Today… is Earth Day. A day where we all try to do a little something to help preserve the planet where we live. It’s an opportunity to bring awareness to the fact that we give to the Earth as well as take from it… so put forth an effort to give as harmlessly as possible and take only what we need. That means a minimal amount of trash, a little less wasting of water, and maybe planting a few flowers in your yard (or in a flower pot. Yes, those help, too!)
I know this is a pretty idealistic concept, and we all might like to give lip service to living eco-friendly lives… but who has time for all that? It’s hard enough for most-if-not-all of us to get this healthy eating thing down pat. Now, we’ve got to protect the Earth, too?
It doesn’t take much effort. In fact, being eco-friendly and clean eating go hand in hand and both can be managed by the busy lifestyler. Here are a few ways to live a little cleaner, a little greener, without costing you a ton of time each day.
Ditching the Processed Products
Obviously, this is the largest factor in clean eating. Pardon me for getting a little preachy, but I see it like this – our connection to the Earth is symbiotic. We cultivate the Earth with our activity, and in return it promotes the growth of humanity. So… we have to be mindful of what we put out there. Ditching the boxed and canned foods, essentially, means less trash… going to less landfills… less air and land pollution.
But if I give up foods, how do I replace them?
Buy fresh veggies. Only buy what you believe you will cook that week. This way, you not only spend much less, but you don’t leave anything sitting and risk your food rotting. You can learn to cook the same veggie three different ways, and get more creative with your cooking style. You also don’t run into the problem of additional preservatives or salts used to preserve the shelf life of your food.
I buy things like onions and peppers knowing that I don’t want red peppers or onions every day… so I’ll take them, chop them up in the ways that I know I usually eat them, and freeze them that way. So I’ll have a bag of onions chopped in rings, a bag diced in squares and a bag cut in strips. I’ll have a bag of red peppers chopped in strips and another bag diced in chunks. I do the same with mushrooms, cucumbers, celery, carrots, spinach (the spinach I use to cook, not the ones I use for salad) and bean sprouts. I cannot tell you how much time this saves me, and it takes me a half hour. Tops.
Buy frozen. Generic store-brand frozen veggies are a dollar a bag (rarely more than $2.50) and can last forever. Carrots, broccoli, string beans, onions, peppers, different veggie blends (I bought a 5lb bag of carrot/broccoli/cauliflower for $3… lasted forever) all at your fingertips, and only requiring a little steaming, baking, boiling or sauteeing.
I keep a combination of both in my fridge. I keep fresh broccoli in the fridge for salads, and frozen in the freezer for cooking.. and I never intermingle the two. I don’t cook with my fresh, and I don’t thaw my frozen for salads.
Try to find a local butcher. No plastic-wrapped chicken, no pre-packaged beef patties. You get an awesome guy (or girl) with a vast knowledge of meat, who can offer you suggestions and steps on how to prepare and preserve your meats. A wonderful butcher will never be reluctant to offer you suggestions. He wants your business.
Make your own junk food. That’s right – no matter how many green velvet cupcakes you make, I promise you the calorie count wouldn’t scrape the surface of what it is when you buy boxed cupcake mix. Seriously.
Make your freezer your best friend. Things like wild rice, brown rice… stuff that takes forever to cook? I cook it all in one giant pot, divvy it up into individual servings, put them in ziploc bags (which I reuse), and freeze them. That way, I have my own microwaveable rice bags without all the extra salt and preservatives… and I’m saving money.
Get Your Sugar From The Earth
Meaning.. if you need sugar, go for a fruit – something that came directly from the Earth. Skip the soft drinks, fruit juices and candies. I write enough about this for folks to know how I feel about these, since all three contain high fructose corn syrup. Aside from the fact that the stuff expands your waistline like nobody’s business, it’s a direct factor in causing and inflaming type 2 diabetes. If you drink a soda, there is nothing in that but sugar, salt and carbonation. Fruits have vitamins, minerals – the stuff of life – and, well, sugar. You can’t eat fruits, in their sugary splendor, in abundance because those nutrients in them will fill you up faster than a coke can. You’re not taking in empty calories. Even though you should be moderate in your fruit consumption, you’d do better to have an orange than a coke.
It’s cheaper, too.
And no, I don’t mean Fiji, Aquafina, or whatever. Get yourself a nice, attractive reusable container to carry with you throughout the day, and keep refilling it. Skip the water bottles that go… in a landfill, buried where trees – or people – could live, instead. If you’re having a hard time with the taste of water, squeeze a lemon/lime/orange/strawberry or whatever in it. Freeze some grapes, use ’em as ice cubes at home. Buy some frozen blueberries, use those. Slice up a cucumber, drop it in there. I mean, outside of being super cute and attractive looking at a table, the stuff actually adds a nice little refreshing taste to water.
Purchase a 2.5gal jug – if you must – from your local grocery. Way less plastic than the 24pk of bottles, much less trash than the regular gallon jugs, and can fit in your fridge and last a while. I drink a little over a gallon of water a day (which means yes, I don’t drink much else besides water and my evening tea) because it keeps my skin looking a lovely healthy shade of chocolatey brown.
Reduce Your Portion Sizes
Slow down. This means that you can’t eat standing up anymore. No, you can’t eat out of the pan anymore. No, you can’t eat in front of the TV. No, you can’t sit all the food on the table and you just pass around the pans. Relax. Take the time to enjoy your dinner companions, be they friends, family, whomever. Don’t put food in between you. Leave the food in the kitchen. Eat slower. Talk to one another. You’ll find that you not only eat less and still feel full, but you will have actually enjoyed your time together at the table. That is what it means to enjoy food. Not the feeling you get from the food, but from the company you’ve kept while you ate.
Pack your lunch. Not only do you save money… not only do you create less waste… but you save calories as well. Buy yourself an attractive (I keep wanting to say cute, but I know several fellas who are taking the challenge, too) lunch pail and stock it with your favorite snacks. Your body will thank you for it.
These things all help you save time as well as money, and benefit the Earth. The goal is to reduce our carbon footprint as much as possible, and each of these tips gets us one step closer. It takes planning and preparation, but that’s why we’re discussing the challenge the week before we begin! Spend a little time today – Earth Day – and take at least one of these suggestions to heart. Every single step and every little effort counts. I promise!
Have any additional ideas? Let’s hear ’em!
These are a decent start.. but I need more detail! Like, what can be frozen, and what cannot? Can I freeze fruit? How long can items be frozen? And that sounds good for snacks and cooking meals, but what about those who don’t like to cook? Clean eating = cooking? What ways can time be cut down via cooking? (Like freezing meals .. and again, how long could meals be frozen?)
I really need to eat healthier, but convenience plays a big part for me.
I agree 05 Girl,
This is great, but I would like more detail….to freeeze or not to freeze:)
Thanks for the tips! Now that I’m training for something specific (endurance race) I find that I crave REAL food, less processed foods.
hey! there is an article ab freezing foods….fruits n veggies on here. or just google some info ab freezing foods
I found your site today. It is very interesting. I just started my weight loss and being healthy journey again today. Congratulations on your weight loss. Wow you lost a lot of weight. This week i am detoxing. I have been feeling and looking a little tired. So it is time to start back living a healthy lifestyle. I get bored with my food choices when i am trying to lose weight. But i noticed you have a lot of different receipes that seem like they would taste really good. The have a little soul in them.
And if it taste good i will try the recipes out on my boyfriend or other people. I joined a gym. I wanted to detox before i start back
exercising. I think it will give my body a boost that i need. Thanks for the great site.
Great tips! I’m addicted to Life Savers Gummies and am trying to break the habit by eating fruit instead when I’m craving something sweet– maybe cherries. I also love the tip for freezing rice, since brown rice take a while. The thought of waiting on brown rice has forced me to eat out on a number of occasions (and I usually end up eating something unhealthy)…. sad, but true. Freezing a few portions of it should definitely help in the future. Thanks!
I am SO glad this post popped up in my email today!! I’ve recently committed to bringing my breakfast/lunch/snacks to work everyday. I’m starting with the month of June and hoping to just keep it going from there. The main things were to save money and to stop eating fast food, both of which amazingly are happening SO easily. I’m loving it!!
I JUST started doing what you’re describing in this post – chopping up stuff for the freezer. For me, it started because I got sick of buying fresh fruits and vegetables, forgetting about them and then having to throw that money in the garbage once they spoiled. But after chopping up some green peppers, freezing them and seeing how much easier it was when I went to cook a dish the other day from having those things already prepped and ready to go, straight from the freezer?! I AM ALL IN ON THIS ONE NOW! Especially with stuff that is now in season like Mangos?!! My freezer is getting fullll but it’s so worth it. CHOP & FREEZE! CHOP & FREEZE!
Thanks for the info. 🙂
Great tips. I’m definitely going to start using my freezer more.
Make your own veggie burgers. I can;t tell you the people I see buying Boca and Morning Star thinking because it’s vegetarian it’s better for you. Processed food is processed food regardless of whether it contains meat or not. So while you are doing your weekly prep, take some of your beans, add the veg of choice, a few seasonings and make your own.
YOu are so right. I will try this soon and see how I like them.
I love this post!
The only thing that prevents me from embarking on a quest to eat more cleanly is the fact that in a few months I’ll be moving back into a dormitory with a college meal plan – which means I’m limited to food that I can cook in a microwave or with a blender and otherwise have to eat in a cafeteria.
And a huge THANK YOU for mentioning water bottles. Bottled water is such a supreme waste of money and resources.
Hi Erika…just found your website today and I love it. I have a question about freezing veggies…do you find they keep alright without blanching them? I remember being taught that in order to freeze veggies you had to blanch them first. How long do you find they keep without getting freezer burned?
I’ve been all up and through your archives since this weekend, lol. Love this post. I have just (re)started my weight loss journey but I really want to start eating clean. This post is a great start, thanks!
Freezing works for me as well. I remember when I first started the migration from fast food to healthy food, I’d buy a truck load (or very large 😉 package of ground meat; make as many burger patties as possible; wrap them individually and stacked in my freezer. I’d also get wheat buns and veggies/condiments to add on. Worked like a charm within my extremely busy schedule. I also got off the processed sugar by replacing these items with a combo of diced pineapple and banana with Saigon Cinnamon sprinkled on top (to help balance blood sugar/cravings…plus it’s delicious…more flavorful than traditional cinnamon).
Removal of the fast food and processed sugar/fructose items helped me loose 88 pounds; then when I went vegan (now migrating over to more raw vegan) additional weight went away (now 157 pounds lighter; healthy body weight for almost 3 years now. My journey included spiritual, emotional balance that has yielded a healthy, stable body side and best of all…peace of mind from perpetual thoughts about food: what I when, when I’ll eat, why did it eat that and the emotional turmoil that follows!
I had to be honest about ingredients that were causing a crave effect and over time (too two years for me to take action on what I learned about myself) I starting caring about myself to replace items that were injuring my health; also practicing facing fears/conflict, etc without numbing effects of overeating…it’s a journey, but a wonderful one filled with self discovery for me…
Congrat’s Nicole on your weightloss!! Thanks for sharing your story!!
And what do you do when you are regularly on business trips? You cannot really pack lunch because it won’t last for 3 days… and eating at the restaurant at lunch and dinner is the only option I see, and restaurant are not always serving healthy food or unprocessed foods.
If you can’t make/secure your own meals, then you do what you can with the best you’ve got. Just know that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail… every time.
I know this may be late, but I travel sometimes for work too.
Here are some tips that I think would be useful for traveling.
Pre pack homemade granola as a snack. Erika has an excellent granola recipe on her site. You can make a batch and portion it out.
If you know where you’re going, do some research on local restaurants ahead of time.
If you’re staying at a hotel with free breakfast (Hampton etc.), opt for oatmeal with fruit opposed the egg beater eggs, or waffles.
I have certain teas that I like, so I pack a couple of tea bags and make my own tea while I’m out.
I hope these tips are useful.
Thanks a lot Leelee, I changed job so I travel maybe every two months instead of every week and it’s much easier for me to plan now.
I actually use your tips when I go to work, I bring my tea and some almonds and fruits to snack on, it prevents me from going too often to the vending machine lol
Just a question my husband and I are trying to lose weight he is a transportation worker for the state so he is always either driving a truck or outside.flagging traffic or fixing roads. What are some things I
can.pack.for his lunch that will be healthy filling and travel well in the heat. Thanks
Big giant dishes of casseroles, big stir fry dishes, just overall large-portion meals full of vegetables and quality protein that can go inside of a small cooler. Really, the cooler is more important than the kind of dish. Get the right container, and you’re pretty much all set.
Thanks erika! Also he doesn’t always have access to a microwave. So what are type of casseroles and stir frys are good even not heated up?
Tons – look for “make ahead casseroles” and that should have you all set!
I have been trying and struggling with staying on track with clean eating. I know i am suppose to have breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner. My trouble is I work as a cashier. I have to eat when they tell me to eat or at least when I have some one to cover my post. Sometimes I end up snacking on candy bars or other bad foods in the process. Any suggestions on how I can incorporate clean eating while working as cashier?
One trick that I use is to make sure I put away the food! Sometimes your measuring is off, and you end up with a bunch of leftovers that you could be using for tomorrow’s lunch sitting on the counter or stovetop. If you put it away now, you won’t be picking at it in 15 minutes when you walk in the kitchen. This makes sure that I don’t overeat.
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