How to eat clean on a budget - Part 6

June 12, 2022

When we started this series back in April, inflation was only at a 30 year high and I wanted to share with you techniques Connie and I use to save money on our food budget while not compromising our health or the quality of the food we eat. I don't want to sacrifice any of the attributes of my food to save money. I need first and foremost nutrient dense foods, foods that can fuel this old body through the rigors of farming. Second, I really demand great tasting foods, foods that are a joy to eat and accurately represent the food they are not some imitation of the food. Thirdly, I believe over the years we have began to poison ourselves and it shows in cancer rates across society as well as other health problems that have become chronic in society and I believe the only way to stop this trend is to eat non-toxic, non-processed foods.

With all that said one of the final steps you can take in this journey with me is to grow some of your own foods. I know this sounds daunting if you do not currently grow anything. I am also aware that some of us have black thumbs and can't successfully grow much. But the significance of the effort to grow a small portion of what you eat cannot be underestimated. So before I spend a lot of time trying to tell you what or how to grow food, which I will not do, I might make some suggestions of how to get started but I will not say do this or that. I think it is really important to understand why growing something, anything is important. Actually I think it is very important to grow something. If you can't grow food grow flowers, shrubs anything. But more on some ideas on what to grow later.

So WHY is it important to grow some, a little bit of food. The most important reason to grow some food has to do with my second post in this series. Way back at the end of April we discussed the seasonality of food. I will not repeat all of the reasons that eating seasonally is important. If you need a review go back and read that post here: Eating Clean on a budget - Part 2 . Suffice it to say the benefits of seasonal eating are enormous. So what does that have to do with growing your own food. When you start to grow your own food, whether plant or animal, fruit or vegetable. You are inserting yourself into the the growing season. You immediately begin to know things you didn't know before. I used to do some ocean sailboat racing. I even taught folks how to sail. The number one skill a sailor needs to have is to always, I say ALWAYS know where the wind is coming from. You cannot safely handle a sailboat if you are not sure of the wind. I used to ask pupils while we were just walking around, Where is the wind? It is something I am always aware of even though I haven't sailed in over a decade. The same comes from growing food. You become intimate with the seasons. Last frost date, first frost date, 100 day corn, when the first tomatoes become ripe, when apples start to become ripe are a few of the telltale features of the change of the seasons the people who grow food are aware of, and for you to receive the full benefit of Part 2 in this series you need to not only eat seasonally but to live seasonally, after you get in-tune with mother nature because you are growing some of your own food. Think at how much of a better shopper you will become.

Now I am not silly enough to think you are all going to run out and plant half acre gardens. There are a lot of small ways to get started growing your own food that you can become aware of the seasons and you can save a lot of money. I will now go through and discuss some of the low hanging fruit in growing your own food. I understand that some of you might live in condos or apartments and don't have the means to own your own dirt but container gardening is just if not more effective and easy.

One place I always like to start is herbs. We grow basil, cilantro, thyme, dill, rosemary, oregano, mint and chives (every one should grow chives, after you start them they are almost impossible to kill) and a host of others. What herbs to you use to cook with? Grow them. Herbs are incredibly expensive and yet easy to grow. You can grow annuals perennials inside or out, in dirt or containers. It is a wonderful way to save a little money and get your hands dirty.

Another easy way to get started for those with a yard is fruit. Purchase 1 apple tree, 1 sugar maple, 1 any type of producing tree and harvest it's benefits. After you get started it is almost on autopilot and not a lot of work, just a few hours per year but can keep you in pie year round. One sugar maple tree of 1 foot in diameter can produce up to a quart of pure maple syrup a year on a few hours of work and almost no up keep.

Folks who live in the city limits of Kent can now own their own hens. While I don't think anyone's eggs are as great tasting as mine. Few things are as rewarding as your own hens and breakfast straight from the coop. The point is you are participating in your own food supply, you are becoming self sufficient and are beginning to understand the seasonality to life. What a wonderful experience.

The tertiary benefit to growing your own food besides becoming aware of the seasons and becoming even just a little self sufficient is that you begin to empathize with your farmers who try to produce food for you and understand why all the carrots aren't perfect, why we have less eggs in the winter, sometimes the ugly food is just as tasty and clean just not pretty. Also you begin to appreciate it when your farmer does it right and you understand how hard it is sometimes to make pretty great tasting food without chemicals.

So my point, if I haven't already belabored it, is that as soon as you participate in your own food supply you will be a more educated consumer and will be ready to take advantage of the seasons when they come your way. If I can help any of you in this venture drop me a note. I would love to help.

Mike Jones

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