So, it’s 2022 and the US continues its utter and complete failure to meaningfully deal with the climate crisis. At all levels. The government is failing at so many things, most importantly, the climate crisis. But we, the people, we are also failing because we insist on living high-carbon lives. We refuse to walk or bike away from cars, trucks, and SUVS. We insist the highest level of comfort in our homes, cooled to 72 in the summer, heated to 76 in the winter. We must have the latest, best and most consumer goods. We deserve that flight across country for a vacation.

In short, we behave badly and wait for a broken government to force us to behave in the way we must. I’ve heard the argument that only government can fix the problem with mass, large scale programs. I get that such programs can and do help and are needed. But we as individuals make choices everyday and if 332 million US citizens insist on making selfish choices it adds up to a lot of carbon in the atmosphere. Everyday we insist on the maximum comfort and convenience we can afford.

I’ve written before about the steps I take in my daily life to try to adapt, to explore and express and act on my concern in the way that I can. I’ll continue to do this because I think it’s the most important aspect of life in 2022. A few weeks back I wrote about cutting plastic out of my life as much as possible.

Another adaption I’ve made is food choice. I’ve been vegetarian for 28 of the past 30 years. I do sometimes eat fish out of a nearby lake. For a brief period I also ate locally raised pork and beef as well as venison from deer hunted locally. With the exception of fish a couple times a year I’ve cut all of the rest back out of my diet and have gone to a nearly vegan diet. The only exception is ice cream and on rare occasions, cheese. My diet is fairly healthy but is very simple and cheap. Don’t let anyone tell you a healthy diet is expensive. Anyone could do this diet or a variation and save money, and reduce carbon. This is the diet I’m personally happy with.

Most days it’s this:

  • Breakfast: Coffee, oatmeal with an apple or berries, malt-o-meal with peanut butter
  • Lunch in the winter: Vegetable soup
  • Lunch in the summer: Enchiladas or hummus and pita
  • Dinner or snacks in late afternoon: Malt-o-meal with peanut butter, popcorn, pumpkin-butter oatmeal balls, pumpkin-butter on toast, pumpkin-butter on graham crackers (yes, I like pumpkin butter), oatmeal with an apple or berries.

Drinks: water, tea, coffee, hot chocolate

The above diet is packaged in paper, cardboard or steel cans with limited to no plastic so, recyclable or compostable. It’s a healthy diet with lots of fiber, adequate protein, not too much sugar, and a good balance of vitamins.

My shopping list, all available at any standard grocery store:

Breakfast: Oatmeal purchased in large paperboard box tubes (Much cheaper than boxes with serving size envelops of that also usually have lots of extra sugar), apples, cinnamon (purchased in bulk), brown sugar, soy milk (paper carton), coffee

Lunch, enchiladas: Refried beans in a steel can, enchilada sauce in a steel can, corn tortillas in a plastic bag, nutritional yeast ordered in bulk, plastic bag.

Lunch, soup: Crushed tomatoes in a steel can, beans from steel can, frozen mixed vegetables from a plastic bag, pasta from a paperboard box, spices, salt, nutritional yeast.

Snacks or dinner: Plain popcorn kernels sold in plastic bag, vegetable oil in spray can (quick spray onto popcorn after popping to help flavoring spice to stick), nutritional yeast, garlic, salt.

Pumkin butter: Easy to make using canned pumpkin (1/4 cup), peanut butter (2 tablespoons), cinnamon, brown sugar (2 teaspoons) and salt. I mix that up and put it on toast or graham crackers)

Pumpkin butter oatmeal balls: 1 cup of oatmeal. I blend half of it into flour then mix it up with the above serving of pumpkin butter and roll it into balls. No baking needed and ready in minutes.

Any peanut butter will work in the above. I used to buy whatever “natural” variety available at the store that was cheapest and in glass. Lately I’ve been buying big bags of peanuts and I blend them into peanut butter. Takes more time but it’s cheaper and I’m reusing all the glass jars I saved from buying the store bought peanut butter. And really, the peanut butter I make is better. I’ll do a separate post on a few tips when making peanut butter.

Tea is herbal from a box or mint that I’ve grown. Hot chocolate is straight baking cocoa in a paperboard container… just add sugar and soy milk.

With a fairly standardized diet I generally shop just once every 5 weeks. I tend to buy most of the same stuff and know what I need for that period of time. Of course it’s just me, with a family this would be more complicated. But primary, underlying point is the same. A healthy vegetarian or vegan diet restricted to recyclable or compostable packaging is possible and cheaper.

Want to add in some junk food? Go for it but if you buy ice cream get it in a paperboard container. Cake and brownies can be baked from a mix that comes in paperboard boxes. If you must buy fruit juice (not all that healthy given the concentration of sugar) buy it in frozen concentrate in paper and dilute it a bit with extra water.

When I shop I have a few rules that I refuse to break. It limits my diet and I don’t get to eat things I like. For example, no yogurt because it only comes in plastic containers. I buy coffee in the vacuum sealed bricks packaged in a kind of plastic/aluminum. It’s not something I can recycle but it’s less waste than the other options. There’s only two options for coffee in this brick packaging… luckily, it’s good strong espresso and that works. Happily, it’s cheaper too.

The point is that my options are more limited and I don’t cry about it. We have to stop acting as though we are entitled to anything we can afford. We have to limit ourselves even if that means doing without things we like. The whole point of adapting to this climate emergency is that we will have to do without certain options and luxuries but we should be thankful if we are privileged enough that we can afford the things we need.

Oh, last, eating out at restaurant/take out: I almost never do. Probably once a month or less, just when family are visiting and it’s a group thing.

So, that’s my basic approach to grocery shopping for a climate-adapted diet. There are other details I didn’t cover that might be a consideration but for now I think that’s a start.