Saturday, July 26, 2008
You can cut out the middle man and get food for less. You can also eat healthier, while saving the bees.
Well, for one thing, regulation of the U.S. food supply has become worthless, with hundreds of cases of mad cow and salmonella poisoning a year. Growing your own food ensures your safety, and may even save money in the long run by preventing expensive medical bills. But there's a lot more to it than that . . .
Buy for Less
Here are some tips for buying cheaper, healthier food:
- Join a buying club for food (start here or here to see if there is an established one near you; if not, find a food coop here or here, and then ask them where you can find a buying club). As one website puts it:
"A buying club is a great way to get the organic food you want on the cheap. In a buying club, you may be able to get 30 percent to 40 percent off the retail price. Buying-club members purchase food and other organic products in bulk and then split the stash.
"These buying clubs are the best-kept secrets in America" . . .Ask a co-op near you about starting a buying club with your friends and neighbors. Some co-op grocers will let you order right from their store. Ask a local natural food store where they get their stuff and then contact the distributor directly.
"Some distributors deliver to individuals or groups of individuals who have a minimum amount of an order," says Katherine DiMatteo, a senior adviser with the Organic Trade Association.
- You can do the same thing with meat. Find a ranch here (you can type in the kind of meat you're looking for - "beef", for example - under "Name/Description/Product" and your zip code under "Where"?). Then form a buying club to buy the meat at a discount
- Buy a share in a community-supported agricultural program. That buys you weekly boxes of fresh produce delivered to your door. To locate a program near you, see this, this and this
- If there is a farmer's market near you, go there right before closing . . . the vendors will likely give you a discount. Also, ask about produce that doesn't look perfect, but still tastes good
- Buy a large freezer. That way, when you find a good deal on meat or produce, you can buy in bulk (food keeps almost all of its nutritional value even when frozen). If you find a good deal on beef or pork, for example, buy a huge chunk of the animal
- Buy produce in-season. It is usually cheaper
- See below for information on canned foods and discount stores
You can also grow some of your own food. But what do you if you live in a city, or far from land or water sources? Here are some tips:
- A gardening table like this one allows you to grow over 22 pounds of tomatoes, 55 pounds of lettuce and 33 pounds of cucumber per season in just one square meter of space
- You can grow vegetable gardens vertically
- You can grow food hydroponically even if you're short on space and sunlight
- Even easier, you can grow food "aeroponically"
- Mushrooms will grow just about anywhere, and you can buy kits to make growing easy (see this, this, this and this)
- Potatoes will grow like mad
If you have a little land, you can grow food on a larger scale.
You'll need water to do it. If you don't have ready access to water, consider collecting rainwater. This brochure from the University of Idaho tells you how (look here for more info).
Also consider using some "dried distillers grain" in the soil, which can dramatically reduce insect damage and increase the health of your plants (without pesticides).
You can raise cows, sheep, or other large animals.
For further information, see this resource for raising animals and this one for growing plants.
It turns out that wild game animals have much higher levels of essential Omega 3 fatty acids than domesticated animals. Indeed, leading nutritionalists say that humans evolved to consume alot of Omega 3 fatty acids in the wild game and fish which they ate (more), and that a low Omega 3 diet is a very new trend within the last 100 years or so (my wife, who is an expert on Omega 3's, believes that some of the short attention span, stupidity, violence and other cognitive problems we're seeing in the general population is due to a low Omega 3 diet. the brain is mainly made up of fat, and having too little good Omega 3 fats can cause all sorts of problems in thinking straight. Is that one reason why the American public has been so complacent about its loss of liberty?).
If you have access to wild game which you can hunt, it is actually healthier for you. (Wild plants, seeds and nuts can also be very high in nutrients.) If you don't, you can buy grass-fed beef, wild salmon, or other high Omega 3 sources.
So if you live near wild food sources, your meals can be both free and healthy (Don't eat your own lead buckshot or shoot yourself in the foot - get trained in the firearm safety before hunting. And don't poison yourself - check a local field guide first for plants. )
How is Doing this Going to Save the Bees?
But how is doing this going to save the bees?
Well, many people argue that genetically modified crops or pesticides are causing the collapse of the bee colonies.
In addition, large-scale agriculture uses bees in a crazy fashion:
- While being trucked around, bees are fed a diet of high-fructose corn syrup (and soy protein), not real pollen (see also this).
- According to reports from beekeepers who don't truck their bees around or feed them high-fructose junk food, their bees stay much healthier those used in commercial agriculture. And see this essay.
In addition, a new "study finds a healthier diet and a return to traditional farming can help reduce energy consumption in US food system by 50 percent". In other words, staying away from mega-agriculture will result in less use of oil, which will lessen energy costs (less demand equals lower costs), and will help take the wind out of the tyrants' sails.
You can buy canned foods in bulk at wholesale prices, and there are often good deals to be had at discount stores like Costco and Sam's Club. However, because these sources do not stress local food sources or sustainable agricultural practices, buying their won't necessary help the bees or your own health. In other words, the only thing that is certain is that you can buy for good prices.
A note on organic foods. If you desire to reduce your exposure to pesticides, antibiotics and hormones, but can't afford to buy everything organically, then buy conventional foods in general, but make the following foods organic: apples, bell peppers, celery, cherries, spinach, strawberries, imported grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, raspberries, meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products.
Because these foods tend to have the highest pesticide levels (or - in the case of meat, poultry, eggs and dairy - hormones and antibiotics).