Plant forward? Are you making this stuff up? You know I wish I could take credit for this idea but unfortunately not. Plant forward is how we eat here in the Nerds Catch Fire (NCF) household. Most of our food comes from plants; veggies, fruits, seeds, nuts, beans, grains. You know…plants…those green things that photosynthesize. We also eat fish, meat, dairy, and eggs (fresh from the happy birds that live in our backyard- thanks girls). The plants are the main focus. They get the spotlight. This is a legit healthy way to eat. And it will save you the big bucks if you stick with less processed options.
I’m not going to lie, it took us many months to get enough recipe ideas under our belts to be eating noticeably less animal based foods but we stuck with it and its freaking great. We are eating all kinds of yummy things and we are feeling super great about how good this is for the planet. For years I was trying to cut back on my meat and dairy consumption because I wanted to limit my environmental impact. I don’t want my food preferences (not needs) to be contributing to the deforestation of the Amazon rain forest. Beef production specifically has a major impact on environmental degradation and greenhouse gas emissions. Many scientists suggest that not eating meat is the single largest impact you could have on your carbon footprint, larger than switching to an electric car or cutting down on your flights. But instead of focusing on cutting back, I instead focused on finding non-meat recipes that I love. That’s been the major shift. At this point we have cut back to eating a meat focused meal about once per week and it’s typically fish or chicken rather than the high polluting beef. When we do eat beef or pork it tends to be just a little to add flavor to make something entirely indulgent like our homemade carbonara pizza or our spicy potato burrito’s with bacon. But our favorite dishes right now are (almost) entirely vegetarian like our red lentil curry, black bean tacos with my famous homemade salsa, and curry udon bowls. All of these meals are super frugal and obnoxiously yummy.
Another great way to cut back on your environmental footprint while simultaneously saving the big bucks is to cut back on food waste. This is another thing that we’ve been working on over the past years and since discovering the FIRE movement we are doing way better than ever before. Food waste has a major impact on global carbon emissions even the FAO agrees. If food waste was a country it would be the 3rd largest green house gas emitting country on Earth. Now that we are looking closer at our food spending, it’s made a huge impact on buying the right amount of food. We are also eating-in more which cuts down on spoilage. The foods that used to spoil in our house were mostly meat and dairy which just hurts my crunchy soul and my frugal little heart. If you think about it, that’s the stuff that costs the most, and the stuff that goes bad first. Here’s a great article talking about all the ways you save when you don’t throw your food away. I really love the Frugalwoods’ articles about eating-in…I literally cried a little when she wrote that eating cereal or a PB& J for dinner won’t kill anyone. I think I had put so much pressure on myself to cook fancy, healthy, tasty, meals that this was literally a profound realization for me. Did I mention that I’m a foodie? I love food. But every meal does not have to be perfect. Tasty, healthy, and good for the planet, are far more achievable standards to shoot for than perfect.
Because I’m such a foodie, we save a lot by having a small garden. I like to cook with a lot of fresh herbs that would be a major cost if they didn’t miraculously grow in our backyard. So we have lavender, lemongrass, and hibiscus sabdarifa that we make iced tea with. We also grow rosemary, parsley, oregano, thyme, and basil for Italian food. And we have curry leaf for Indian food and kaffir lime for Thai curries. I’m always learning new ways to use the stuff I grow. My preference is to grow the stuff that thrives in my area and find tasty recipes for these foods rather than try to grow the foods that I’m used to eating but really struggle in my environment. I plant crops that mostly grow themselves and water for a couple weeks and then they take over the majority of the work. It’s reminiscent of my investment strategy when you think of it. I just plant my money in a low cost index fund and let the stock market grow my investment for me. Lazy gardening and lazy investing means more time for the important stuff- like enjoying life.