How to Prepare Sustainable and Economical Meals, According to Beloved Vegetarian Cook Anna Jones

She's all about easy, joyful meals and simple steps—the result is delicious food that wastes less ingredients and plastic.

portrait of author anna jones
Photo: Courtesy of Anna Jones / Issy Croker

As the working mom of a young child, vegetarian cook and author Anna Jones needs the meals she puts on her family's table to be easy yet flavorful, but she also wants them to be good for the planet. "We make 35,000 decisions a day; that's a lot of potential for making a change," says Jones. "What we need, of course, is a systematic change in our food system led by our governments; but each small choice we make matters and it is up to us to make different choices as well as demanding action from those who hold the power and purse strings."

In her latest cookbook, One: Pot, Pan, Planet ($26.54,, Jones shows how joyful, flavorful, climate-friendly meals combined with small, manageable, daily steps can help make the world we live in better for future generations. "It's a pivotal time," she says. "There is much to be done, but there are millions of people waking up to the situation making small daily repeatable changes. They may not seem much as individual acts but every small act adds up. I firmly believe this is what we need —rather than a few people trying to be perfect climate activists. We need everyone doing what they can." All of the recipes in the cookbook, which are either vegetarian or vegan, are made in one pot, pan, or tray for more manageable and less wasteful clean-up. "The focus on recipes that are cooked in one pot, tray or pan mean that the recipes are easy but they are also more sustainable as they only require one heat source and less washing up so save on energy which is a dimension of sustainability that's not often thought about," says Jones.

In the one pot section, you'll find soups, stews, and curries such as Corn and Cauliflower Chowder, which Jones makes all year with frozen corn in the winter and fresh in the summer. This recipe even includes the use of the often-wasted cauliflower leaves. One pan features fritters, pancakes, and crispy vegetables, while the one tray section includes easy all-in-one dinners and desserts, and there's a quick section for when both time and energy are in short supply.

One: Pot, Pan, Planet is Jones's fourth cookbook. All of her books have focused on joyful, vibrant, plant-centered recipes that are easy to cook, but this is the first one to really focus on how food affects the environment. "It's packed with great recipes, but it goes one step further. I felt that a good amount of people are moving towards eating less meat or adopting a vegan or vegetarian diet, and I wanted to furnish people with some information about other choices food can be more sustainable," says Jones, who became a vegetarian about 12 years ago.

How to Make Your Own Cooking More Sustainable

In her book, Jones dishes out easy-to-follow steps for reducing food waste, keeping kitchens as plastic-free as possible, and more. Here, she shares four simple tips for making your own cooking more sustainable. First, consider what you have at home before buying more ingredients. It might seem simple, but checking what's in your cupboards and refrigerator when it's time to prepare meals will ensure you're using what you have rather than tossing it out. Plan meals that will go with or make the most of the ingredients you already have, and take the time to really think about how many mouths you're feeding before you bulk buy.

Next, get to know what the expiration dates on the food you buy really mean. Sell-by, best-before, and use-by dates are confusing and sometimes (let's face it) unnecessary. The use-by date is the date after which food is no longer deemed safe to eat by the manufacturer. This is important to remember as some foods can't be eaten after this date unless they are frozen beforehand. The best-before date is more to do with quality, and it's the date the manufacturer puts on its product to ensure you eat it when it's in its optimum condition. The sell-by date is the date by which the store needs to sell the product. They are for the store, and you can ignore them; they are generally shorter than best-before dates and create a lot of in-store waste.

A third tip from Jones? Support your local farmers' markets as often as you can. Buy more unusual varieties of fruits, vegetables, herbs, grains, and pulses and help support biodiversity. Last but not least, eat seasonally. It almost goes without saying, but you wouldn't think so looking at many restaurant menus.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles