(This post was featured on the wellness blog Wholesome101)
First, I must admit that I never considered myself a gardener. Growing up I can remember my mom taking me out to our backyard garden in an attempt to get me interested in growing food. Unfortunately, after all her efforts I still ended up firmly convinced that I indeed have a brown thumb (both literally and figuratively), and that the grocery store was designed specifically for brown-thumbed people just like me.
Only after I had children of my own did I begin taking an interest in good food and nutrition (and how to make it affordable). Gardening, then, became a real option. Although I am by no means an expert, I have found my past 3 years of experience in growing my own food to be fundamentally life-enhancing. So much so, that I would like to share with you some amazing benefits this lifestyle can have.
Here are the five main benefits I have gained through growing my own food:
As a mother of a growing family, food costs are forever increasing (along with clothing sizes/prices. Seriously, is there a variety of denim jean tree I could grow?). Buying one bunch of organic kale for $2.50 (on sale) is definitely not a sustainable model as the kids get older.
This year during the summer I had about 10 really good kale plants that fed us about 3 grocery-store-sized bunches of leaves per week! The seeds for those kale plants came from less than one organic kale seed packet.
So for less than $2.50 up front, some maintenance, and a bit of creative effort in finding free fertilizer, I got a nearly-endless supply of fresh kale from May through September. If you do the math, that comes out to about 60 bunches of organic kale in 20 weeks all for $2.50. Compare that to $150.00 if I had bought all that kale at the store (on sale). No bad, right?
If you aren't into kale, then green beans, squashes, tomatoes, peppers, and lettuce are all very easy and rewarding to grow from seed. If given the right care, your plants will produce food for several months and save your family money and time at the grocery store.
There is nothing more satisfying than being able to simply go pick what you need from your garden when you are in the middle of cooking dinner and realize you need tomatoes. A garden saves you time, as well as money on gas, both of which can really add up over the course of a season.
On average, we make about 3 to 4 grocery runs (at different stores) during the week. This summer with our earnest gardening efforts, we managed to get it down to one trip per week. For us, that was a savings of at least a whole tank of gas!
Also, you never have to worry about grocery store hours since your backyard is open 24/7 for you and your family! Even better, you don't have to get dressed up to go “out-out.” You can “shop” in your PJ's (if you have that kind of yard)!
This was really one of the main reasons we decided to garden. The health benefits of eating freshly picked food outweigh the benefits of even the most certified organic produce!
Plants are living things, so as soon as a fruit or vegetable is harvested it begins to lose its nutritional value. Put that same tomato on a truck for a few days, then in a warehouse, then on a supermarket shelf and, well, you end up with a sad, flavorless and not-so-nourishing tomato-y looking red ball.
(Side note: our sense of taste is our body’s own awesome built-in measure of nutritional value. If food doesn't have flavor, it probably isn't very nutritious. Shhhh…don't tell the health food bars I said that!)
Another aspect of nutrition is the seasonal value of the food you are eating. Since you are growing your own food, you have to work within the seasons and location you are living in. Plants produce very specific nutrient compositions based on the weather conditions they experience as they grow.
So by eating from home, you are getting the ultimate nutritional value for your location and climate!
Seasonal eating is God's awesome design for getting the best fuel to you from your environment.
Recalls are all the rage these days. It seems that every few months, food (even certified organic produce) is being recalled due to reports of people becoming extremely ill after “poor quality control” allowed listeria/salmonella/e.coli/the bubonic plague a free ride on their product.
This is inevitable, unfortunately, because supermarkets import their produce from all over the world. Even produce suppliers (in an attempt to keep up with the market for out-of-season produce) must import foods that are in-season in other parts of the world in an attempt to meet our demand. With internationally connected markets and food shipping, and the difference in standards and quality control between countries, it is to be expected that people will get sick at some point.
Opt-out! The only practical way to make sure your food is clean is to either get to know your local farmer (do it!) or grow your own food (do that too!).
When you grow your own food, you will have a complete picture of what your food was fertilized with, what pesticides were (or weren't) applied, and the hands that touched your food on the way. The chain from ground to table is short and transparent, and in fact, is how most of humanity has lived until the past century. Reconnect with your roots! (Pun fully intended!)
Food connects by design. We need it to live, so we can't escape it. When you are in the garden, you can't help but connect. You will notice the Earth and the weather. You will appreciate the rain, and look for the sunrise and sunset. You will value the soil beneath your feet as the stuff of life itself.
You will connect with the efforts of people who produce food, the struggles and victories of stewarding vegetables and herbs. You will connect with your family, friends, neighbors, and people that love good food when you share the abundance of your garden.
Most importantly, you will connect with your Creator, who made us all from earth – the very thing you plant in. You will see the beautifully intricate web of interconnectedness that we share with all of creation as a beneficiary of food grown. And you will connect with yourself, at your core. You might just find more meaning, perspective and gratitude for your life.
I'd take that over the grocery store any day!