Mother Earth News Tips for Affordable Better Food
Cut cost, not quality is the advice Mother Earth News magazine gives it readers by providing a number of tips on how to go about finding affordable and better food for your family’s dinner table. Read on to discover money saving tips from the writers of Mother Earth News and learn how to bring healthy and sustainable food to your kitchen.
I am a believer in Mother Earth News. Raised on a farm as a child and having spent the majority of my adult years in the burbs, I know the difference between good produce and…well, what we find in the neighborhood supermarkets. This winter was my first as an adult to experience the fruits of my summer labors from a vegetable garden in the backyard that consisted primarily of several varieties of tomatoes.
An investment of less than $30 at the local Walmart got me started on canning the tomatoes, and now my family and I enjoy soups and pasta dishes unlike any that can be had from a can, most restaurants, and maybe a few Italian mommas.
Encouraged by my renewed interest in farming and “growing my own,” I stumbled across the winter issue of Mother Earth News at the local library and discovered that growing my own vegetables is but just one way to have affordable and better food. The following is a summary of tips by Mother Earth News that offers diverse options on shopping smart and eating well.
1. Buy in Season—buying produce in season means that not only will more produce be available to select from in a bin, but the price will be cheaper as well. Furthermore, it’s the same with the usually higher (if not over) priced organic items in the store.
2. Buy locally—buying locally cuts out multiple middlemen in the food chain as produce profits become diluted as produce makes its way from the farm to processors, advertisers, packagers, transporters and your grocer. Therefore, buying locally translates into buying cheaper, which not only saves you money but also helps directly support the farmer so that he remains in business to serve you.
3. Join Forces—joining forces with other food shoppers via Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs can save money and provide you with fresh, high-quality produce. CSA’s operate like a subscription service where a group of like-minded produce buyers subscribe with a local farmer.
4. Cook Your Own Food—cooking your own food can save a tremendous amount of money and will ensure that you are eating healthier too. Avoid prepackaged breads made with processed flour. Instead, go for inexpensive whole grain, unprocessed ingredients for baking home-style bread that would otherwise cost several dollars for a single loaf at a bakery. Also, make larger batches of dishes that can be frozen away and reheated for future meals when time is too short to cook.
5. Grow Your Own Food—with raising food prices, growing your own food is becoming a practical necessity for healthy eating. Even a small, raised bed plot measuring ten feet by ten feet can yield a significant amount of produce in one summer. And, if you don’t have that plot space, find a community garden to share with others or try growing a couple of “tomato plants-out-of-a-bag” sold in the garden section of some mega-mart stores.
6. Preserve Your Own Food—preserving food is actually easier to do than most fear and does not require a pressure cooker. A large canning kettle (essentially a big pot with a special jar bracket and inner wall lips to hold the jar bracket), some canning jars, lids and a few tools for handling the hot jars is all you need to preserve a summer’s worth of produce from a small garden. The internet is a very useful source of information on how to can various types of produce. Freezing and drying as preserving methods also work well and are not difficult to learn how to do.
7. Pack Your Lunch—packing your own lunch can easily save you as much as $100 per month. Twice that, if you have a café latte to go with that deli sandwich and yogurt dessert. Try making your own flavorful sandwiches, frozen pre-portioned soups from last week, or simple wraps filled with greens and some turkey breast.
8. Buy in Bulk—food co-ops and buying clubs know that there is a market for consumers who see the value in buying in bulk…and more recently, so do local supermarkets. Rather than invest money in a membership-only co-op or club, find the bulk food section in your local supermarket and do some price comparison with same-item non-bulk food. Learning how to store and preserve some bulk food items means lower costs in the long run and fewer trips shopping.
9. Go Grass-Fed—going grass-fed means that not only will your meat be more flavorful, but safer as well since grass-fed animals typically are not given hormone-filled grain. Savings from buying a large amount of meat directly from a ranch or farm can quickly offset the expense of buying a separate meat freezer. But if you do not want to buy a freezer, consider connecting with a friend or neighbor on a large meat purchase and then divide up the meat afterward.
10. Raise Your Own Animals—raising your own animals to eat is a little more hard-core than most suburbanites can handle, but raising a few chickens for their eggs is no more difficult than having a pet around. And, if you find yourself with excess eggs, they make good trading items for someone who has a little more produce than they can use—bartering with others is a great way to save money and stock up on fresh produce.
Image Source: Courtesy of Wikipedia
Reference: Mother Earth News Dec. 2011/Jan. 2012 issue