Quarantine and lockdown have forced us all to become better home cooks, but there’s still plenty to learn. Even if you’re a true amateur in the kitchen, we’ve all got to eat. Even better, there are simple switches that can lessen your impact on the planet while improving your culinary skills. It’s a win-win, especially for your stomach.
1. Eat Local and Seasonal
Choosing fruits and vegetables that are harvested in your region cuts shrinks your carbon footprint. Most farmers markets have been allowed to remain open as a vital food source, so make note of what local growers are bringing to sell and plan your menu around that. Bonus: in-season produce is often fresher, more colorful, and full of flavor.
2. Clean with a Conscience
Speaking of carbon footprint: Supernatural drastically cuts down on theirs by taking millions of gallons of water and tons of plastic out of the equation. Sending concentrated formulas and buy-once-use-forever glass bottles (that are so pretty you won’t mind leaving them on the counter) makes a gigantic impact on Mama Earth. Natural and sustainable isn’t just for what goes on your plate.
3. Grow Your Own
If you’ve got even a tinge of a green thumb, consider growing your most-used herbs and vegetables at home. Even a windowsill or balcony will work as a spot for tomatoes, peppers, basil, and rosemary to flourish, but feel free to plan the garden you’ve always dreamed of. Your marinara sauce has never tasted better.
4. Store Smartly
If you’ve got an abundance of edible goodies, make sure you’re storing them properly. To avoid brown or yellowed produce, store apples, avocados, eggplant, lettuce, melons, mushrooms, pears, and tomatoes separately. If you’re tempted to put potatoes and onions together, don’t (onions are the ethylene producers here). An easy way to remember is that fruits are mostly the ones to produce ethylene, while vegetables are the most sensitive to it.
5. Consider Composting
First off: If you’re doing it right, it doesn’t have to smell. Second, you don’t need a patch of land in order to turn food scraps and other organic refuse into nutrient-rich fertilizer. There are several stylish countertop systems that will take your coffee grounds and orange peels and give them a second life (perhaps for that garden you were planning to start?). The EPA estimates that food scraps and yard waste together currently make up more than 28 percent of what we throw away — wouldn’t it feel better to return it to the earth, instead.
6. Use Every bit
Even if you’re not ready to put a composting bin on your counter, you can still be mindful of what you do with scraps. Often we throw away bits and pieces that could not only be useful, but actually enhance, future recipes. Make your own bone broth and stock with leftover chicken and beef bones (toss in a Parmesan rind for extra flavor). Carrot tops are a feathery addition to salads, while radish tops and turnip greens can be put in a processor with cheese, pine nuts, and fresh mint for a delicious sauce atop pasta and grilled vegetables.
7. Learn Labels
“Natural,” “organic,” “non-GMO” — what does it all mean, and what should you pay attention to? The FDA doesn’t regulate a lot of what food claims to be or not include, so it’s important to know how to decipher the labels. The USDA Organic label is one that’s set by law, so you can trust that anything bearing that has been certified to have grown on soil that had no prohibited substances applied (like synthetic fertilizers and pesticides) for three years prior to harvest. But everything else is open to interpretation and marketing, so choose wisely.