The pandemic-proof journey to sustainable eating

By Cathy Delhanty

Just before the Corona-disaster hit, Delft Mamas published our family’s plan to sustainable eating. How has our plan held up under stress? How do we deal with grocery stores selling out due to panic shopping, while at the same time we want to stay home as much as possible during the lock-down? We examined each of our key tips to determine if any changes were necessary. Can we build a pandemic-proof sustainable eating plan?

The Delhanty Family’s hot-tips: The Coronavirus pandemic-proof plan to Sustainable Eating

The Corona-lockdown has led to the following changes to our lifestyle:

  • Not only do we have Patric, Emma (age 17 ¾), and I home, but Frances (age 20) has returned from her university because her classes are now online and her campus in Leuven is deserted. The cat is happy to have us all home, all day, every day.
  • We are having a luxury lockdown. No more quick breakfasts and packed lunches for this group. We are enjoying cooked breakfasts, homemade soup and bread at lunch, home baked cookies with coffee, afternoon tea. Plus, Frances comes with the added benefit of being a great baker who likes to disappear into the kitchen to produce delicious treats. I have gained 1.5kg so far.
  • Wool for Warmth, the charity I founded to knit and crochet for the homeless, is busy sewing medical masks. I leave the house regularly for mask-related business and I try to compensate by not leaving the house for any other reason, including shopping.

How has this affected our sustainable eating and grocery shopping?

1. We continue the Complete Moratorium on Plastic: If it comes in plastic, we do not buy it.

One change is that we are making a concerted effort to use up the food at the back of the cupboards. Surprisingly, this has led to an increase in the amount of plastic recycling! It never ceases to amaze us how much plastic we have in the house. We have not been buying it for over a year, yet we are still regularly emptying our plastic recycling bin.

2. Shopping only Once per Month: “We’re out of butter!”… “Then add it to the shopping list.”

Our shopping list is more critical than ever because shopping for staples once per month instead of every two weeks requires a bit more planning. If we run out of something, we work around it or find a substitute – and put it on the list. Creating a pandemic-proof sustainable eating plan needs more room for flexibility.

One unexpected drawback to shopping once per month is that we get nasty looks from the check-out lady who thinks we are hoarding, but I can live with that.

3. Wednesday is the new Saturday

We have replaced the weekly trip to the old Rijswijk farmers market with a weekly order at Rechstreex, a virtual farmers market that sources produce directly from Dutch farms. They indicate if items come in packaging and we can buy milk in glass bottles!!! Finally! It is a stroke of luck that Rechtstreex is located at the same office as Wool for Warmth. Every Sunday I order online and every Wednesday I go to work and pick up my groceries. Mark, the owner, opened his business one week before the Corona-lockdown and it is nice to see that he has been growing lines of socially distanced customers!

4. Once per month: Meat

We can still buy meat from the SK butcher in The Hague. No change here.

5. Every month, not every two weeks, shop for the pantry, not the recipe

We buy staples such as flour, sugar, rice, oatmeal, ketchup (a staple at our house), vinegar etc. at the grocery store. While the Dutch grocery stores, including Jumbo, were stripped bare by panicky shoppers, we were completely unaffected because our pantry and freezer were full. We have since discovered that Polish and Turkish stores are fully stocked – including flour and toilet paper, so we have added them to our list of preferred grocery stores.

6. Who has the time to cook from scratch? We do!

The lockdown means that we have even more time for cooking from scratch, making preserves and canning, and now we are starting a “scraps garden”. The thing is, it is all much easier and less time consuming that we imagined. For example, homemade peanut butter. Put peanuts in the food processor. Whizz until it becomes a paste. If it needs salt, add salt. If it needs sweetening, add a teaspoon of honey. Put in a jar. We don’t add salt or honey. Easy-peasy.

Every week, we try to buy a seasonal perishable item that can be canned or preserved. Last week it was beets. We made pickled beets and bottled borscht (beet soup). We made an extra-large pot of borscht for lunch and put the rest in the sterilized, glass milk bottles.

What is a “Scraps Garden”?

Lettuce and garlic sprouting in water

This is an awesome option for a pandemic-proof sustainable eating plan. It is a garden made from kitchen scraps. For example, salad. Our last weeks’ groceries had multi-coloured, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, a cucumber and a red pepper. I filled an egg carton with soil (from Aldi, came in plastic) and as I made the salad, I put seeds from the different vegetables in each section of the egg carton. This did not take any extra time because I was cutting the veggies anyway. Now we have 4 kinds of posh tomatoes, cucumber, and pepper plants growing (hopefully! It is still too early to tell) on the windowsill.

Experts will tell you that tomatoes will not sprout. Tell these guys!
Plant spring onions directly in soil. Cut as needed for perpetual spring onions.

If they all grow, great, if not, there is no cost. The core of the lettuce is sitting in a shallow dish of water until roots form (about three days) then I will plant it in soil. This method also works for leeks, spring onions, and garlic. Presto! A fresh salad garden for later in the summer. What a great result from our sustainable eating plan! Look on YouTube for lessons on scrap gardens, such as from Green Canada, Jet Set Fork or Buzfeed Nifty. Cost: €1 for a large bag of soil.

Last summer we planted the bottoms of two celeries. They lasted through the winter.

With a full pantry of staples, a freezer full of meat, a cupboard filling with preserves and pickles, a summer garden underway, and homemade tasty treats, we are very happy. Everything tastes better. Everything is more interesting. To conclude, this journey results in a pandemic-proof sustainable eating plan.


Biography

Cathy Delhanty is the founder and Chairwoman of Stichting Wool for Warmth, a charity with over 75 knitting and crochet clubs – including Delft Mamas. On 4 March 2020, Cathy was awarded the Parel Den Haag Award recognizing her efforts in the emancipation of women in The Hague. You can reach her through woolforwarmth@gmail.com.

FROM DMM BLOG COORDINATOR:

If you want to read more tips on how to deal with COVID-19, last week, Agashnee Naidoo, a speech therapist, wrote a text about how parents can help kids their kids during the coronavirus crisis: HELPING KIDS LEARN AT HOME.

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Cathy Delhanty

Cathy Delhanty

Cathy Delhanty

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