This week's home-cooking interview features Holly and Shane, who don't eat processed, plastic-wrapped food products.
Welcome to the latest post in TreeHugger's series, "How to feed a family." Every week we talk to a different person about how they approach the never-ending challenge of feeding themselves and other household members. We get the inside scoop on how they grocery shop, meal plan, and food prep to make it go more smoothly. Today we hear from Holly, a green lifestyle blogger in Paris who somehow makes do with a single cooking element and no oven!
Names: Holly (34), Shane (40)Location: We live in Paris, France in a studio apartment in a 6-floor walk up.
Employment: I blog about conscious living, soil health, and regenerative living on my blog www.leotielovely.com. Shane is a photographer, videographer and actor.
Food budget: EU €100-150 (US $112-$168)
1. What's a favourite or commonly prepared meal in your house?
Both of us have smoothies for breakfast with seasonal fruits, spinach and powders like Maca and Cacao. For lunch Shane eats salads and I eat sandwiches; for dinner it's usually some sort of delicious vegetable dish with grains. We only have one element and no oven, so it simplifies our meals a bit.
2. How would you describe your diet?
Local, seasonal, zero waste, organic, plant-based (not vegan). We don’t eat processed, plastic-wrapped vegan or vegetarian food, only whole foods sold without packaging, which are in season and from local farms.
3. How often do you shop for groceries?
I grocery shop twice or three times per week; I only buy what I can carry, as our fridge is not much bigger than a tote bag, and six flights of stairs is intense with one bag, never mind two! I’ll do one trip to the local organic at this charming market called Marché Les Enfants Rouge, then I’ll do a bulk food store shop for any missing bits at the organic grocery store, Bio c’ Bon. I also buy freshly baked organic bread from our local boulangerie, Le Petit Parisien. My husfriend doesn’t eat bread but I can down a baguette a day. We go through a lot of peanut butter. I found a place where I can buy it in bulk finally, but for a while that was a major weekly expense.
4. What does your grocery shopping routine look like?
Our neighbourhood is intensely busy on the weekends, so I usually grocery shop during the week when everyone else is at their desk jobs, which means I get the whole store to myself.
5. Do you meal plan? If so, how often and how strictly do you stick to it?
Not at all. My husfriend is the cook in our house and even if we literally have nothing in the fridge he can construct a delicious meal on the fly. I’ve bowed out of most of the kitchen duties happily. I restrict my contributions to salads, soups, sandwiches, smoothies, veggie burgers, and protein balls.
6. How much time do you spend cooking each day?
Shane spends probably 30 minutes a day for all three meals; he’s a magician. I probably spend about 15 minutes as I’ll meal prep, make sure all the produce is stored properly to extend its life and vitality, and make sure all the regrowables are in water.
7. How do you handle leftovers?
We usually don’t have any. Shane’s pretty good at eyeing to our appetites, and he’ll hoover everything I can’t finish. But if we do, any leftovers will find themselves in the next meal; we try to waste as little as possible. Shane sometimes makes stuff with leftovers like kale stem pesto, carrot top pesto, salsas, sauces, and kitchen scrap vegetable broth.
8. How many dinners per week do you cook at home vs. eat out or take out?
We probably eat out once a week as a couple. I work from cafes during the day, so I’ll eat a massive breakfast then have a snack at the café and munch again properly when I get home. I try to avoid take away, but we sometimes grab stuff from Too Good To Go and will bring our own containers for them to package food they’d otherwise throw out. We only do Deliveroo/Uber Eats if we’re dealing with a post 30 hangover, which we try to avoid at all costs.
9. What are the biggest challenges in feeding yourself and/or your family?
Cost, of course, but regrowing veggies and making food from waste has helped reduce costs quite a bit. We also try to just buy the basics we know we'll eat, and eating stuff that is local and in season is cheaper too. I realized that restricting ourselves to unpackaged food reduces our bill significantly, since we're paying bulk unit prices. It used to be really hard to zero waste shop in Paris, but now it's easy, and we realized we save about 100€ a month by doing so.
10. Any other information you’d like to add?
We started growing our own herbs, which is super satisfying. We live in a studio apartment but we have rooftop access, so we made a little mini herb garden and it’s super satisfying to see our little greens thriving outside the window.
For more stories in this series, see How to feed a family. We want to hear from YOU! Please send us a message on Instagram if you're interested in participating. You don't need to feel like you have it all together in the kitchen; the goal is to show a variety of approaches to food prep.