April is a month that celebrates mother nature, especially Earth Day. But it’s important to be durable all year round, and spring is the perfect time to start. Additionally, according to the USDA, take-out food prices are expected to rise this year, with even larger increases predicted for take-out and restaurant prices.
That’s why Michigan Blue Cross Blue Shield Registered Dietitian, Shanthi Appelo has some tips on planning a healthy and sustainable season. She showed us how to reuse leftover vegetables and peels to make homemade broth. She also showed us how to reuse metal tin cans and even those old egg cartons. And she pointed out some gardening tips because spring is the perfect time to find your green thumb.
start a garden
Many people like the idea of starting spring off with a little gardening. Some small plants like basil, thyme, and cilantro can be grown in a sunny spot inside the house any time of the year. If you plan to plant seeds indoors and then transfer them to an outdoor vegetable patch or in-ground garden, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Cool weather crops such as peas, lettuce and onions can be sown directly into the ground outdoors a few weeks before the last frost date. In Michigan, the date of the last frost is usually mid-to-late May.
- Warm weather vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and squash can be started indoors in containers or crispers. Start them from seed four to six weeks before the last frost date. They can be placed on a sunny table or windowsill, or under a grow light for maximum results.
- When transplanting seedlings indoors to outdoors, leave them outside for growing periods during the day a few days before to help them adjust to the weather.
A lot of recyclable household waste can be used for seed starting when it’s time to start preparing your garden. Here are some containers that can be reused:
- Plastic milk jugs or paper milk cartons: Cut off the top third. Make drainage holes on the bottom. Fill halfway with potting soil. Use them to start growing heavier plants like mammoth sunflowers, blueberries or raspberries, pumpkins or other squash.
- Metal boxes: Rinse them and cut off the sharp lids. Drill drainage holes in the bottom. Fill halfway with potting soil. Depending on the size of the box, use them to grow hardy plants like tomatoes, basil, and any type of flower.
- Egg cartons: The tiny cups can be easily filled with potting soil and used to start small plants like herbs, lettuces, and even onion sets.
Use leftovers in the kitchen
In an efficient kitchen, there is very little waste. Experienced cooks know how to look for clever ways to use additional ingredients. Here are some of the tastiest tips:
- Buy sturdy storage containers with tight-fitting lids. This will keep your leftovers from drying out and make them easy to take to work.
- Don’t discard the rinds of hard cheeses like Parmesan, Asiago, or Romano. Store them in a bag in the freezer. When preparing soups or broths, lay down a crust. It will sweeten and add a depth of flavor to the whole pot.
- Roast chickens and leftover vegetables can take on new life as homemade stock for soups, rice, lentils and other recipes. Once most of the meat is gone, place the chicken carcass, skin, and pieces in a freezer bag and place it in the freezer. After preparing vegetables for a meal, add leftovers like carrot peels and tops, celery ends, and onion skins to the bag. When you are ready to make broth, put everything in a saucepan, cover with water, add garlic cloves, herbs, salt and pepper and simmer for a few hours.
- The juice from a lemon or orange often leaves the outside of the fruit as remains. Leftover fruit rinds keep for a few days in the refrigerator, and fruit rind can be used to flavor baked oats, grilled meats or rice dishes.
At home resource-conscious
There are lots of little things people can do to adopt a zero-waste mindset, whether it’s saving energy, reducing waste, or reusing things. Here are ways to conserve energy and resources in the home:
- Turn off or unplug electronic devices. Lights, televisions, computers and other technological devices should be turned off or unplugged when people are done with them. Be sure to check that your light bulbs are energy efficient.
- Use energy-efficient settings for dishwashers, washing machines and dryers.
- Turn the heat down or turn up the air conditioning setting when you leave the house for several hours.
- Keep a designated recycling area for easy collection of items.