How to Live Your Values Through Food

How to Live Your Values Through Food
Photographer shooting cheese platter

Welcome to Finny From Scratch, your source for engaging and stimulating posts about all things food. Here I celebrate how food connects us to ourselves and each other. Every post reflects my love for- and connection to- food through the senses: sight, taste, smell, sound, and touch. This isn’t a recipe blog or a food history blog or a food photography blog, but a wonderful stew of them all.

food photographer windsor
Photographer shooting cheese platter

My Personal Food History

My journey to writing here doesn’t start when I was five cooking alongside my mother or grandmother. It started five years ago, when I first began cooking in my small apartment kitchen to save money and make sure my husband and I had delicious and nutritious meals to eat. At this point, I had worked in various fast food chains and restaurants for four years and had the time management skills, speed, and capacity to succeed in a restaurant environment but I lacked the knowledge, creativity, and confidence to cook without relying on recipes. 

Most importantly, I lacked a connection to food, to the ingredients being used because I was used to eating mass-produced quick meals like Kraft Dinner, Ramen Noodles, canned soup, grilled cheese on white bread, and whatever was on special at Subway. I spent most of my childhood and early 20s eating quick meals in front of a screen or wolfing something down between classes at the University. Why should anyone care about preparing food using locally purchased, fresh ingredients prepared by our own hands, when it’s easier to order and consume takeout at the end of a busy day?

I didn’t care about the quality of meats or vegetables, whether it was produced locally, or whether it was something I craved. I subsisted on a diet of burgers from the restaurant I worked at, Red Bull, and gas station breakfasts. I bought the cheapest meals I could and rarely went grocery shopping or even touched a piece of fruit. 

“Why should anyone care about preparing food using locally purchased, fresh ingredients prepared by our own hands, when it’s easier to order and consume takeout at the end of a busy day?” 

Fish, garlic scapes, asparagus, and lettuce sourced from the local Farmer’s Market

Now, I care about what I eat, how I eat, and the impact it has on my psyche, body, and checkbook, as well as my community. I found when I began making my own meals, I began living more aligned with my values – eating (mostly) minimally processed food, reducing food waste and single use plastics in my home, supporting other local businesses, and eating according to the seasons. 

Every year since, I push myself to continue living those values. I want to show you how to live your values as well.

The Transition to Living My Values

Have you ever thought about how the food you eat reflects your values or doesn’t? When I cooked at home that first year, I started with meals I knew: baked chicken breast, salad, and potatoes; hamburger and fries; soup; German meals my husband grew up eating. We portioned our meats and reduced our single-use plastic impact. 

The second and third years we washed and reused Ziploc bags. I also stored veggie scraps (onion peels, celery tops, carrot ends) in the freezer to make vegetable stock. I had a new job working in the kitchen at a restaurant that focused on supporting local wineries, breweries, bakers, butchers, making food from scratch, and changing the menu throughout the seasons.

The fourth year we took it a step further and saved bones for stock. I learned how to break down a whole chicken and cook a whole fish, head and all, even though eating chicken wings and ribs grosses me out.  

The fifth year (this year) has led to investing in locally-produced beeswax food wrap (BeeKeeperFoodWraps) and reusable locally-made cotton produce bags (Completely Carly). I’ve begun saving and using kale and chard stems, broccoli stalks, and the green leaves of carrot tops – produce parts that are typically discarded – to reduce food waste, stretch my dollar, and create inventive new meals. 

None of this would have been possible had I not made the first small decision to save money by not ordering in or eating out. The second small decision was to pivot slightly each year in a related direction like reducing food waste. The third small decision was to choose a less convenient life for one with more substance and value.

“Have you ever thought about how the food you eat reflects your values or doesn’t?” 

I hadn’t. I said I cared about the environment and yet I didn’t recycle. I said I cared about saving money and yet I ate out twice a day. I looked at myself one day and said, “Enough”. I chose to stop living for convenience and worked on changing my life at home. If this is where you are at, how do you start living your values through the food you eat? 

Cotton produce bags from CompletelyCarly, deodorant from Terra Green Gardens, beeswax wraps from Beekeeper Food Wraps, and handmade body soap from Sud Therapy

How to Live Your Values Through Food

  1. Identify your values

It may seem silly to list this as the first step but many people live their whole lives without asking themselves what they truly care about and whether they are living their lives according to these values. Do you care about community, sustainability, money, animals, convenience, diversity? The more you look at what drives you and your choices, the more you realize every aspect of your life is connected including the food you purchase, cook, and eat.    

  1. Brainstorm how to make one small change today

Think about one thing you care about and brainstorm a way to make one small change today. For example, if you care about saving money but are struggling at this moment, try making your coffee at home, stock the pantry, or create one meal at home. Before I started making coffee at home, I spent at least $80 every month buying a medium coffee every weekday. Drinking coffee at home can help you ease into your day and become part of your routine before you leave for work or school.   

  1. Reflect, adjust, repeat

After one month, think about the impact making these small changes has had on your lifestyle. If you find you easily made these changes, add another small change and keep going. If you struggled to make the change, try doing less or switch your approach. If you can’t commit to eating one vegetarian meal per week at this time, incorporate more veggies into each of your other meals. Find what works for you in this moment. 

  1. Accept you aren’t perfect

Will you ever live a life that is 100% compatible with your values? Doubtful, as they are always changing. Accept that striving towards a life that is aligned with your values is good enough. Every step you take in the right direction is worthwhile and helpful. Allow yourself the space to struggle and remind yourself why you are choosing to make your life less convenient and more meaningful. Come back to this step and continue to remind yourself. I do every day. 

  1. Reward yourself

Take the time to look back at the past month or year and see how far you’ve come. Reward yourself in the way that feels best to you. For me, that’s snuggling up in my sloth reading socks with a hot cup of tea, dessert, and the latest food book I’m reading. 

The act of striving towards your values is a huge one, though it may seem small right now. The most important tip to remember is to do what you’re able to do without the pressure of doing it all perfectly or at once. Though you may feel dissatisfied in other areas in your life, bringing more of what you care about into your daily routine can help you live your values through food. It’s all about trying things out, throwing the metaphorical spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks.

What small change are you making today? Tell me in the comments below!

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