In the last few weeks my husband and I have been re-evaluating our grocery budget due to a shift in our income. At the same time I’ve been re-evaluating our lifestyle looking for areas where we can live more simply. When a smaller pocketbook and a desire to produce less waste combine, a beautiful thing happens: HOMEMADE FOOD. I’m talking flour, sugar, produce, sweat and measuring. I’ve been making soups, bread, butter and granola from scratch all in an effort to produce less waste, save a few dollar bills and understand where my food comes from.
There are so many positives to making things from scratch. To begin with, my favorite; less waste. Over the last 10-20 years, the way we shop at the grocery store and the purchases we make have been influenced by various shifts in food related trends. We’ve gone from grabbing the box with the most attractive packaging, to the box that gave us the most for the cheapest price, to the box with the fewest ingredients listed and ones we could pronounce, to the current era of organic everything and finally to what I hope will continue to be a growing trend; the box that, well, isn’t a box with a lining I have to throw out, but rather a compostable or recyclable package. To make an honest effort toward living a simpler life with less stuff, you have to start making decisions that come with less baggage, literally. So start at the grocery store. You have to eat, so you have to go shopping, so food packaging waste is going to be the most consistent in your trash. The top five things I’ve seen that end up in our trash are: cereal/cracker box liners, frozen vegetable bags, plastic wrap off of meat containers, random empty packets from things like boxed macaroni and cheese and pop tarts (husband) and cheese packaging. What’s in your trash? Take a look and do one of two things. One, look for an alternative that after using it, you can either compost or recycle. Two, make that thing from scratch so no packaging is even required. This is possible! I know it seems unlikely that eliminating one wrapper or so from your trash will make any impact, but think of that starfish story! You know the story…..the guy walking on the beach where millions of washed up starfish are dying in the sun….he throws one back in the ocean and some skeptic says, “why do that? There are millions! One won’t make a difference.” To which he replies, “yeah, but it will make a difference to that one.” Let’s start throwing some starfish in the ocean and a lot less stuff in our trash.
The next best thing about homemade food is how much money you save at the store. My least favorite things to buy because of how ridiculously expensive they are: bread, cereal/granola and soup. This week I decided to make these three things from scratch to see if we would save money. Fact: we did. We also ended up with leftover ingredients so we can make the same things again next week without buying anything more. Here’s one example of how we much we saved:
Recipe: Homemade Whole Wheat Bread (look for full recipe in zero waste recipes)
Ingredients: Whole wheat flour, honey, salt, water, yeast and olive oil
Already had: honey, salt, water and olive oil
Bought: 1 bag of organic whole wheat flour: $4.99 and a 3 pack of yeast: $2.49
Total cost: $7.48+tax
The bonus: We only used 6 of 19 cups of the flour and 1 of 3 packs of yeast. We have enough left over to make this recipe two more times (each serving makes 2 medium sized loaves)
Actual cost per serving: $2.49!
Store bought price: between $3.99-$5.49 for our usual bread choice (organic)
Total savings: $1.50-$3.00!
This is just one example! This week at the grocery store, with four homemade recipes in mind, we spent $25 less than our typical week. We also have more food leftover from each meal and a lot of ingredients waiting to be made into something great for weeks to come.
The last benefit to making homemade food that I want to mention is how the process ties into our relationship with our environment. Cooking and preparing food connects you with what you’re putting into your body. If you understand that what you put into your body at one point started in the ground, then you understand that if that ground doesn’t exist or is completely toxic, you don’t eat. There is no food! Carrots, wheat, lettuce, berries, meat, milk, cookies, peanut butter, all food, requires a rich environment to grow in. If you enjoy eating, then you have to make the connection that your actions influence and impact the environment that creates your food. We are a wasteful, unsustainable, selfish group of humans if we can’t understand this. A great way to start engaging with what you eat and understanding the incredibleness (needs to be a word) of how it’s created is to make something from scratch. Loaves of bread don’t grow from the ground? No, not since God did it. Wheat, water, salt, yeast and oil combined with time, heat and some upper body strength makes a loaf of bread. This understanding of where our family dinners, our late night snacks and our morning cups all started will hopefully guide us toward making better decisions of living a life that is sustainable in an environment that is rich.
Choose to be the starfish thrower and enjoy the environment you’re taking care of.