Sustainability and homesteading is not always about living in remote areas and being self-reliant. It can surely be a lifestyle that might suit your needs, however it might not work for everybody.
We are personally on a journey to live more sustainable and independent from supermarkets. Unfortunately it is not always possible as we are living in a small 2-person apartment. You might be in a similar situation, or you simply feel that having your own garden is a bit too much. This does not mean that you cannot make good choices on a daily/weekly basis when buying and consuming food.
A garden for everyone?
An ideal set-up would be to have your own garden in which you are growing all the foods that you consume. As a family, you know exactly what happens with your food and you choose what works for you. Nothing beats farm fresh eggs and milk accompanied by some delicious freshly picked tomatoes or zucchinis.
This does take a lot of effort and knowledge and it might take a few years before you can master your gardening skills. Therefore the best set-up for most people would be to grow some basic things yourselves and supplement the remaining with food from local (organic) stores or supermarkets that offer organic food.
Organic all the way?
Having a good organic store close by can make a big difference. Often you are sure that all the products they offer are of good quality, ecological and healthy. These type of stores often offer products that can be bought in reusable bags where you can chose the amounts yourself.
Luckily supermarkets are seeing the trend towards organic produce and are updating their stock. This makes it possible for you to provide your family with healthy fruits and vegetables as well as meat and eggs.
Use the following tips in order to make your next trip to the supermarket a healthy one.
Don’t judge a book by its cover!
Packaging is often created in such way that it is very attractive and obvious. Do not fall for this trick and always read the ingredients and nutritional value tables.
The front of a package will never tell you how healthy the food is. It might take some time to find brands that offer healthy foods without additives and other unnecessary ingredients. However once you find out, trips to the grocery stores will be quick and easy.
Not all fats are bad
Throughout the years, food companies pushed the idea that all fat is bad. Try and find products that do not exist in a “extra light” or “0% fat” version. Often these products have more sugar in them in order to compensate the lack of fat.
Try things like salmon, nuts or high fat vegetables such as avocados if they are available in your region in a sustainable way. Natural products that contain fat will always be healthier than processed foods and fats. Also try switching between different types of oils when cooking or baking in order . We like to use coconut, sunflower and olive oil. Sometimes we even mix some regular butter with our oils as well.
Always look out for products that contain “trans fats” or “saturated fats”. These is the type of fat which is considered unhealthy and go through hydrogenation in order to increase shelf life. You often find these in processed foods, cookies, snacks, dressings, etc…
Healthier fats are “unsaturated fats”. You can find these in fish, vegetable oils, avocado, nuts, etc…
Sugar vs sweetener
Just as what happened with fat, we are seeing many sugar replacement products on the shelves.
Yogurts and soft drinks are one of the most “0% sugar” labelled products out there. Technically speaking they are indeed not containing any sugars. The sugar taste comes from sweeteners, which are received as healthy by the public as they are not containing any calories.
In general I like to avoid products that have a lot of artificial sweetener in them as there are also some long term health risks linked to it.
One of the things that scared me the most is that our liver is releasing insulin in response to a sweet taste. Which is a good think when you eat a dose of natural sugars. However when eating sugar replacements this is not something your body should be doing. Studies are showing mixed results in this theory, however I prefer to eat something natural like an apple, banana, pineapple or some berries whenever I have a sweet tooth.
Here’s a list of the most common artificial sweeteners:
- Acesulfame Potassium
Another misconception is that a lot of the prepackaged snacks are healthy. I am talking about the “natural” cereal bars, oven baked chips, fruit snacks, etc… We can often buy the ingredients separate for a cheaper price and make the snacks ourselves. There are some fun recipes at our cooking section, such as fun little cheddar crackers.
Kids can help creating some of their snacks and you can make a lot of them in bulk to last you a couple of weeks. The snacks are cheaper and healthier than there prepackaged counterpart.
You do not always need to have a dedicated organic store in order to buy healthy and natural foods.
Local stores or supermarkets can offer a good alternative and nowadays have a good choice of organic products as well.
Buy more natural products and understand the ingredients when buying store-bought items.
There are often healthier alternatives when you look for them.