GOOD SENSE eatingOur foremothers were "green" cooks before it was fashionable to do so—mainly out of necessity. Shopping, cooking and cleanup were done with thrift in mind, and nothing was ever wasted. With today’s emphasis on reducing our carbon footprint, along with the downturn in the economy, let’s look at some ways to reduce waste—and our grocery bills.
At the supermarket
Buy food products in packaging with less waste. For example, save individual servings of milk, juice and applesauce, etc., for packing lunch boxes or traveling.
Shop the store’s perimeter and interior. Usually the produce department greets you with its abundance of inexpensive and nourishing potatoes, onions, lettuce, carrots, celery, apples, bananas and the like. But don’t forget the interior aisles. That’s where you’ll find rolled oats, canned and dried beans, pasta, rice and other inexpensive belly fillers.
Buy organics selectively. If you prefer organics, but the prices make you cringe, buy those non-organics Consumer Reports singled out as being low in residual pesticides: asparagus, avocado, banana, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, kiwi fruit, mango, onion, papaya, pineapple and peas. Also consider the pollution caused by trucking organics from far-away states (or countries) versus those locally grown.
Choose bagged frozen fruits and vegetables. Frozen is especially smart when produce is out of season. Produce is frozen immediately after harvesting, so nutrients are intact. Simply pour out what you need. Nothing’s wasted and there’s little packaging waste.
Try private labels. The quality of many private label items is comparable to the national brands (after all, the store’s reputation is at stake.)
Limit trips to warehouse clubs. Why? Consider the impulse buys, gargantuan sizes and the big bill once you’re at the checkout. Research also shows when we bring home large quantities of foods, we simply EAT more, canceling out any cost savings (while expanding our waistlines.)
In the kitchen
Cook once, eat twice. Plan meals with foods that can do double duty. The Sunday roast beef can become the Tuesday night stir-fry, soup or tacos. Thin slices can go into sandwiches. Make extra of meal items that can be frozen and pulled out on a night when you might ordinarily make a beeline for the drive-through. Possibilities include family favorites such as risotto, soup, stews, casseroles or lasagna.
Bits of leftover vegetables can be frozen and incorporated into vegetable soup. Save the vitamin-rich cooking water, too.
Stale bread can be whirled in the blender for crumbs, or cubed and made into tasty croutons.
Season inexpensive plain whole wheat couscous and brown rice with herbs and spices. Freeze any leftovers.
Prepare your own salad dressing using a private label extra virgin olive oil with some red wine vinegar, herbs, salt and freshly ground pepper. You’ll save money, fresh tastes better and the olive oil provides beneficial antioxidants.
Eating "green" extends your family’s food dollar and can provide them more nourishing meals. Think of how well you’ll eat at home and how much gas money you’ll save, not to mention the high cost of eating out.
Other tips for eating for less
n With your child, sow seeds for fast-growing vegetables such as lettuce, carrots and radishes. For less than $2 per seed packet, even city-dwellers can find their "green" thumb with a container garden.
Brew your own coffee (or tea) and save appreciable money over the course of a year. It tastes better from a china cup, anyway.
Instead of buying herbs and spices in pricey jars, replenish your empties with less expensive bagged spices found in many supermarket produce departments.
For a free 78-page downloadable USDA publication, go to www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/FoodPlans/MiscPubs/FoodPlansRecipeBook.pdf
Simple roast chicken
Ingredients1 whole chicken, about 3-3 1/2 pounds1 Tbsp. kosher salt, divided1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided2 tsp. sage, minced1/4 cup Dijon mustard, for dipping Preheat oven to 450 F.
Rinse chicken thoroughly and dry well with paper towels, inside and out. Sprinkle half of salt and pepper into the cavity of the chicken and place in roasting pan. Sprinkle remaining salt and pepper evenly on top of chicken.
Roast the chicken until thermometer reaches 180 F when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, about 50-60 minutes. Remove chicken from oven and sprinkle sage evenly on top. Baste chicken with juices from pan, and let rest 15 minutes on carving board. Serve with Dijon mustard. Yields 4 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 440 calories; 25 g fat; 7 g saturated fat; 2 g carbohydrate
Recipe and photo courtesy of the National Chicken Council/U.S. Poultry & Egg Association
Christine M. Palumbo, RD, is a registered dietitian in private practice in Naperville. She can be reached at (630) 369-8495 or ChristinePalumbo.com.
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