Creating a Sustainable Kitchen

Now that winter has settled in, we’re enjoying the chilly season’s traditions. Wood fires in the hearth, steaming cups of tea, warm woolly socks, the pile of books we’ve been planning to read. I find myself spending more time in the kitchen cooking hot, satisfying meals and baking breads or lunch box fillers. Winter lends itself to the homemade and delicious.

It’s also a good time to rethink the way we do things in the heart of the home. One of my current projects is learning to stock my pantry and fridge with more sustainable ingredients. My aim is to buy better quality food that’s healthier and that has a positive story behind it. Here are a few of my learnings so far.

1. Start right: before you shop

Eco-friendly shopping bags
Start your shopping mission by buying reusable shopping bags (or make your own) and keeping them in your car. I get my reusable bags from Woolworths. They’re made by Isikhwama; a group of previously unemployed women, they are fully recyclable and if you buy the Limited Edition bags your purchase helps raise funds for a variety of conservation projects.
Make the most of shopping cards
Woolworths runs a program called MySchool My Village My Planet. You can sign up for a card online and choose 1-3 beneficiaries. Beneficiaries include schools, environmental and animal organisations as well as charities that help people. When you shop at Woolies and swipe your MySchool card, Woolworths donates money to your beneficiaries on your behalf. The card and donations cost you nothing.

Pick n Pay’s Smart Shopper card is a little different. You sign up and swipe it each time you shop at PnP. This collects SmartShopper points on your card. Instead of cashing in your points to buy groceries you can donate them to one of PnP’s listed charities.


2. Stocking your fridge and freezer

Try a vegetarian experiment
If you’re willing and able, go vegetarian (vegan is even better). Be inspired by the delicious meat alternatives available and the host of wonderful food blogs online, including our own Ilse (The Food Fox), Luisa and Petro here on The Pretty Blog. As an added benefit you’ll be delighted by your new, reduced monthly grocery bill.
Meaty meals
If a meat-free lifestyle is too big a leap, try eating meat every second day, or three times a week. Purchase ethically raised, hormone-and-antibiotic-free meat from providers like Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants or Hope Meats.  Fewer meaty meals will leave you with room in your budget for better quality meat as well as improve your health and the state of our environment.
Safe seafood
If you’re a seafood fan, buy seafood that’s certified by the MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) or on the SASSI (Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative) green list. Both of these organisations work to contribute to the health of our oceans and establish sustainable fishing industry practices.

3. Organic fresh produce, eggs and dairy

Growing your own food
Add pops of colour to your garden by growing your own organic vegetables and herbs. Yuppiechef stocks a fantastic, easy-to-use book called “Grow to Live” which is an excellent guide for fresh produce gardening, even if all you can manage is a few lettuces in a pretty window box. It teaches you everything from how to prepare your soil to how to plant for different conditions to how to manage your vegetable patch.
Farmers Markets
Alternatively, source organic produce from your local farmers market. Take the opportunity to get out into the cool morning air, chat to growers and stock up on seasonal fruit, veggies, herbs, eggs, cheeses and pantry essentials. Fresh and nutritious! Your purchases will also contribute to your local economy, supporting small businesses.
Online shopping
Capetonian online shoppers, you can also order organic produce boxes online.

4. Planning your pantry

Tea, coffee, wine and chocolate

  • Fairtrade

Support the inspiring Fairtrade movement (and family farmers) by purchasing Fairtrade tea, coffee, wine and chocolate for your pantry. Fairtrade Label South Africa has a list of approved products including popular Bean There Coffee.

  • UTZ

Another certification to look out for is UTZ. UTZ-certification supports sustainable farming of coffee, cocoa and tea, including providing better opportunities for farmers. Woolworths-brand chocolates are made with 75% UTZ-certified cocoa.

  • Biodiversity & Wine Initiative

Back the BWI (Biodiversity & Wine Initiative) by quaffing their excellent wines. Many of our popular vineyards have committed to BWI wine production and are doing fantastic work in the field of conservation and sustainable farming. Look for the BWI logo on wine labels and download the latest wine list to make your shopping easier.

Baking Ingredients

Homemade baked goods are such a treat.

  • Flour

Look for stone ground flour that’s unbleached and free of preservatives and additives. Eureka Mills and Highland make excellent stone ground flour for breads and sweet bakes.

  • Sugar

Tate & Lyle’s Fairtrade sugar is available from Pick n Pay.

  • Organic ingredients

Visit Yuppiechef for a collection of organic baking ingredients including coconut oil (a substitute for other baking fats), nuts, dried fruits, seeds, agave nectar (a useful sugar substitute) baobab powder and vanilla.


5. Avoid Palm Oil

Reading food labels is an enlightening practice. Avoid food products that contain palm oil or the less descriptive term “vegetable fat” unless you know it’s sustainably sourced. Uncontrolled palm oil farming is endangering our tigers, elephants, rhinos, orang-utans, tropical forests and forest dwelling peoples.


6. Homemade is (usually) healthier

Most of us lead busy lives and time is of the essence. Winter is a time for slowing down and savouring, so when I can I dedicate Sunday afternoons to baking bread and munchies like vegetable muffins, biscuits, etc. Although baked goods are not always what we’d call health food, at least I know I’ve used the healthiest or best quality ingredients I can.

7. End well: keep your kitchen sparkling

Use earth-and-animal-friendly kitchen and household cleaners. Try Better Life or Woolworths’ Earth-Friendly range for a clean, non-toxic kitchen. For something different, Hey Gorgeous makes Apple Crumble and Choc Brownie kitchen cleaners