How to eat clean on a budget - Part 2

April 24, 2022

Summer tomatoes, early fall apples, late summer corn on the cob, all of these in the State of Ohio bring to mind a fruit or vegetable bursting with flavor. These are the times of the year due to temperature and moisture that these particular fruits or vegetables are at their most plentiful and flavorful. What a great time to be eating them and buying them. In subsequent posts on this topic I will deal with buying in bulk and preserving your own food. But before we get to that step you need to know when to buy what. You need to get in sync with the seasons. All of nature is in sync with the seasons. Through our diets of highly processed or trucked in foods we have removed ourselves from the natural seasonalities of life. You want to get back to understanding how the seasons should impact the foods you buy. Well at least be aware that they are happening and you can make slight adjustments to what you eat when. Your overall diet will be healthier and cleaner (I defined what I meant by cleaner last week).

Here at Tierra Verde Farms we try to match the seasons to how we raise livestock. We get our new pullets in early spring so they come on to full lay right around the summer solstice to maximize production of eggs naturally. We lamb in April, calve in May so we don't have to fight too much winter with the little ones. This sounds like this makes perfect sense but most people lamb in February to have small lambs for sale at Easter/Passover time. This just doesn't make sense in Ohio. Most cattle are calved in January. Which absolutely makes no sense at all. A momma cow needs her maximum feed quality while she is producing the most milk for her baby calf. January is not a high growing season in Ohio. We calve in May so when the May green grass pops our momma cows have the freshest, most nutritious food of the year to eat.

All I am really suggesting in this blog post is that you consider buying your food with the same seasonal mindset that we sustainable farmers have to have to farm without chemicals. Connie and I eat fresh lettuce salads from April to November/December depending on if our farmers have hot houses. We eat greens from November to April, when I say greens I am talking chard, spinach and the like. We buy 10 dozen or so ears of corn every September/October right before the end of corn on the cob season to put up.

So when you shop seasonally you spend the least for a particular product. The first corn on the cob out at farmers markets is the most expensive, but if you buy in the middle to late season when the product is most ripe and flavorful it tends to be the least expensive. What I am recommending is a combination of techniques. 1) Buy seasonal, this helps guarantee maximum flavor and lowest annual cost, 2) Buy bulk to drive down this cost even farther 3) Preserve what you need for the year of the foods that preserve well. When food doesn't preserve well just eat seasonal (like the lettuce green example).

Farmers need to sell what they have to hope to make any money at all. One strategy I have worked in the past is approach several farmers letting them know I need 3 bushel of tomatoes to put up for the year, I tell them I will buy them whenever they have them as long as they give me their best price. I say I just need 1 weeks notice so Connie and I can be prepared to can. This way I secure delivery and a great price and can then preserve my own food without toxins. (Remember I will cover storing food in a later installment) . The point is crops (animal, vegetable and fruit crops) have seasons when they are most plentiful. Find out when that is and be prepared to buy bulk and eat them when they are most plentiful and tastiest.

Getting more in touch with nature and understanding that she has her seasons is a great way to start to eat a more natural clean diet with the least expense. So if you haven'y noticed or thought about it, start to notice what is ripe when and start to think about eating and preserving it at the peak of its flavor. A canned Ohio July tomato is sooooo much better than a fresh vine ripened California tomato in January. Sure you need a few skills, but I can't think of anything more important than your long term health to spend time on. You don't get to buy years at the end of your life but you can earn them a little at a time as you live.

Mike Jones

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