One way to be more sustainable when shopping for groceries is to use reusable shopping bags. They’re durable and sturdy and can help reduce the number of plastic bags that end up in the landfill each year. (Photo source: Samantha Kennedy)
Sustainability should not just be a buzzword during Earth Month. The fact that everybody either shops for or eats groceries means the whole grocery shopping experience is a good time to reflect and improve upon what we can personally do to embrace issues of sustainability.
This year in April, the Earth Month theme focuses on Returning to Nature. There is no better place to start a quest for personal sustainable improvement than the grocery store! Grocery shopping truly embraces the three main areas of sustainability: environmental, economic, and social. In fact, it has been well documented that the average family wastes about 25% of the food it purchases. (Much of this ends up in a landfill and creates problems of its own.)
With a bit of forethought, meal planning before grocery shopping can help individuals and families apply sustainable best practices for environmental, economic, and social well-being. In fact, many of the principles of sustainability can be effectively applied to both meal planning and grocery shopping.
RESPECT yourself. Good nutrition is one of the keys to a healthy life. Improve health by keeping a balanced diet. Vow to make healthier food choices for personal health and the environment.
REFUSE to use food products that do not fit your principles of sustainability. This may mean buying food with less packaging, eating more locally-grown fruits and vegetables, or looking for foods labeled as more responsibly sourced.
REDUCE the amount of food thrown out. Planning meals ahead of time and writing out a grocery list are excellent ways to start living sustainably. Planning not only saves money on groceries, it can save time and decrease the amount of personal food waste a family contributes. (Remember, freezing products can prolong their life, so if you find that you’ve overbought, try preserving some of your bounty for later use.) Reducing the number of trips to the grocery store also can help save on fuel and transportation costs.
REUSE /REPURPOSE food for another occasion. Careful meal planning helps ensure that leftovers from one meal can be incorporated into the next one, thereby reducing food waste.
RETHINK! Healthy, nutritious, delicious, and inexpensive grocery choices can be found in every food group. Not all food has to be prepackaged. In fact, with a bit of planning, dinner can be on the table in 15 minutes. (That’s less time than it takes to wait in line at a fast food restaurant.)
BE RESPONSIBLE! Use what you buy.
Stock up on low-cost healthy grain products like whole-wheat noodles, brown rice, and store-brand cereals and oatmeal.
Purchase fruits and vegetables that are in season and cost less. In addition, do not forget that frozen, dried, and canned fruits and vegetables can play an important part in meal planning.
Buy the largest size you can effectively use before it reaches the expiration date – and look for the items with the latest dates. Purchase store brands or generic brands whenever possible. Keep in mind smaller containers tend to cost more, no matter what the food group. Buying larger packages and dividing them into smaller portions can save money and reduce the amount of packaging that ends up in the landfill. Investing in small, reusable storage containers will save money and reduce waste in the end.
Practice Meatless Monday. The protein group provides inexpensive protein sources like beans, lentils, and eggs, which can be substituted for meat in many meals.
Protein does not have to be the most expensive item purchased. Consulting the store’s weekly sales flyer during meal planning can help you plan meals around meat and poultry items that are on sale.
Prepare food your family will actually eat. There are two schools of thought here: preparing just enough for one meal or preparing big-batch recipes that provide leftovers which can be frozen for later use. Either practice can be sustainable. Freeze leftovers only if you’re going to use them. Otherwise, cut down on the amount of food cooked to help reduce food waste.
Learn how to cook. Prepare and eat more meals at home. It is sustainable, good for you, and delicious. Meals cooked at home are more nutritious, less expensive, and result in less overall waste, such as packaging.
Two additional ways to be more sustainable when grocery shopping are to use reusable shopping bags and to stop using single-use plastic produce bags. Plastic grocery bags choke our landfills and end up in our water bodies. They are not biodegradable and can last thousands of years virtually intact. Reusable shopping bags are made from recycled materials and can drastically reduce the number of plastic bags that end up in the trash each year.
For more information on making your grocery shopping more sustainable, check out these related articles:
Freezing: Nature’s Pause Button (UF/IFAS Extension)
What’s in your FREEZER? (UF/IFAS Extension)
Best Practices for Shoppers at the Farmers’ Market (UF/IFAS Extension)
Sustainable Grocery Shopping (University of Northern Iowa)
UF/IFAS Family and Consumer Sciences Agents Heidi Copeland and Samantha Kennedy
FCS Dine In Day December 3
Is your busy, busy life making it difficult to spend time eating a meal at home with your family? Research tells us families are healthier in so many ways when they eat at home together. Maybe these favorite family meals from some of our readers will give you some inspiration.
My mother’s chicken cacciatore. She’s Italian and a great cook. She makes it with boneless chicken breasts, rice, sliced peppers, onions, tomatoes, and of course, garlic. It is so good and probably healthy. But maybe not, since I eat way too much of it. Friends and family come together on “Italian Night” to enjoy this and other Italian specialties. Molto delicioso. Rick W.
My favorite meal was always when my mom made homemade spaghetti sauce for pasta. Wow, that’s good stuff. When I brought my girlfriend home, it became one of her favorite meals too. Thanks mom! Alex H.
Father and son set the dinner table. Photo Source: Wendy Meredith
Home Away from Home Meal
My favorite family meal was pork chops, broccoli, mashed potatoes, rolls and sweet tea, because my son, (my first born), cooked his first meal in his first home away from home at the age of 21 and invited our family to dinner. He was always the one out of five children who liked to have everyone in the family sit at the dining room table together and enjoy a meal as often as possible. Our lives consisted of football, cheerleading, church events, ballet, gymnastics, soccer, school events, jobs, etc. Our family of seven was a very busy family and always running here and there, but somehow due to the persistency of our son, we managed to have one or two meals a week together as a family. I was a very happy and proud mom when I received the invite to have dinner that night. The food was delicious, but the fellowship during “My Favorite Family Meal” was something I will remember and cherish forever. Wendy M.
Let Them Eat Cake or Bread
Celebrations were very special in my family. Every year on my birthday, my grandmother would always cook my favorite food and bake my favorite cake (Red Velvet – Yum). When I was young I always thought it was about the food. But it was about so much more; we learned about manners and etiquette, and family coming together to share old traditions and make new ones. Whenever I see a red velvet cake or smell one baking, it brings back happy memories. I’m transformed back to when I was a 10 year old girl. Dorothy L.
Growing up on a farm in Michigan, I’ve got a lot of good memories involving food! From making butter in a churn, to picking blackberries in the woods for Mom to make pie, to getting ripe tomatoes from the garden for a tasty bacon and tomato sandwich and many more. I consider myself very fortunate to have grown up knowing exactly where our food comes from!
A favorite and happy memory is Mom making bread on cold days, letting the loaves rise by the heat registers, then baking it in the oven. The whole house smelled like delicious bread. Once it was done, Mom would cut it while it was still warm and give us thick slices with warm, melting butter on it! Cheryl V.
December 3rd is Dine In Day. It’s a chance to make a commitment to have a meal at home with family. So, make the decision to eat with your family at home this December 3rd.
FCS Dine In Day
FCS Dine In Day December 3
What’s your favorite family meal? Is it an event like a picnic or Super Bowl Party? Is it reoccurring like Wednesday night church dinner? Maybe it’s an annual meal like Thanksgiving. Check out some of these special Thanksgiving meals, then think about a favorite meal for your family to share on Dine In Day.
What about Sweet Potatoes?
I think my favorite holiday meal story is from about 10 years ago when our oldest daughter was away at college. She asked me what we were going to have for Thanksgiving Dinner and as I went through the list she said, “what about sweet potatoes?” to which I answered “but you don’t like sweet potatoes”. Then she said, “No, I don’t, but I they’re supposed to be on the table at Thanksgiving”!
It’s such a tiny thing, but it touched my heart because it meant she had fond memories and that our family holiday dinners meant something to her! PS – now she loves sweet potatoes and serves them to her family all the time! Susan H.
My “Found” Family
Favorite Fall Things
Photo Source:: Angela Hinkle
My favorite family meal of the year is on Thanksgiving, with my “found” family in Bradenton. Especially now that I live in Tallahassee, taking the trip down there to spend a few days with my best friend and her crazy family is definitely a highlight. It’s even more special now since I don’t get to see her every day anymore. Plus? Turkey and deviled eggs! Yummy. Sam K.
Memory We Will Always Cherish
My favorite meal happened 6 years ago during Thanksgiving. It was the first year that I hosted my own Thanksgiving dinner and my husband and I invited everyone we knew- family, friends, coworkers. We had 30 people share their holiday with us and we had so much fun. It was a lot of work and a lot of cooking, but it was so special to us. That day we were able to honor the ones we loved by hosting them and sharing that experience. One day, we will do that again. But for now, it’s a great memory that we will always cherish. Christina W.
Imagining Warm and Cozy
One of my most memorable meals was Thanksgiving when I was in the 11th grade. My family decided to go camping in our pop-up camper for the weekend at a nice campground in central Florida. In keeping with the season, a cold front passed through that weekend, dropping the temperature significantly. Our little camper did not have a heater, so we shivered in our bunks and scurried to the central bathhouse, passing motor homes and travel trailers with condensation on the windows, imagining how warm and cozy their occupants must be. Despite the frigid temperatures, we enjoyed a campground-wide Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings in the community room. We made fond memories of the weekend, which we still laugh about, and are thankful for a warm house and the comforts and conveniences of home to enjoy the holiday and everyday meals with family and friends. Judy C.
FCS Dine In Day
December 3rd is Dine In Day. It’s a chance to make a commitment to have a meal at home with family. Research tells us families are healthier in so many ways when they eat at home together. So, make the decision to eat with your family at home this December 3rd. Maybe you can tell us about your favorite family meal or be inspired to make new ones – for Thanksgiving or any time of year.
FCS Dine In Day December 3
Uncle Eddie wasn’t actually my uncle. He was my grandfather. But to most everyone in the small town in Connecticut where I spent many summers growing up, he was known as Uncle Eddie.
Edward Scordato aka “Uncle Eddie”
Every Saturday morning, Uncle Eddie got up at some ridiculously early hour and headed for the kitchen. He started a pot of coffee as well as a kettle for tea. He began making pancakes, toast, bacon or sausage, and eggs prepared in a variety of ways. (I think he honed his kitchen/organizational skills as a cook in the Army.)
Friends, neighbors, and relatives from all around came to my grandparents’ dining room and back patio to eat. Just as important, they came to socialize, catch up on how everyone was doing, and hear the latest personal and public events of the week. There was a little gossip and lots of talk of religion and politics. (As a kid, those last two subjects bored me like nothing else could.)
Some folks stayed for 20 minutes. Some stuck around for the whole morning. Uncle Eddie made sure everyone who came got fed. And not just food for their tummies. They were fed with family bonding, love, and a strong sense of belonging (and religion and politics).
Those Saturday morning breakfasts are some of my fondest memories. I honestly don’t remember the taste of the food, but I do remember it just felt good to be with everybody.
December 3rd is Dine In Day.
It’s a chance to make a commitment to have a meal at home with family. Research tells us families are healthier in so many ways when they eat at home together. So, make the decision to eat with your family at home this December 3rd. I’m going to. And it will even be okay if my family starts talking religion and politics.
Oh, and one more thing. Some of our family at UF/IFAS Extension will be sharing their favorite family meals very soon. Maybe you can tell us about yours. Maybe you can be inspired to make new ones.
Instant Pot settings display. Photo source: Wendy Meredith
An Instant Pot Pressure Cooker is a small electronic multi-cooker appliance that can function as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, warmer, and more. It is often referred to as an Instant Pot. It is currently the hottest trend in home cooking.
An Instant Pot Cooker can prepare just about any type of food you can imagine. Poultry, beef, and pork recipes, soups, stews, bread, and even desserts.
Considering today’s fast paced lifestyle the Instant Pot is a time saving kitchen helper. Spend a few minutes preparing the recipe ingredients, program the Instant Pot and relax. The Instant Pot cooking method takes the stress out of long cooking times and of meal preparation.
Instant Pot cookers are available in a variety of sizes, styles, and functions. The function of an Instant Pot is based on the model purchased. Many brands are available. Basic functions present in most models consist of slow cooker, pressure canner, steamer, rice cooker, yogurt maker, egg cooker, sauté or browner, and warmer.
When purchasing a multi-cooker consider the usage and quantity of food to be prepared. A 3-quart cooker is just the right size for single servings. Family sizes are available as 6-quart (4-6 servings) or 8 -quart (6-8 servings).
The benefits of an Instant Pot cooker are numerous. No need for constant or frequent stirring, no worry about overcooking or burning, saves energy based on quick cooking times required for recipes and less small kitchen appliances needed for preparation.
Traditionally beef stew and less tender cuts of meat take hours of cooking to render tender. The Instant Pot Cooker dishes up these delicious dishes in under an hour.
Corned Beef Cabbage*
2 pounds corned beef
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
3 bay leaves
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
8 medium red or white potatoes
8 cups coarsely sliced cabbage
Place beef in cooker. Add stock, water, bay leaves, peppercorns, and vinegar in cooker. Cook for 90 on meat/stew setting. Remove corned beef. Add vegetables; cook on high pressure for 4-5 minutes.
*Follow directions listed on Instant Pot instruction manual for programming cooker.
Instant Pot cooking is easy, economical and quick.
Recipe adapted from Cooks’ Essentials.
The pickin’ is plentiful and life is good. Now is the time to take advantage of summer’s bounty. Summer produce is colorful and healthy. It tastes amazing. And right now, it’s everywhere!
Fruits and Veggies in Season
Buying summer produce now means you get fruits and vegetables that taste their best. See Panhandle Produce in Season for what’s in season in the Florida Panhandle. Because this is the easiest time to grow them, they also cost less than at other times of the year. You also may get to learn more about where your food comes from. This is a great time of year to buy local. Speaking of which…
Visit a U-Pick farm for fresh, local produce.
Photo source: Alex Hinkle
When’s the last time you or your kids picked your own food? U-Pick farms are a great way for the whole family to enjoy the outdoors. (Hint: for max comfort and safety, go in the earliest/coolest part of the day.) Picking from a U-Pick helps you get delicious food at a good price. It also helps local businesses thrive. You can meet the local farmers in your area. You usually can get easy, tasty recipe ideas and you can even make new friends. (Working to pick your own food also can make you appreciate how hard it is to have the job of farmer.) To find the closest U-Pick farm in your area, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office.
Save Some for the Colder Months
Whether from a U-Pick, farmer’s market, or grocery store, sometimes you just can’t eat all that great produce right now. What to do? Canning or freezing are excellent options. For information on freezing vegetables, see UF IFAS Freezing Vegetables. For fruits like berries, rinse berries well and let them dry on paper towels. Place in plastic zippered bags and freeze. Then just take out the amount you need for blueberry muffins in January – Yum! Or if you live in the South, it’s easy to make cold smoothies in the blender any time of year.
Fresh-picked blueberries are perfect in smoothies and salads.
Photo source: Alex Hinkle
The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) recommends half of your plate be fruits and veggies. Eating in this way gives your body the nutrients it needs to get healthy and stay healthy. Vitamins, minerals, water, and fiber are packed into summer produce. Eat a variety. Try produce in every color, texture, shape, and size. To pack a tasty, healthy wallop for your next meal, make a hot multi-veggie hash alongside a cold refreshing fruit salad. For more ideas on how to add more fruits and veggies into your day, go to Liven Up Your Meals with Fruits and Veggies.
Summer’s Bounty – get it now, enjoy it now!