3 Tips for Integrating Sustainable Eating Habits Into Your Family Routine

People with children know how important it is to think about the future – and that includes being considerate about how we treat the planet. It’s our little ones that will inherit the world we leave behind, and a legacy of sustainability is the ultimate goal.

Given that 50% of all habitable land is farmed, and 26% of emissions come from agriculture, all of us have a responsibility to think more carefully about what we put in front of our families at meal times.

So with all that taken into account, here are some pieces of advice that will make your nutritional routines less of a burden on the environment, while still ensuring that what you and your kids eat is tasty and healthy.

Planning Around Local Seasonal Produce

Seasonal eating is a practice that’s innately sustainable, because if you’re focusing on what’s currently being harvested, you’re ensuring peak freshness and flavor while minimizing your impact. Here’s how to build your routine around this idea:

  • Get acquainted with a seasonal produce calendar for your area. This will not only help in planning meals but also in identifying when bulk purchases make sense.
  • Spend time each week discussing upcoming meals based on the seasonal ingredients available. This involvement makes meal prep an educational moment for kids about sustainable practices.
  • Build relationships with local farmers or vendors at your nearest market. They often provide insights into what will be available soon, allowing you to plan ahead creatively.

The USDA reports that up to 40% of food is wasted, with much of this coming from buying more than we need – so seasonal buying helps combat this issue by encouraging consumption of produce when its supply is most abundant, and often cheaper.

Of course for time-poor parents, the prospect of reframing your entire mealtime routine and grocery shopping strategy around seasonality might seem a step too far. In this case, taking advantage of delivery services that offer nutritious and tasty, family-friendly meals is wise – since the top providers will take care of the hard work for you, including sourcing seasonal ingredients.

Buy in Bulk

Switching to bulk purchases can dramatically reduce the amount of packaging waste your family contributes to landfills. Additionally, it often leads to cost savings – which is a win for both your wallet and the planet. Here’s how to get into it:

  • Start with non-perishables or items you use frequently like rice, beans, or certain vegetables that store well. These are ideal for bulk buying.
  • Ensure you have adequate storage solutions – like airtight containers or proper pantry space – to keep bulk items fresh and organized. Better yet, build a root cellar for long-term storage of produce.
  • If your family consumes meat, consider buying larger cuts from local sources that can be portioned and frozen for future use, reducing packaging from individual portions.

A study by the EPA highlights that packaging makes up about 28% of solid waste in the U.S. – or around 82.2 million tons, with much of this coming from food products. Choosing to buy in bulk and using reusable containers means families can significantly reduce their contribution to this statistic – and the savings alone make it worth doing even if you aren’t primarily motivated by sustainability.

Introduce Plant-Based Days

Incorporating plant-based meals into your family’s routine once a week can be a powerful step towards sustainability. These meals tend to require less water and land resources than those centered around meat. Here are some ideas to consider when aiming to achieve this:

  • Implementing a weekly tradition like Meatless Monday invites creativity in the kitchen and introduces the family to diverse, plant-rich dishes.
  • Experiment with legumes, tofu, and tempeh as protein substitutes. These options are not only hearty but also have minimal environmental footprints compared to traditional meats.
  •  Let each family member choose and help prepare a plant-based recipe. This involvement increases enjoyment and commitment to sustainable eating.

Reports differ regarding the proportion of global emissions which can be assigned to the livestock sector, ranging from 18% to over 50%, but regardless it’s still one of the top two or three most significant contributors to serious environmental problems worldwide. 

As such, cutting out meat just once a week means you could reduce your ecological impact significantly – and also minimize other issues, such as by slashing your risk of getting colorectal cancer, which is associated with red meat consumption.

The Bottom Line

These tips are eminently straightforward to follow, so there’s really no reason to put off the process of turning family food routines into something much more sustainable. 

And as we’ve mentioned, it’s a good move to do this with your kids’ involvement, as that way they will feel fully invested in the process, and will learn lessons to take forward with them, rather than simply being dragged along with no say in the matter.