Jo Hand, co-founder of app Giki, gives us sustainable meals for those on a budget! These are great healthy, cheap, and environmentally friendly meals to make; perfect for returning to university!
One quarter of our total environmental footprint comes from the food we eat, so changing what we consume can be a big win if we want to cut our impact. And the good news is you can do it cheaply too, it doesn’t have to break the bank! While it is true that some more sustainable options do cost more, for example organic fruit and veg, if we look at a sustainable healthy diet in its entirety, it actually costs less than the average diet.
What makes a sustainable, healthy diet?
American nutritionist Michael Pollan summarised it perfectly in just one sentence.
“Eat real food, not too much, mostly plants.”
There is a very close link between a healthy diet and a sustainable diet too. As most of us eat too much sugar, fat and salt, we also tend to eat diets that are not very sustainable. But, by swapping away from some of the less environmentally sustainable elements of our diets, such as high quantities of meat, cheese, fish and dairy or take-aways and highly processed food, we are also cutting back on some of the more costly parts of our diets too.
We have used Giki’s hero badge, which identifies the most sustainable and healthy products in UK supermarkets, to create some menu ideas for you which cost around a pound. These meals all have a low environmental impact and will help you cut the environmental impact of what you eat by up to 30%.
So here are a few examples for breakfast, lunch and dinner at around a £ per portion.
– Breakfast –
Porridge oats and plant based milk
Oats are low environmental impact and if you go organic, this is better for biodiversity too. Plant based milks tend to cost around £1.50 for a litre, you could make the porridge oats using water and then add the plant based milk for creaminess. That’s what we love for breakfast everyday! Add a banana or honey for a bit extra. We made this with Flahavan’s organic oats, Oatly and a fairtrade organic banana. In total it cost 62p! You can add some raisins for a bit of extra taste.
Toast and honey
As long as you choose bread with sustainable palm oil (or palm free), and recycle any bread bags (at your local large supermarket), bread is pretty low on environmental impact. Honey also scores well (just search honey on the Giki app for the highest performers) and although it can be expensive per pot, you only need a bit and it lasts a long time!
We made this with Yeo Valley Butter and local bread and honey. It costs just 50p for a couple of slices!
– Lunch –
Baked potato and beans
Pretty much all fruit and veg has a low impact, just best to avoid air freight, as this ramps up the carbon footprint. Tinned beans also perform surprisingly well. Their container is fully recyclable and they are low carbon footprint too.
Did you know you can get organic baked beans from lots of supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. Heinz do an organic version too. And of course beans come in a fully recyclable can. If you use half a can for this meal, along with a dash of butter, this comes to the grand total of just 79p.
We couldn’t find any ready made supermarket sandwiches which get the Giki hero badge. But if you choose the right bread (no unsustainable palm oil and good packaging) and pick a low impact filling, like houmous and red peppers (just search on Giki for high performers), you have a tasty option which often costs less than buying one and has a much lower environmental impact.
We chose Tesco organic hummus with a tasty sliced red pepper for our sandwich and it cost 83p.
Pasta and tomato sauce
Super simple and quick. Pasta has a low environmental impact and you can whip up a tomato sauce with onions, garlic and a few herbs you can grow on your windowsill. We found a parsley or basil plant for £1 from Sainsbury’s and if you show them the love, they just keep on giving! Growing your own means you have them on tap and they don’t have to be flown from across the globe.
For tomatoes, use fresh if in season, or tins are also good (and quick), and organic options even better for biodiversity. We chose Sainsbury’s So Organic tomatoes and the total cost per portion is 84p.
Slice up some onions with anything seasonal (eg carrots, aubergines, swedes, courgettes, parsnips) Mix in some cooking oil and a few of your herbs, thyme and rosemary are good (homegrown on the windowsill or the garden) and cook for around 45-60 minutes. You can serve this with low carbon footprint carbs such as mashed potatoes, couscous or quinoa.
We went for couscous with garlic, onion, aubergine, parsnips, courgettes, and organic couscous, with a bit of organic rapeseed oil to soften the veg up in the oven. The total cost of the whole lot for one portion was £1.08
– Best planet saving tips –
- Use garlic, onions and fresh grown herbs for taste. They are cheap and low impact.
- BOGOFF’s are only good value if you need the extra.
- Don’t buy it unless you need it. Cutting back on food waste saves money.
- Plan your meals, this helps avoid waste.
- Cook in bulk, so you make a few meals in one. It tends to be cheaper and save time.
Why not kick off with one sustainable eating day a week and see how you find it!
About the author: Jo Hand is the co-founder of Giki: The Sustainable Shopping Companion. For more information you can read our article or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can download the Giki app free on the App Store and Google Play (search for Giki Badges). You can also follow Giki on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.