Easy and tasty zero-waste meals

In collaboration with nutritionist Geneviève O’Gleman, savourer.ca

Feel like getting away from it all at one of Québec’s gorgeous national parks this summer? (Re)discover these beautiful green spaces–and help keep them that way! Here are some zero-waste tips from nutritionist Geneviève O’Gleman to get the most out of your getaway, whether you’re camping, hiking, or at the cabin.

Daphné Caron and Nicolas Gauthier | © Sépaq

Do your grocery shopping in advance

“A common mistake is to leave home, stop at the grocery store, and continue on to the campground or cottage. It’s best to do it the other way around: go to the grocery store, come back home, and then head out for the campground,” suggests Geneviève O’Gleman. That way, you can take the time to reduce packaging and waste before you leave.

For example, instead of bringing a whole bag of cookies, why not transfer them to an airtight container, where they’ll stay fresh. As for meat, remove it from the packaging and place it in a sealable container. When frozen ahead of time, it’ll store longer and keep your cooler cold at the same time.

If you’re going on a hike, use containers instead of plastic bags for your food. They’re not just more eco-friendly; they also protect better. “Your just-ripe pear will still be in great shape come lunchtime!” says O’Gleman. Another one of her tips is to avoid buying double-wrapped sandwiches, which invariably end up squashed in the bottom of your backpack.

The nutritionist also recommends buying nuts and dried fruits in bulk. Then, simply transfer them to reusable snack bags (site in French only) that slip easily into your backpack.

Prepare homemade meals and snacks

Pancake mix, oatmeal, energy balls, chili, spaghetti sauce… and the list goes on! By bringing homemade meals and snacks, you reduce your waste. You’ll have fewer ingredients to pack, and you’ll enjoy a welcome break from cooking! Another way to make your meal zero waste is to pack reusable cutlery, cups, plates, and cloths.

“Forget about disposable water bottles. Just bring along your own leakproof reusable bottles,” suggests O’Gleman. Most Sépaq campgrounds provide access to potable water. However, in cases where water is not potable, you can easily treat it with purifying tablets available at outdoor stores. You can also stock the car with larger water jugs or freeze water in reusable bottles and store them in the cooler. Remember to store food in the trunk of your car, to avoid attracting critters.

Daphné Caron and Nicolas Gauthier | © Sépaq
Daphné Caron and Nicolas Gauthier | © Sépaq

It may be organic matter, but…

Contrary to what you might think, organic waste like fruit peels and pits should not be simply left on the ground. “Sure, it will eventually decompose, but it can take a long time, as the composting conditions are not necessarily ideal in nature. What’s more, it can create an imbalance in nature because apples, pears, fruit peels, and other foods aren’t native to our parks. Plus, the animals that live in Quebec’s national parks are wild, and they need to be able to feed themselves,” O’Gleman stresses.

Pack out your waste

Even though there are trash cans in Québec’s national parks, the nutritionist always packs out all her waste, then sorts it into her garbage, recycling, and green (organic) bins when she gets home. “Ideally, when you go hiking, you should leave nothing behind. It’s the principle of ‘Leave no trace.’ Simply bring along washable bags that you can use to carry out waste such as fruit pits, peels, and packaging.”

Why doesn’t she simply throw her waste in the park bins? “There’s nothing wrong with using the trash cans available to dispose of your waste, but personally, I don’t mind bringing my waste back home. And while the park trash cans may not be full when I pass by, packing out my waste helps limit the accumulation of garbage and, in some cases, overflow of the park bins,” notes O’Gleman. “Plus, when you put all your trash in a reusable bag, you realize how much waste you actually generate and it makes you even more motivated to aim for zero waste.”

If you happen to cross paths with Geneviève O’Gleman in one of Québec’s national parks, don’t be surprised if you see her picking up a granola bar wrapper or an empty plastic bottle lying beside the trail. “If everyone does their part, out of respect for nature, there won’t be any waste lying around,” she adds.

Enjoy your vacation!

Sound too complicated to plan a zero-waste getaway? “On the contrary!” insists O’Gleman. “It’s more complicated when you’re not organized. Sure, it takes a little planning to generate less waste. But don’t look on it as a chore. You’ll be happy you planned all your meals ahead of time. It’s less hassle, and you’ll have more time to enjoy nature, a hike, the beach, or a bike ride.” After all, the goal is to get away and enjoy peace of mind!

Daphné Caron and Nicolas Gauthier | © Sépaq
Daphné Caron and Nicolas Gauthier | © Sépaq

5 zero-waste recipes from Geneviève O'Gleman

1. Pancake Mix

“When I go camping, I always bring along some pancake mix that I prepare in advance and pour into an old ketchup bottle. Then, all I have to do is squeeze a bit into a frying pan and cook up the pancakes on my propane campstove. No mess, no dirty dishes, no waste, no need to pack eggs or flour, and no sticky ladle to scrub afterwards.” What could be easier! 

2. Lunch-to-go

Hummus, crackers, cheese, hardboiled eggs (in their shells, they’ll store for 5 days): a simple feast that’s easy to whip up!

3. Easy Nacho Dip

Chop whatever veggies you have on hand in the fridge, then combine with salsa and canned legumes, and heat in a skillet. Top with cheese. Makes a delicious meal with nachos! See the recipe

4. Camping Curry

Sautee canned chickpeas with coconut milk and curry powder. Served with naan bread, it’s the perfect camping meal! See the recipe

5. Crunchy Salad

“A kale salad (site in French only) with radish, fresh beans, and lupini beans is a great choice for hikes, as it stays fresher much longer than a tossed green salad,” notes O’Gleman. Another good choice for a meal on the go is pasta salad. 

Geneviève O'Gleman

About Geneviève O’Gleman

Geneviève O’Gleman is at the helm of the Savourer show on Radio-Canada and editor of the web magazine savourer.ca. She has just launched her recipe book Fast food santé, a best seller available throughout Quebec.

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