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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Healthful Eating on a Budget (Part 1)

Note: This will be a two part series, based on an essay I wrote for one of my college classes.


In today’s economy it is equally important to remain healthy and to save money. One of the most important things people can do to keep themselves and their family healthy is to maintain a healthy diet. Most people believe that when their household budget is tight, they will not be able to afford to eat healthily. Even though healthy foods cost more, they can eat healthily without spending a lot by using coupons, shopping sales, and growing a garden of their own.

One of the most important parts of a healthy diet is including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. These can be expensive to purchase, especially in the colder months when very little is “in season” locally, and consumers have to pay higher prices for items that are grown in warmer climates and shipped to cooler areas. On top of being more expensive, these foods can also have lower nutritional values because they are harvested before they are entirely ripe.

By growing fruits and vegetables at home, people can avoid some of the expense and inferior nutritional values. There are a variety of fruits and vegetables that can easily be grown at home, even in the smallest spaces. One method, called Square Food Gardening, uses grids to help lay out small spaces using boxes with aisles to maximize the space available, and uses only two or three seeds per section (Square Foot Gardening, 2009). This method can be used in window boxes or balconies, using containers of all sorts, and even indoors in the winter time.

When it concerns eating healthily, an important reminder is that commercial pesticides and fertilizers are full of chemicals of all kinds. Eating organic is ideal when it comes to fruits and vegetables. But again, this can be costly. One way to avoid this issue with an individual’s own garden is to make their own compost. There are many methods of composting, from using a bucket with worms in the house that turn food scraps into compost, to having a rotating compost barrel, or if there is a larger area available, using compost bins. Composting is actually very easy once an individual has gotten the hang of it. Remember no to add any meat, bones, or dairy products. Most food scraps, paper waste,, and yard waste can be composted, leaving an amazing fertilizer that is great for gardens. In addition, people should try to avoid using chemical filled pesticides.

Companion planting is a wonderful way to minimize the amount of pest control needed. Companion planting is a method of placing plants that will benefit each other in some way near each other. One example of this is what is traditionally known as “the three sisters.” Beans, corn, and squash would be planted together; the beans grow up the corn stalks, and the squash grow around the base, preventing many animals from coming in and eating the crops.

After learning to grow fruits and vegetables at home, using minimal amounts of chemicals in the fertilizer and pesticides, the next step is learning ways to preserve the harvest. Three effective methods of prolonging the usefulness of the harvest are: canning, freezing, and dehydrating. The method of preservation that a person chooses will be based on what they are trying to store. For instance, broccoli and cauliflower can be blanched and frozen, while tomatoes should be prepared and stored in sealed canning jars. Herbs, peas, and even carrots can be easily dehydrated and stored in jars or bags for use in many different kinds of recipes.


To be continued... part two - Shopping sales, using coupons and stockpiling

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