family would eat in season, according to what grew locally in times of the year. My mother never bought any foods that were imported overseas to make sure we have the same foods all year round. I must say this is one thing that I have continued in my adult life. I love seeing what I can do with seasonal produce and find imported goods like USA grapes during winter to taste not as good as eating them during hotter summer days. Purchasing foods that are in season allows for natural, sustainable eating. Seasonal eating may mean consuming root vegetables and hearty greens during the fall and winter months and then eating salads and fruits during the summer months. Most foods have times of the year that they are more abundant than others. Eating according to those times benefits the environment’s natural production as well as your wallet!

Reduce Food Waste by saving all (nutritious bits)

Although many people believe that food is natural and when thrown away it will decompose, this is not the case typically. Most foods actually end up in a landfill. One of the things that I grew up with was the concept of finishing and appreciating your meals. That meant not taking more food than what you can fit in and making sure that we use every bit of food we can. This certainly has fuelled my simple food sustainability efforts such as planning our meals, only buying the groceries we need and figuring out ways to utilise leftovers.

Radish tops, turnip greens, leftover bread—keep these nutritious bits out of the bins. You can instead Whiz raw radish tops and turnip greens in a food processor with pine nuts, cheese, and fresh mint, and then use on grilled vegetables or pasta. Carrot tops add fresh flavor and a feathery texture to salads.

Do you have any kitchen and food sustainable practices? I would love to hear about them to see if I can also add them into my own habits.