In our modern world, sustainability has become synonymous with Eco-friendliness and I guess that is rightly so. But when I give this more thought I like to take an even broader definition of sustainability that also includes whether a given object or action is sustainable to me and in particular our lifestyle, not just the planet as a whole. It is because of this I think ‘Sustainability’ with this definition evokes the following question:
Can I keep doing this? Can I do this over and over without harming myself, or other people, or the planet around me?
When you can approach sustainability in this way and can answer "yes" to this question, then the big-picture depicting the Eco-friendly side of sustainability will tend to just fall into place and is less likely to feel like a burden or a sacrifice, but instead feel like the choice it was meant to be and quite natural at the same time.
I grow my own vegetables with the orchard remaining a work in progress, make soap and lotions (a bit out of the loop with this at the moment), have a large storeroom which I use for my bulk buys (also a continuing work in progress) and of course I love to cook. It is with this area of my life that I noticed my ideal of being self sustainable may not be without its flaws.
As a person who not only loves to cook, and thoroughly enjoys making elaborate meals from scratch (while dirtying every dish and utensil in the kitchen in the process I might add), I learned the hard way that cooking that way all the time is not sustainable. If you hold yourself to a certain standard of cooking or time-intensive meals every single day, it will quickly become a chore and what’s worse, you’re likely to disappoint yourself when you fail to meet the difficult standard you’ve set for yourself too.
To be effective in real life some meals need to be simple, delicious of course, but definitely easy while being healthy yet extremely quick to make. There will be the days when you’re hungry the moment you open the fridge; others when you pull yourself away from a project only when your stomach cries loud enough to demand immediate attention and then days when you’re so overwhelmed you can’t squeeze in another obligation or your brain might explode! Trust me.
I really thought I had to be on top of it not just when outside dealing with the day to day running of the property but also in my role as chief cook and bottle washer, the person who keeps the rest of the family refueled if you like and healthy.
To overcome what I saw as a short falling in my journey towards becoming self sustainable in this area, one of the tips I would like to pass on to you is to plan, yes plan a weekly, fortnightly or even monthly meal plan for the household then using the planned meals go through your pantry and make a shopping list. The trick to making these types of meal plans is to include at the very least one super simple meal/dinner per week and I mean it should be super simple and something that you can put together in 10 minutes or less and involves limited preparation aside from throwing a few items in a bowl and popping something under the grill.
Yes my catalyst for developing a plan in my journey of becoming self sustainable or self sufficient was definitely cooking although there were several other areas that helped me to develop a more sustainable plan in this area.
Over the years I have become very good at preparing a meal and then after dishing up to the family if there is anything left over that I know freezes well, I’ll put the meal aside, label and freeze it for just such a time when I need something quick and easy. If you are going to freeze a few meals then the next tip is to date the dish to be frozen along with reheating instructions and so you don’t lose meals in the deep dark recesses of its belly, also list the meals at the back of your planning book.
I am an old fashioned cook and make the majority of my meals from scratch which when I was a full time worker would often illicit the response of ‘where do you find the time?’ and admittedly now I look back I could be forgiven for wondering that myself. The secret though is you have to be smart with what you make and how you prepare and store the ingredients you have. As I’ve already mentioned I have a well stocked pantry which includes bulk foods and I have done this for many years even before we moved to our property which is an hour away from the supermarket and means if I have run out of something I can’t just pop down to the shop for it.
While I am not preparing for some sort of apocalypse, having this provides me with some feeling of self-sufficiency or self reliance in terms of being able to make certain things which is really important to me and there is something to be said for being able to make certain things from scratch. I have had quite a few young people show some shocked surprise when they realize they can make things themselves they can buy from the supermarket and often they can do so more cheaply and with better taste to it as well.
Buy a slow cooker my next tip is if you haven’t got yourself a good quality slow cooker now; then consider buying one. I love my slow cooker and it’s not only great for cooking those more budget cuts of meats which when cooked in the slow cooker become wonderful meals but saves time when you’re busy as well.
Prep ingredients ahead of time. "Prepare and chop ingredients one day a week and then use the prepared ingredients for the rest of the week." I do this and place all the cut veggies except the cabbage into a large container of water and store it in the bottom of the fridge. The cabbage I will shred and also cover with water but leave this covered in a separate bowl. So much easier to just remove the number of prepared veggies you need for the days meals.
Learn to can/preserve foods. Anyone can learn to can and preserve! It takes a few steps but it's so easy! During summer commit one or two days per week to preserving as your fruits and vegetables begin to ripen. There are some things that need doing yes, but on the whole I find if I commit just one day a week to this I am able to pick and freeze my berries for making jams in the cooler months and will often store weighted containers of various stone fruits and tomatoes in the freezer for making other jams and sauces come the winter too. With all these fruits in the freezer it only takes one day of work per week and leaving you a little more time during the growing season to make other items.
Got a glut of produce in your garden?
Hold a food swap -If like me you find yourself inundated with something like for instance strawberry jam, then put aside a few jars of the strawberry jam or whatever else you have made too much of because you couldn’t bare to waste any of the produce then hold a ‘Food Swap’ morning tea and invite your friends over telling them to bring any jars of produce they want to swap during the morning tea. This is a great opportunity for you to decrease your glut of strawberry jam while gaining something else that you make not have made for whatever reason. And they will do likewise so that this way you all have an enjoyable fun social event and get home made food out of the deal to boot! Use the swap to include any foods from the garden not just preserved foods.
Learn how to do basic skills on your own There are so many basic things that you can learn to do, or even learn to do in some complicity. You don't have to be good at it! Just know how to be able to do it.
Make sure your home is stocked up with basic things you need or may need. Basic tools, food to last more than a few days, appropriate clothing and bedding will all make you more self sufficient than the average person.
Put together a good first aid kit. Many issues can be taken care of by yourself without the need for a doctor as long as you have the appropriate first aid items in town. A small idea about herbal remedies and keeping supplies on hand so you can make your own remedies is also very beneficial.
Lastly learn to conserve. Even though at this time you may not actually need to conserve things like electricity and water but in the future you may need to know someday how to survive on less than what you are used to. So find ways around your home to use less water or discover items that will help you use less electricity. Better to learn how to live on less now, rather than when you don't have an option!
Okay duty calls so I'll leave you with these thoughts for now. My next journey will be into the world of the kitchen recipe folder. I see my jars of mixes from scratch are looking a little low and need refilling.
Last edited by Shadowgirlau
on Mon Jun 01, 2015 4:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.
- John Lennon