If we're starting with proverbs here, maybe I should say "a stitch in time saves nine" because I think a bit of planning ahead can make the dreaded meal-time debate so much easier.
First off, there are a few things you should be doing to eat well and eat well for the earth. Number one is eat local as much as you can. We love our farmer's market. We can talk to the people, know where the food comes from, ask them questions and minimze waste and packaging. Plus the food is fresher, usually less expensive and in better condition than the majority of what you can get in a grocery store.
Number two is plan your meals for the week. For a number of reasons we've been cutting down on eating out. On Sunday morning we come up with 3 - 4 meal ideas for the week and then go grocery shopping. This gives us options plus it saves us from having the "what do you want for dinner?" debate each night. It helps me when I'm rushing out the door and forgetting about lunch, saves money and cuts down on the number of trips to and from the store during the week. From stir fry to lasagna to pesto-grilled veggie pizzas, each meal is great for dinner with usually enough for lunch or even another dinner.
Number three is freeze! Once we've had our dinner, we freeze the rest of the food into single serving portions. Easy to grab for lunch or dinner, the next day or a few weeks later. This is especially handy if you make a big batch of something and you're getting bored.
If you are eating mainly plant-based (and you should be!) you are bound to end up with lots of veggie scraps - peels, cores, onion skin, etc. But don't toss them in the trash! Food waste is a HUGE issue. One that I can get into later. But let's just take a high level - while plant scraps do break down, they can't break down in a landfill wrapped in a plastic bag. So, what should you be doing to cut down on trash and this problem? Number four is Compost! We have a reclaimed pickle barrel for our composting ($15 vs $100+!) but you can do this on a much smaller scale.
But even before you get to the composting, don't waste those extra veggies or the tops of your fennel or that bunch of greens that you forgot about. Do what we do (number five) - Make vegetable stock.
Making stock from scratch is something I didn't often do until just recently. We would buy the tetra packs of the low sodium vegetable stock and use that then throw away the packaging. In the mean time we were wasting all of these vegetables too. Double waste! How lame is that?
So now we've been making our own stock. It's fun, delicious and we can control the amount of sodium in it, which as you know is always too much in the commercial kinds. And how easy is it to make stock.
Here's what you do:
Vegetables - I like to have at least a few carrots, celery (including the leafy center stalks no one likes), an onion and some garlic. Chop all of these up roughly. You can end there but use what you have. I've thrown in dark leafy greens, scallions, a few bay leaves, some coriander seeds, left over fresh herbs, turnips, corn cobs, etc.
Put some oil in the bottom of a big pot and sautee the hard veggies (carrots, onions, celery, turnips, garlic) . Sprinkle on some salt and fresh ground pepper
and cook until a bit softened. Add in your softer veggies (the greens, herbs, etc.) and pour in enough water to cover everything. I think 8 cups should be the minimum but I used 16 cups last time.
Let this come to a boil and then turn the heat down to low and let it simmer for as long as you want. You can make this in 40 minutes but I like to let mine really cook for a while. After a few hours I turn the heat off and let it come down to room temperature.
To strain it, I put some cheesecloth in my big colander so the stock is pretty clear. And that's it! Ladle it into some containers - I like to do 1 cup and 4 cup containers - and then freeze it. The stock is much more flavorful than the commercial kind. Sometimes I snack on the veggies, puree them up (take out any bay leaves) and use them in sauces or... compost them!