What does your rubbish say about your health?

Every Thursday is rubbish day in my street. On this day bright orange rubbish bags decorate the footpath and the berm. You can choose between smaller 40 liter bags and bigger 60 liter bags, most households have the bigger ones. Some households have only one bag outside, some have two, some even four or five. They must have a lot of people living in one house to produce so much rubbish, I think to myself!

And every week I also go shopping.To the fruit and vegetable shop, the organic shop, butcher, farmer’s market and also the supermarket. I peek into other people’s shopping trolley when I’m in the supermarket and because I’m a Nutritionist I have an opinion about what people buy and consume. No, don’t worry, I keep this opinion to myself in the supermarket, but I can shout it out loud in my blog and on my website. Sometimes though I do feel like I want to offer some well meaning advice to some shoppers ….. And I look at the people that are pushing their trolleys through the supermarket and some look very healthy, energetic and vibrant, some look very unhealthy, tired, over- or underweight and not well at all. Most of the time there’s a strong connection between the trolley content and the health of the people pushing the trolley. It’s a no-brainer. Trolleys full of sugar-laden cereals, fruit drinks, sweetened yoghurt, low fat dairy, processed meats, crackers, chips, sweets, sauces, cheap oils, bread, flour ….. being pushed by people that are not-so-healthy. Trolleys with mostly vegetables, fresh meat and fish, good fats and no processed food ….. being pushed by people that are usually healthier looking.

Last Thursday I wanted to take our rubbish out, but our small bag with 40 liters was only half full. And yes, we’re a big family with 8 people in the house, myself, my lovely husband, our own three teenage sons and three homestay students. It’s often the case that we don’t even fill a small rubbish bag, just because we don’t produce that much. In addition a big part of that rubbish is from my asian homestay students and their consumption of processed food that comes in a lot of packaging, bought by them, not by me!

And then it occurred to me, the relationship between how much rubbish we’re producing and how healthy we are. Easy! Makes total sense! The more rubbish one produces the more packaged and processed food one is eating. The more you make your food from scratch and from fresh produce the less rubbish you will have. Combine this with some recycling, composting, maybe even worm farming and a Bokashi system, and if you’re lucky  a few chickens and Bingo! You’ll have no more than a shopping bag full of landfill per week.

But this won’t be happening on it’s own, it needs thinking and planning to get to healthy home cooked meals, less rubbish production and a healthy body and mind.

How do I achieve healthy and homemade meals for 7 days a week for 8 of us and in the process produce less waste?

  • Write a meal list for every week, ideally before you go shopping. All meals and plenty of snacks for the week. Also think about lunches for the kids, yourself and your partner.
  • Accordingly write your shopping list. Make sure you use first what’s in your pantry and freezer..
  • You most likely have quite a few staple recipes that you make often. This is great and makes your life as a cook actually easier. Keep them for the days when you don’t feel creative!
  • Buy in bulk if suitable for your situation.
  • Invest in a freezer. This way you can make use of specials with meat and fish and you can cook ahead of time and freeze a few meals.
  • Take half a day on the weekend or whenever you can take time and prepare some food for the week ahead.
  • This is a list of food that I prepare ahead of time (not all at once of course): cook or roast a few chickens and take the meat of and then cook a big pot of chicken stock from the carcasses, make a soup (my favourite at the moment is “Minestrone”), wash lettuce and make your own salad dressing, prepare raw vegetables for snacking on (celery, capsicum, cucumber, carrots…), cook a frittata with whatever you’ve got available, make some cauliflower rice, bake cookies or a cake, make bliss balls, bake egg bread or gluten free bread rolls, make crackers, soak nuts and seeds and make muesli, make sauerkraut, kombucha, coconut water kefir, cook a big pot of mince for hungry teenage bellies or make some meatballs or a meat loaf, cook a dozen eggs, make some ice blocks with frozen berries (hahaha, my teenage sons still love them and I still make them in the rocket moulds from when they were little). And purchase some good storage containers (glass or pyrex is better than plastic) and store appropriately in pantry, fridge or freezer.
  • From time to time I have quite a few containers with small amounts of leftover food in the fridge and we’ll have a “leftover dinner” just topped up with whatever is missing, maybe just some scrambled egg.
  • To help you to make better food choices you’ll need to prepare food ahead of time, there’s no way around this. This way you’ll always have decent food available. Even if it’s just some egg bread with almond butter and a few sticks of celery!

And remember: don’t be too hard on yourself, give yourself time for the change, take one step at a time and feel good about every little achievement of eating better, producing less rubbish on the way and looking after yourself, your family and the planet while you’re at it.

How do I produce less rubbish?

  • All paper and cardboard gets collected and either recycled or composted.
  • All plastic wraps and bags get collected and taken to Pak’n save for recycling.
  • All plastic, glass and tins go into the recycle bin.
  • I buy food that is the least processed and the least packaged. I just refuse to buy food with lots of packaging. I buy in bulk when possible.
  • Every bit of food waste and green waste goes into one of my three composting systems (compost, worm farm, bokashi).
  • I’m taking empty boxes and bags with me when I go shopping, this way I don’t need plastic bags.
  • I explain all this to my kids as often as I can to teach them to make good choices. Not that I’m always successful … they are teenagers after all and are making their own decisions. But I know they will come back to what they have been brought up on one day!

I don’t have the time to do this I hear you saying. I believe you, but hey no one is giving me more than 24 hours a day to do this, but I make the time as it’s important to me for my health, my family’s health and the health of the planet. Human health and planet health go hand in hand, I can’t be well without the planet being well and vice versa, it won’t work long term. By looking after our health we’re looking after the health of the earth.

Okay, I’m not working full time, I work part time in my own business, but this is a decision I make for my health and the health of my family. Shopping and preparing food is a big part of my week, it takes many hours. Whenever I can I get the kids involved, my husband is my right hand man and together we get it sorted. The more I plan ahead the easier it is to eat healthy for the whole week, every week without resorting to takeaways or processed food.

We all make choices how we want to live and whatever we decide has to work for us. For me healthy homemade food, looking after myself and the planet  is very important and at the top of my priority list. Without health I have nothing and can’t enjoy my life, no matter how much money I earn from working long hours.

Hope this blog gets you thinking about your own situation 🙂




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