We should not really need books to be a better shopper, but in this minefield of unethical food, sometimes it’s good to have a helping guiding hand, to avoid greenwash and choose the best foods, depending on what you eat. The Planet-Friendly Kitchen is a lovely little guide to make significant changes to your diet and shopping habits, but not with overwhelm. Look at the facts and see which items to buy and avoid, and sustainable ways to prepare them.
Use vegan butters with no palm oil. Keep certain foods away from pets due to toxic ingredients (garlic, onion, leeks, chives, mushrooms, grapes, nuts, avocado, dried fruits, nutmeg, fresh dough, green potatoes/onions, chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, jackfruit and xylitol).
American food campaigner Michael Pollan says that most supermarkets are not set up to help you eat ethically or healthily, but to make profit (tell us something we don’t know). But if you hear what he says and then look, he’s absolutely right:
- The main fresh foods are always as you go in (they should be in the central aisles, where most people shop really).
- The junk foods are then everywhere else. Most supermarkets have just two or four aisles of fresh produce, then all the aisles elsewhere are high-profit, processed foods that give most profit. That’s where you’ll also find the special offers.
- Milk (if you drink it) or plant milks are usually right in the far corner end, so you have to walk through the entire supermarket to ‘pick up other things’, if you only went in for the basics.
- There are no windows or clocks (designed to make you lose touch with reality). Watching TV makes your brain go into alpha mode (like meditation) so when you watch ads the night before, it can affect you more than you know. Some people have been asked in supermarkets why they have certain goods in their trolleys, and they seriously had no idea why! Perhaps they saw a TV ad the night before?
- Sweets at the checkout. We all know this one.
- Low-profit healthy cereals like porridge oats are always on the bottom aisle. While the high-profit sugary cereals are displayed at eye level.
- A Pocket Guide to Sustainable Food Shopping is a handy little guide, to help you decode the language on egg cartons and ask butchers where meat is sourced. Veggies will also find it helpful: Which plant milk should you choose? How do you stop asparagus from spoiling fast? Also find tips to cut food waste, shop at bulk bins and make better choices.
- How to Be a Conscious Eater again covers all dietary choices. How do you know if an egg is free-range (and whether male chicks or calves are killed at birth, through purchases of eggs or milk?) What is farmed salmon? Is it good or bad to coconut oil or almonds? The book covers 4 types of food: from the ground, from animals, from factories and from restaurants.
- Food and Climate Change makes it easy to eat more sustainably, not matter what your diet. 25% of greenhouse gas emissions come from food, so how can we reduce this? Each chapter covers a meal. For instance, Breakfast takes you through the climate impact of tea and coffee, sugar, toast, a bowl of cereal or a plate of eggs. Then makes suggestions.
- The founder of Bristol’s Better World (a small chain of indie supermarkets) has recently published a book Food For Thought. Most stores are accessible by public transport and also offer drinks at organic cafes. Customers get 10% discount, simply by signing up to the free newsletter.