Eco-izing your Meals: Tips from The Green Man

When it comes to going green, Randy Shore (aka The Green Man) has it covered. If you’re not familiar, The Green Man is a popular blogger and Vancouver Sun columnist, who's been offering BC a wealth of delicious meal and gardening ideas for years. He's perhaps most noted for his DIY approach to all things food (growing, preparing, and making). He just makes it sound so easy. Yet, we couldn’t help but question, who has time to make every meal from scratch? (Right down to the tomato sauce and cheese!) Well, according to Randy, making meals from scratch can be just as fast as buying ready-made. The trick is knowing how to do it.  Here, we track down The Green Man at his home, for some simple tips on making easy, fast, eco-friendly family meals. Enjoy! 

First, we asked how Randy got into the business of becoming the Green Man. It wasn’t entirely planned: “I moved to the Sunshine Coast and started a garden, essentially because I wanted to see how much of my own food I would be able to grow, given the climate.” His passion for growing and making food led to a ton of experimentation with different vegetables, greens, and produce, to find out what would work best, taste best, and grow year round.

“For example, I quickly found out I couldn’t grow iceberg lettuce in January. But I wanted lettuce wraps so I found a way to make delicious lettuce wraps using Swiss Chard which actually works really well, does grow in January and tastes great!” Enjoy Randy's recipe for Chinese Lettuce wraps here!

Tip #1: Try growing something yourself.

There are many things any family can grow in their yard, or in planters on their patio or even on the kitchen counter.

Explains The Green Man, “You cannot fail to grow potatoes. Just cover a potato with dirt, and you’ll be successful” 

Spinach and parsley are also equally easy to grow year round, and if you’re cramped for space, try making some bean sprouts on the kitchen counter. He explains, “Kids love experimenting, and typically when they’re involved in the process, they’re more likely to try the food, too.” 

Tip #2: Shop the periphery of your grocery store.

Randy's advice on how to shop more eco?  “Food is not square. This is a really important concept, because anything that is square also contains things that aren’t food.” The middle of the grocery store is filled with all the square items (packaged goods) so when you go to the grocery store, if you can buy most of your food around the edges- in the produce, meat and dairy sections- you’ll be way better off.

“Remember, when you buy square food, someone else is in control of your diet. My rule of thumb is to: A. avoid packaging; and B. gain control of your intake of preservatives, fat, salt, etc.”

Tips #3 & #4: Make something you typically buy; and learn to cook!

The best way to understand, appreciate (and teach your kids) where food comes from is to try to make it yourself. Randy is a big proponent of making things like cheese and yogurt, and says doing so actually cuts the cost by 1/3.

"Contrary to what many think, cooking from scratch can actually be faster than heating up something from a box. Cooking doesn’t have to take a long time. In my experience, a little planning is all it takes. Plus, doing it from scratch is a great opportunity to get the kids involved—the best way to disarm a picky eater is get them to make it themselves!”

Involving your kids in food—whether it’s trying to grow something, or prepare or cook a meal, is a great way to lead by example.  We love the idea of throwing some beans or alfalfa seeds into jar to make sprouts, or making your own yogurt, Ricotta cheese, or crème fraîche on the kitchen counter. As Randy says, “Food is chemistry and kids like to experiment.” So true!

Tip #5: Try to get a little old-school about food preserving.

Whether it’s canning or freezing, Randy says you can save money and achieve much tastier food when you stock up in the summer and freeze for the winter.

"For example, instead of buying canned tomato sauce, I suggest people stock up in the summer and freeze whole tomatoes in bags. Put them in a pot to simmer and within 30 minutes you’ll have delicious garden fresh tomato sauce!” Just as easy as heating up a store-bought jar.

Thanks Randy. So many fun ideas and great tips. This week, we're going to try either making Ricotta or growing sprouts at home (still can't decide!) Let us know if any of these ideas resonate or if you have your own fave recipe to share with us. This month, we're launching a Recipe Swap campaign, to enthusiastically encourage YOU, our community, to share your recipes with us. Just by sharing a recipe here, you'll be automatically entered to win our monthly prize giveaway, $100 gift card to Cookworks

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