Ecothrifty Food Choices: Meal Planning, Water Canning and More

Ecothrifty food choices can be made by gradually adjusting your eating habits.

| August 2013

A list of vegetables that freeze well.

Most vegetables freeze well after blanching, which means being placed in boiling water for one to three minutes, followed by being plunged into cold water to stop the cooking action.

Illustration Courtesy New Society Publishers

Ecothrifty (New Society Publishers, 2013), by Deborah Neimann is a must-read for anyone who has ever wanted to live a greener life but thought that it would be too expensive, time-consuming or difficult, this handy, complete guide will show you how small changes can have a huge environmental impact and save you thousands of dollars, all while improving your quality of life. The excerpt below comes from chapter 5, “Food,” and discusses ways in which your food choices affect your health, your wallet and the planet.

You can purchase this book at the GRIT store: Ecothrifty.

For more than a decade, organic has been at the forefront of what is considered healthy food. Although I would not argue that organic is better for the human body and the environment than conventionally grown food, it is not always the ecothrifty choice. The $5 frozen organic dinner is far from sustainable when you factor in all of the miles it has traveled from field to factory to store, as well as the layers of plastic and cardboard packaging. Recently, we have begun to realize that when it comes to food’s environmental impact, local and unprocessed can be as important as organic.

The Oxford American Dictionary named “locavore” the word of the year in 2007, and since then, the local food movement has continued to grow. The number of farmers’ markets increases every year, and farm-to-fork restaurants are starting to pop up in cities everywhere. At Station 220 in Bloomington, Illinois, the chefs are also the farmers, and at the Firefly Grill in Effingham, Illinois, you can see the garden where your salad was grown right outside the restaurant. Trolley Stop Market in Memphis, Tennessee, is owned and operated by farmers, who also operate a year-round farmers’ market selling meat, dairy, produce, nuts, grains, and honey from farms in their area.

Determining the ecothrifty food choice can be complicated because it is not as simple as saying that the organic tomato costs more than the conventional tomato. The less expensive tomato may be the frugal choice, but it is not necessarily the ecofriendly or healthy choice.

If either of the tomatoes is ripened on the vine, it will have more nutrients than a conventional tomato that is picked green and gassed with ethylene to turn red. The conventional tomato probably has pesticide residues on it. How many miles did either tomato travel to arrive at your supermarket or farmers’ market? You may not always have the answers at your disposal when shopping at the grocery store. The hallmarks of ecothrifty eating are buying food that is locally grown, and organic when possible, and preparing most of your own meals. And it would be incorrect to assume that organic is always more expensive than conventional.

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