As a blended family, our household has many moving parts, and many compromises and adjustments that we have negotiated over the years. I suppose that is the case with many families, but I think that when there are kids living in two households, with different expectations in each, adaptability is paramount.
Steve moved in with us about seven years ago, and as he is a vegetarian we needed to make adjustments to our diet. I was a vegetarian for a period of time, and we ate a lot of the ‘carbs and cheese’ diet: mac and cheese, grilled cheese, perogies. While yummy, a diet that consists of a lot of carbs and cheese is not particularly healthy or sustainable.
I drifted away from being a vegetarian, but continued to limit my meat intake. This very interesting infographic from the world in data had a huge impact on me: https://ourworldindata.org/food-choice-vs-eating-local. I call myself a planetarian: someone who is informed in eating decisions by carbon emissions (I just made the name up, and don’t know of any other planetarians. And yes, it does sound a lot like the word planetarium). I eat meat once or twice a week, and usually chicken or fish. I very rarely eat beef, as it notably creates more greenhouse emissions than any other food. I eat a lot of nuts and seeds. As I learned more, I realized I am generally eating a mediterranean diet, a more common term than planetarian, and so now that is how I define my way of eating.
One strategy for cooking (primarily) vegetarian meals in our home was to embrace pulses: beans, peas, chickpeas, and lentils. Pulses are rather remarkable; they are very nutritious, being high in protein, fiber, and are micronutrient rich. They also have a very low carbon footprint, producing a tenth of the amount of carbon as beef per unit of protein produced. Pulses do not need much water, and are very good for soil health as they fix nitrogen in the soil.
The other strategy I used to cook vegetarian deliciously was to learn how to use the Instant Pot. A popular countertop appliance, the Instant Pot is very versatile: it makes rice, sautées, and can even make yoghurt. Ultimately, it is used most as an electric pressure cooker. The Instant Pot is programmable, and when it comes to pressure cooking the water inside the instant pot boils at a higher temperature, which means that food cooks faster. This makes them extremely energy efficient, particularly when compared to an oven. That same type of energy-efficiency can be found in other countertop appliances too, from an air fryer to a toaster oven, there are ways to cook without the energy demand of a full oven, or the use of multiple stove-top elements for that matter.
I have made many, many family meals in the Instant Pot, from simple beans and rice to more complicated soups and stews. I have three boys, who eat a great deal, meaning that energy-efficient cooking is not only extremely important, it has been a game changer in many ways.