26 AUG, 2021 | BY HANNAH MALIK
How to cook sustainably? This guide will get you on your way to eco friendly cooking.
Being a mum of four has made me think a lot about how to be more sustainable in cooking, not just for the environment but for the wallet too!
However, I’m aware that sustainable living blogs can often feel a bit preachy so I want to say, before I start, that my kids, husband and still I eat too many crisps, love a treat meal like Mac Donald’s or pizza takeaway, and my child Oscar can’t live without pre-packed processed meats like ham and salami. So please read on keeping this in mind!
What can you expect here:
1. Meat and dairy reduction - why and how to eat plan based?
2. Planning - the importance of planning your family meals
3. Reduce Waste - it has so many benefits to our world
4. Bonus! - The vegan paella recipe!
What if you could reduce meat and dairy consumption?
It begins with knowing the enormous impact meat and dairy have on the environment, our health, and our budget (You start to worry about the welfare of animal, you don’t want them to suffer, you want to make a positive change for the environment and ensure a good future for your children). In order to break decades of old habits (I’m only 5 years off half a century….) I decided to force myself to learn a whole load of new recipes by joining in Veganuary three years ago.
And guess what?
I loved it so much it lasted four months not one!
For this time in my plant based family I was the only one on a plant based diet, my husband joined me by eating what I ate for meals but kept his dairy milk for coffee and the occasional egg or… six. The kids had a combination of plant based meals at dinner time, but sometimes some fish fingers or cheese added in or whatever the school offered at lunchtime.
I wanted it to be fun plant based eating for all and not a chore diet.
I wanted it to be fun plant based eating for all and not a chore diet.
I learned that plant based food actually tastes a lot better than non-plant based food but mainly because I put a heck of a lot more effort into cooking it. Lots of spices, pulses and new cooking techniques.
Ok, I know what you’re thinking: I don’t know how to cook plant based!
Let’s get into it then:
There are masses of recipes on the internet you can get inspired from and great people to follow on Instagram like Bosh and deliciously Ella. You’ll never get bored of the tastes and recipes.
One of my favourites (which my kids loved too!) is vegan Paella:
Vegan Paella Recipe
300g Sharpham Park Spelt, rinsed
400g chopped tomatoes
1 pinch cracked black pepper
150g fresh beans trimmed and cut in half
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp olive
1 onion, diced
1 small bunch parsley
1 red pepper, roughly diced
1 pinch saffron (optional)
1 pinch salt
2 heaped tsp smoked paprika
900ml vegetable stock
- Heat the oil in a large pan and lightly fry the onions for 5 minutes. Add pressed garlic and a small pinch of salt and fry for a minute more.
- Add the paprika to the pan and fry for 1 minute, stirring continuously. Tip in the spelt and stir until the grain is coated in the spice.
- Pour in the chopped tomatoes and stir into the grain. Add the stock and saffron, if using, and bring to the boil over the medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15min, stir on occasion.
- Add beans and diced pepper, cooking for further 10 minutes, stirring more often as the liquid is absorbed. Remove the paella from the heat, drip over a little lemon juice and stir in half the parsley.
- Serve with extra lemon wedges and sprinkled parsley on top.
But no pressure there!
Although my plant based diet didn’t last forever it did achieve what I intended it to. I have a lot more plant based recipes in my repertoire, some take more effort (but are worth it!) and some are easy weekday meals like courgette and pine nut pasta, shakshuka and sourdough toast or big bowls of ramen and lots of bowls of extras for us all to choose from like mushrooms, carrots, tofu and edamame.
So now, even though we are not following a plant based diet we often have meat and dairy free meals in a normal week.
But you know what else?
I have also never been able to put cows milk back in my coffee - it can only be oat milk for me!
But one thing’s for sure – the importance of planning.
Yup, I know, super boring.
But totally worth it! I have a food delivery on the same day every week and spend every Sunday planning the meals for the week and adding ingredients to the shopping basket.
By planning I know that we will minimise any waste and also make sure across the week we have a balanced diet and a mixture of easy cooked meals on the days I know I’m going to be working late and meals that take more time but I know I’m going to enjoy cooking and we will all enjoy eating.
This planning also helps me to minimise the meat and dairy and keep my plant based cooking skills honed! I will take half an hour and sit down with my coffee to do the shop and skimming some recipes on the internet for inspiration. Bonus: try to add a new recipe every couple of weeks to try out on the husband and kids.
This is the time to start reducing waste.
On top of planning, for me the key is always about eating what needs to be eaten first and not allowing things to go off in the fridge! You start with looking at the use by dates on the shopping and working out which meals I have to cook early in the week and which ones can wait until later. I write these on the board on the fridge. (This also helps to reduce lots of the ‘what’s for dinner?’ questions).
And those occasions where we do get a good piece of meat for a roast dinner, I try to use all the leftovers in a pie or a soup or stew - for example a large chicken can feed my family of six for two whole meals as the day after the roast I use the bones and leftover meat with carrots, onions, and barley to make a soupy stew.
But one of the kids favourite meals we have is ‘bits’ dinner which is usually once a week and is exactly that…. ‘Bits’ of food that need eating. A mix of leftovers from earlier in the week and usually some salad items or eggs or humous or anything else that needs eating up - all laid out on the table for us to tuck into.
If you’re looking for how to stop food waste – the advice is to take small steps, which make big difference.
Now it’s your turn to try eco cooking!
Now let’s take it somewhere awesome. I hope some of that has been helpful for you or at least has given you an insight into how a busy working mum manages to feed a family of six - reasonably healthy and on a budget…
for some of the time…
…when I haven’t popped to the co-op and stocked up on crisps. 😬😜
Written by Hannah Malik
Hi! I’m Hannah and I’m old according to my kids and young according to my parents, so that must make me middle aged.
I’m married and we have four kids. 16, 13, 10 and 6. I found Alba when my youngest, Oscar, was just a baby and my daughter Olive would have been around 5. I loved the gender neutral nature of many of the clothes - passing hoodies down from one to the other. I love the quality of the fabrics and the classic, timeless nature of the clothes. But at the same time they weren’t like anything I found on the high street. Olive has now outgrown Alba but it makes up the majority of Oscar’s out of school wardrobe. He always chooses it due to the softness of the fabric, comfort of the styles, and the colours.
I work I a pretty full on job and when I’m not working I love crocheting (yes, really…. it’s probably one of the key reasons my kids say I’m so old), reading or listening to audio books, going for family walks (when I can drag them out) and just hanging with the kids watching Netflix and eating far too much popcorn.
This is such a lovely honest post Hannah. I was virtually vegan (I ate the odd cheese board) for three years pre children but I’ve been vegetarian for 38 years, I’d love to get back to it now the children are a bit older, there are some great tips in there, thank you for sharing.