I am very passionate about food, how it impacts our health and the environment. Eating healthy should be easy on you and the family. Too often I hear it is too difficult or expensive to eat fresh organic produce. This is not always the case. I want to share an old idea of eating healthy - farmers markets! One key step to living a healthier lifestyle is eating seasonal foods and taking advantage of what is local in your area.
I have taken a personal interest in finding out all I can about what is available in my town. There are local farmers all around, and you just need to search for them. You can start with checking your local paper under “Events”, at craft shows, community boards, city information centers, and church bulletins. They are simple farms growing clean produce and don't spend money on marketing, like big businesses. You can usually see them in stands and group farmers markets on the side of the road. Watch for notices at the community bulletin boards, and you can see when festivals and new vendors might be attending. There are many ways to find these hidden treasures, to bring more healthy produce to your family’s table for cheaper prices. At the bottom, I give you a few search tools to get started.
Why is it important to buy from your local farmers? When we purchase in super markets, sometimes the food has traveled from out of state, if not from other countries. The carbon foot-printing that takes place from air travel, ships, and trucks takes a toile on the environment in resources and pollution. This carbon foot-printing drives up the cost of the food you are buying. The reason the food is so expensive is because they have to pay for the shipping and handling of that item. Also, think about the freshness of something picked and shipped for days, then get to your town. They usually have to cover the produce in a wax to keep it from spoiling too fast. This wax seals in the chemicals making it impossible to remove. If you use local farmers, you know your fruit is fresh, did not have to travel far, and has been harvested that week. Farmers do use pesticides and herbicides, but you can find the organic growers as well. Over all, when you buy locally, you use less resources, and it is cheaper on your wallet.
Local farmers are also contributing to community economics. These are your town farmers who employee from within the town, who in turn buy from local businesses. Big Farmers buy from “Big Name Companies”. When buying from your local farmers, you can help them expand and bring in more produce to you. You can help spread the word with friends supporting local farmers (co-op), and keep the money circulating in your community, benefiting your town. Nothing is sadder than when a farm goes under, because no one is buying their produce, forcing the farm to close and to be replaced with big name businesses.
Cost! That is what it usually boils down to with families. Many things contribute to why produce is so expensive.
- Organic produce usually, cost more in supermarkets. This can be avoided when you try to be more frugal and shop the aids. You will see who has what for better prices when looking at the advertisements. For us, it is not the grocery store but the smaller whole food groceries, like Sunflower or Trader Joe's. You might be surprised at how affordable you can find organic produce, grains, and meats.
- I buy baskets of produce through Bountiful Baskets, a food co-op located in multiple states. At cost per pound, I save a ton. For $25, I can get organic produce in a large box. For $15, I can get conventional produce in a large box. Also, look for companies like Market on the Move, a company that brings large amounts of supermarket produce to a local place for a small donation ($5-$10). Read more about it here.
$30 Bountiful Basket purchase
- The food gets thrown away or goes bad in the fridge. I have had friends show me trash bags filled with produce that went bad before they could eat it. This is where organizing and making a menu comes in to play. Make a menu and then shop, and try not to buy items if they are not on the list. I am a part of two produce companies in which I never know the items I will get until I pick them up. When I have something I can't use in the menu that week, I prepare it for future meals and freeze. I try very hard not to let anything go to waste.
- A big money saver is making your own meals. I started making spaghetti and marinara sauces, salsas, yogurts, and dinner breads. I have started saving so much in making these items. I get the produce, and I make sure I use them. I keep all my shopping trips to a routine of 100 miles or less. On average, I stay within 60 miles round trip! I like to take a cooler for the cold items in the summer and route my trip to get the most out of my gas. This is a big money saver as well.
- Nutritional value! When you buy foods that you pick right from the plant or at markets that where just harvested, you retain more nutritional value. Every day that passes since the produce is picked, you lose nutrients.
- Taste! You have heard that nothing taste better than a tomato from the vine. It's true! When you buy farmers market produce, they taste better! They let nature take its course and grow happy, health plants, and your taste buds know it! I have given my children a produce from the supermarket and then turn around and give them the same produce from the farm, and guess which one they said tasted better? The farm! Nutritional and fresh homegrown taste is always better.
- Start your own small garden. Take a little space or containers and start to grow your own herbs. You may find you enjoy it so much you expand your garden to more fruits and vegetables, but keep it small in the beginning.
Great variety is a wonderful asset to farmers markets. What can you find? The items and possibilities are limitless:
- fresh baked breads
- vegan meals
- natural meats
- raw dairies, goats milks, yogurts, and cheese
- natural spa products
Farmers markets in (your town and State)
Farms in (your town)
co-ops in (your town)
CSA "Community Supported Agriculture" in (your town)
Simple Roasted Seasonal Vegetables
2 tomatoes, sliced
3 zucchinis, sliced
1 large yellow onion, sliced
2 yellow squash, sliced
olive oil, drizzled
dash of salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese
In an oven baking dish, place vegetables in rows like listed above. Drizzle with olive oil, dash of seasoning and roast in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. This is a light and delicious dish straight from the market.
This post was contributed by The Green House Guest Writer, Kelley Johnsen.
As a wife, mom of four, and Certified Nutrition Counselor, I care about my impact on the food choices we make. Everything we eat has a profound effect on our bodies, the environment, and our future. We eat not just to satisfy hunger, but to nourish and enrich our lives. Eating and buying clean resources keeps your body and the Earth healthy and thriving.
To find out more information about becoming a Guest Writer for The Green House, email me at email@example.com.