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How to meal prep environmentally friendly dinners

When we talk eating green, we’re not thinking of swapping to kale chips.

When we consider all the emissions created in producing and disposing of avoidable food waste from Kiwi homes, this creates a whopping 325,975 tonnes of CO2 emissions. To offset that, we would have to take 118,107 cars off the road for a year or plant 130,390 trees.

Planning your dinners and only buying what you need is a big step in cutting back household waste. But what you put on your plates, how you shop and even the way you cook can all have an impact on the planet.

When you sit down to plan your meals for the week, here are 6 tricks to try to make your dinners more environmentally friendly:

1. Energy efficient cooking 

Slow cookers are one of the most energy-efficient ways to cook dinner and great for bulk meal prep recipes. Skew this week’s prep to slow cooked foods and consider using the microwave – and pressure cooker – both more energy efficient than ovens. It makes sense really; ovens have high energy demands as they need to heat up before they start to cook your food. According to researchers from the University of London, roasting vegetables in the oven can create up to 52-78% of the total greenhouse gas emissions associated with vegetables (from production to distribution to consumption).

2. Go meat free

Animal foods are the top contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, so if you want to eat for the planet, make more meals meat free. The landmark EAT Lancet report recommended this approach too, finding that the most viable way we can nourish the world's growing population and sustainably manage the planet's resources, is for as many people as possible to adopt a ‘planetary health diet’ – one that’s plant-based, low in red meat and low in added sugar. So why not make this week’s meal plan meat free? Here’s 21 recipes to get you started – are you up for the challenge?

3. Think seasonal  

Create your meal plan based on what’s in season. It will help shake up your dinner ideas with new flavours and ensures you are buying produce that’s fresher, more nutritious, in peak supply and most likely cheaper. As we head into autumn look out for pears, persimmons, kiwifruit, parsnips, turnips and zucchini / courgette.

4. Stay local 

Did you know transporting food by air generates 177 times more greenhouse gases than shipping it? So, support Kiwi farmers and buy local. How can you tell? Look for Made in New Zealand on products, signs on produce displays and stickers to show where your fresh produce is grown or visit the farmers market or local community garden.

5. Shop smart

When you head to the shops, always pack a few extra tote bags so you can make the most of loose fruit and veggies, and bulk ingredients. When it comes to packaged goods look for those that use wrappers made out of recycled materials, or those with packs you can recycle. More stores and supermarkets are also introducing zero-waste shopping options, so you can refill household staples like sauces, toothpaste, shampoo and detergents.

6. Prep more

If you are a weekly prepper, you are well on your way to eating greener. Planning not only helps to minimise the amount of food you waste, with fast dinners at the ready, but also means you’re probably less likely to opt for takeaways. The carbon footprint of takeaway food is soaring. Cooking at home can be quicker, cheaper and healthier than ordering takeaways. From pad thai to pizza, here’s a recipe collection of takeaway favourites to try at home.