How to Achieve a Simpler, More Sustainable Way of Life
Join the move to slow food, slow living and homesteading.
In today's world, where the cost of living
continues to rise and environmental concerns
loom large, many people are seeking a simpler,
more sustainable way of life. The desire for
living with less, being more present in our
daily lives, and strengthening our connection
with nature has seen people embrace activities
like making jam, starting a herb garden, buying
old vinyls, and taking up nostalgic crafts like
embroidery and macrame.
Slow cooking posits that food should be grown and bought locally, prepared with care, and consumed with appreciation, while slow living is a mindset whereby a more balanced, meaningful life is curated through slowing things down and appreciating the world around you. While humanity hurtles down the post-pandemic path to its old helter skelter rush, interesting insights from the Google Culture and Trends team show a growing amount of searches for content around slow living, with people looking for content revolving around gardening, baking bread, upcycling furniture, and, quite simply, making a proper cup of coffee.
Alongside these trends is homesteading, a lifestyle whereby you rely on natural resources wherever possible and make environmentally conscious choices for a more self-sustainable life. Born of necessity in different historical eras in various parts of the world, its resurgence has been dubbed “modern homesteading, and is being adopted by those with a desire for a simpler life and living off the land more self-sufficiently. Millennials especially have taken to its tenets, cultivating practices like growing their own food and living lighter on the earth with more natural lifestyles.
Modern homesteading, slow living and slow eating are all set to grow in 2024 as people recognise the value in living intentionally and lowering their cost of living. If you’re interested, here are some practical aspects you may want to consider:
Recycling or collecting water
Water scarcity is a pressing concern in South Africa with droughts and water shortages affecting various regions. As a response to these challenges, many have already adopted the water collection aspect of homesteading by digging boreholes or installing water tanks for the collection and storage of rainwater. Other ways to reduce water usage include reusing grey water for purposes such as flushing toilets.
Recycling and repurposing
As the ultimate goal of homesteading would be
to achieve a zero-waste lifestyle, recycling and
repurposing waste products are key. This often
involves thinking creatively and finding new
uses for items that might otherwise be
discarded. For example, old jars can become
storage containers and worn-out clothing can be
upcycled into quilts or rags. By adopting these
practices, homesteaders are not only reducing
waste but also minimising their contribution to
You can also use food waste in your garden, advises Chef Norman. “If you have a compost heap or bin, you could add your off cuts from fruits, vegetables and even egg shells, while coffee grounds can be used as mulch and fertiliser.”
Growing your own food
While you may think that growing your own
food is reserved for those with large properties
and gardens, this is not necessarily the case.
From small balcony gardens to pot plants, people
are finding creative ways to practise this in
The benefits of growing your own food extend far beyond cost savings, explains Norman Heath, Head Chef at Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront. “While many people grow their own food to cut costs or reduce their carbon footprint, what they often don’t realise is that homegrown, freshly picked food is also higher in nutrients and more delicious.”
By growing your own produce at home, you significantly reduce the time between farm and table. This means that the flavour and nutrient content are preserved and any need for unhealthy preservatives is eliminated. Growing your food organically also allows you greater control of what fertilisers and pesticides come into contact with your food.
Eliminating the need for food transportation from the farm to your home further reduces your carbon footprint and eliminates packaging that could contribute to environmental pollution. If you can’t grow your own, opt for only buying seasonal produce, advises Chef Norman. “In-season fresh produce is nutrient dense and is much more flavourful. Buying it also supports local farms, markets and employment.”
Seasonality in fruits and vegetables means
that there are times of abundance and times of
scarcity. Food preservation is an aspect of
homesteading that helps maintain variety in your
diet while minimising food waste.
Canning, fermenting, seed saving, pickling, freezing and jam-making are among the homesteading methods used to ensure that no food is left to rot but instead enjoyed at a later time. Cabbage can be fermented to make sauerkraut, and cucumbers, beetroot and carrot can be transformed into pickles - that most unexpected of hot new items, with pickle-flavored products having climbed their way up the foodie charts to become one of the top food trends in 2023.
“As the cost of living rises, some of the
changes we’ll make in our kitchens arise out of
necessity too. Opting to upcycle food - using
the same ingredients for multiple meals or
growing home garden plants out of used veggies -
is a means to make eating more affordable and
sustainable at the same time,” says Chef Norman.
Upcycling food is about consuming anything made from ingredients that would normally be discarded. It's an inventive approach to reducing food waste while exploring new culinary horizons. It can be as simple as using yesterday’s roast chicken in today’s chicken mayonnaise sandwich, and tomorrow using the bones to make broth.
Chef Norman underscores its potential for culinary innovation: " As a chef, I am passionate about keeping waste to a minimum in our kitchen and ensuring that everything is used to not only save money, but to reduce our impact on the environment. I see the potential of maximising the creative potential of every element. Countless unexpected possibilities exist for transforming undervalued ingredients into surprisingly delicious meals, like mashed potatoes and garlic used for crispy potato cakes, beef chuck and beans for a tasty ragu, and butternut to add depth to a veggie mac and cheese.”
As the famous philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: ”Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience”. Slow living, eating and homesteading may take more time, but their rewards are profound, affecting you and the world around you in a more positive way.