Apr 13, 2009

Be an Eco-Friendly Cook

As you know I am a big proponent of eco-friendly cooking & eating! Here are a few tips to help make your food prep routines more sustainable.

1) Make at least a few vegetarian meals per week. Meat production requires 8X the fossil fuel energy of plant production, so you be use fewer resources when you eat meat-free meals.

2) Enjoy foods in season. I can't say this enough. In-season foods taste light years better in addition to being better for the earth.

3) Buy organic dairy products and sustainably-raised meats. Sure it's tempting to buy the $3.50 gallon of milk instead of the $6 gallon, but the difference in product quality -- as well as toll taken on the earth's resources -- is astounding. Same goes for meat. You might find chicken breasts on sale for $2.50/lb, but the way these chickens were raised would make you cringe (at best) and the farming practice is totally unsustainable. Plus this meat is lower in nutrients and higher in things you don't want in your body. So spring for that more expensive meat -- be it organic, grass-fed, or sustainably-raised -- it's healthier for both you and the earth. [And if you follow Tip #1, you won't even be spending more money in the end.]

4) Be efficient with your appliances & cooking routines. For example, don't bake and grill foods in the same meal -- choose either the grill, oven, or stove for your meal prep and stick with that cooking method. And plan ahead -- if you can grill 6 chicken breasts instead of 2 and use the remaining chicken later in the week for salads, sandwiches, wraps, or other cold entrees, you'll save on both energy and time.

5) Don't dismiss the toaster oven. If you're cooking for one or two, the toaster oven is a great tool, because it's small size means it heats quickly and uses less energy than the traditional oven. You can use it for baking pretty much anything, and your dinner will be ready faster too.

6) Utilize your microwave. A microwave effectively uses 57.5% of its energy to heat food, compared with a gas cooktop, which uses only 7.1%. So next time you go to make tea, pop that water in the microwave instead of boiling a whole kettle full of water.

7) Keep the refrigerator (and oven) door closed. Every time you open the fridge, warm air rushes in and the fridge starts to work overtime to reduce it's temperature. Get as much food out at once as you can. Same is true for the oven -- use the oven light instead of opening the oven every few minutes to check on your food -- you'll not only save energy, but you'll get a better baking result. [Note: it's also important not to put piping hot food in the fridge -- it will warm up the other food in the fridge which is not only a waste of energy, it can also cause harmful bacteria to grow making foodborne illness more of a risk.]

Email me with questions or for more tips!

* Some of these tips adapted from Cooking Light magazine, April 2009

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