Reducing waste through upcycling, repurposing, refashioning and reloving.

Trimming my waste: Week 34 (low-waste eating)


Goals - Week 34: 

1. Heal myself (quite the goal huh?)
2. Walk the walk when it comes to zero-waste grocery shopping
3. Hit the re-set button on my eating habits 

It's week 34. I'm way past the halfway mark and you may have noticed that I have not yet mentioned food shopping, cooking or eating. In the zero-waste niche, this is odd. Search #zerowaste on Instagram, and you see a lot of this:


Why not me? Well, I knew a change in my shopping habits would be the hardest to pull off. I get to the farmer's market sporadically. I squeeze in grocery shopping when I can. I feed a fruitarian 6-year old and once I know I have what she needs, I tend to buy what's convenient for me. Not junk - think pre-grilled chicken, precooked lentils, cheese, apples. Just convenient. A lot in recyclable packaging. But still. A ton of packaging.

I figured I'd get there. Baby steps. Start the challenge, reduce plastic etc and tackle the eating stuff later, right? Ahem. That hasn't happened. The bulk section at Whole Foods is definitely not my jam.

Meanwhile, I woke up two weeks ago with yet another virus. This time in my chest. Probably the 8th bout of illness this year... I've lost count. Besides my annual encounter strep, everything has been viral and has knocked me on my butt. And my skin has been awful - I'm 43 dealing with more acne than I ever experienced as a teenager. And finally, I've been doing dances with blinding, cycle-related migraines for the first time in my life. Hey, welcome to your 40s, I thought! Where do I go to get my uterus removed?

Last weekend, I messaged my good friend Lisa to say, "guess what? I can't make it tonight because I'm sick. Again." And then I went on a rant similar to what I just captured above. I'm sick of being sick and feeling like low-energy crap. I just start exercising again, and I get knocked down again. I'm tired all the time. I can't focus etc etc. Being the person she is, she didn't just commiserate. She mentioned an eating plan she tried several months back when she wanted to get her own health back under control... she asked if I'd heard of it: Dr. Furhman's “Eat to Live”, also known as the nutritarian approach to eating.

Eating to live. Eating to waste less.

I had not heard of it. So I searched the blogosphere and as I looked over the results, I felt silly. I believe, fundamentally, in the healing power of food. I've made dramatic changes to my diet over the years to help myself function better. I stopped eating meat when I was 13 and rid myself of regular, excruciating stomach and lower back pain (I finally read something that helped my teenage self understand that food "intolerance" was a thing. Back in South Africa in 1986, it was NOT really a thing). More recently (about 4 years ago), I reduced both the amount of wheat and sugar in my diet. I felt better for it. I also started to up the animal protein because I was running regularly and felt like I needed it. I injured my knee two years ago and the running has stopped.

But here's what I had to face last Saturday: I live on protein. Eggs, cheese, yoghurt, beans, lentils, chickpeas, chicken, fish and a little red meat. My meals look relatively healthy because there's color: tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, avocado etc. But the veggies are decorative. I also drink 2 cups of strong coffee (every day) and beer or whiskey most evenings. But hey, my fridge looks healthy, because it's full of fruit and veg for the kid. And I do drink lots of water and take my vitamins.

And now I had a friend suggesting I eat in a way that emphasizes vegetables and fruit to the extent that you eliminate almost everything else. Because it's designed to kickstart weight loss and give your body a massive micronutrient boost. Here are the rules of thumb:

1. Eat a large salad every day as your main dish.

2. Eat at least a half cup, but preferably closer to 1 cup, of beans a day.

3. Eat one large (double-size) serving of lightly steamed green vegetables a day.

4. Eat at least 1 ounce of nuts and seeds per day if you’re female and at least 1.5 ounces of nuts and seeds per day if you’re male.

5. Eat mushrooms and onions every day.

6. Eat three fresh fruits a day.

Even simpler: Salad is your main course. Eat vegetables, fruit, beans, nuts and seeds. And limited whole grains (quinoa, oats etc). Cut out all animal products, sugar, most fat and most carbs. And booze.



My immediate reaction to this?
  1. I'm beyond intimidated by the amount of produce involved. Which is a neon sign that I don't eat enough of it.
  2. If I actually want to make a change to my well being, I have to hit re-set on my eating. This would be a massive re-set.
  3. While simplifying my diet, I'd also be simplifying my grocery needs. Significantly.
  4. This whole eat-to-live thing is also an obvious path to lower-waste eating
And there was my motivation. Take a giant leap toward zero-waste eating, while, hopefully, rebuilding my flailing immune system. So I went to the store on Sunday and when I got to the check out, I realized my cart was (almost) instagram worthy. The picture above is just a pretty snippet of what I bought. Next time, the mushrooms won't be in packaging - my supermarket actually stocks loose mushrooms but they'd sold out. The berries in plastic clamshells will, however, always be in the cart when I can't get to the farmer's market. I'm not taking them away from my little fruit lover and the containers are recyclable.



Right now, the pantry looks like this. I see this as phase one. I had to start and I needed instant beans etc because eating this way demands that I consume them daily. Lentils are easy to cook from scratch. Next week, I'll start introducing dried chickpeas into my world. Beans will follow. Soaking things overnight will have to become my new normal.

And my farmer's market stop this weekend might involve buying tomatoes in bulk (to freeze and can) and basil, to make my own pesto. Don't worry - this isn't going to turn into a recipe blog. But I will let you know how it's going along the way.

I've been eating nutritarian for 9 days now. How's it going? I'll tell you next week!