Sustainable Food Ideas To Fit Any Lifestyle
Knowing where our food comes from is an important part of living a sustainable and more conscious lifestyle. And you’ve probably heard that the best way to go is to grow your own food.
After all, the only way to know for sure what went into those plants you are eating is to oversee the whole process yourself. Or raise your own chickens to make sure the eggs are free-range. (Or is it the chickens that are supposed to be free-range?)
Ideally, all our food should come fresh from our backyard or a farm down the road. It would be organically grown, affordable, and taste amazing.
Unfortunately, we don’t exactly live in an ideal world. For most of us, it’s unlikely that the majority of our food will come from right outside our doorstep.
And as important as I think this food issue is, I don’t want it to become one more thing that stresses me out. And it doesn’t need to be stressful or complicated for you, either.
Here’s a simple way to look at where your food should come from, especially if you don’t plan to grow all your food yourself.
The Best Way To Grow Your Own Food
Despite what I just said about how most people can’t grow all their own food, the best produce really does come from right outside your door. Nothing is as fresh as the fruit, herbs, or vegetables you just picked a few minutes ago.
For me, my own garden is the first choice when it comes to what I eat. Not only is it the freshest, but it also travels the least distance to get to my plate.
But how do you decide what to grow and how much of it? Part of that will depend on how much you like gardening (and how good you are at it) as well as how much time and effort you want to put into it.
The best way to go about it is to grow the stuff you like to eat the most. Nobody is going to feel motivated to go weed the carrot bed if they hate carrots. It will be much more rewarding if you harvest a crop of fruits and veggies that you would buy at the store anyways.
If gardening isn’t your strength, go for plants that don’t need much attention. Grow some greens outside your door or stick in a few tomato plants. Herbs are pretty hardy and a good place to start.
And if your gardening efforts don’t go as planned, starting a compost pile is a wonderful way to not feel guilty about the dead plants you end up with! They will just become the nutrients for next season.
Support Your Local Farmer!
Let’s face it. Backyard gardens aren’t for everyone. Maybe you’re allergic to bugs, weeds, and dirt. Or maybe you have a busy schedule that doesn’t give you much free time. Either way, growing your own produce doesn’t always make the most sense.
So let me start off by saying that there’s no need to feel guilty about not bringing in baskets full of colorful vegetables during the growing season. You don’t have to grow anything yourself to live an all-natural lifestyle.
In fact, buying from local farmers and growers is just about as good as growing food yourself. Not only will the food be really fresh, but you will also be supporting other people in your community.
Small farms need the support of the community around them to keep going!
Buying locally also means that it’s easier to find out how your food is grown. You can actually go and talk to the farmer about what methods he or she uses instead of reading the back of a package and hoping it’s telling you the truth.
It is important to do a little research and ask a few questions to make sure that the farmer you are buying from is using growing practices you are comfortable with. Farmers’ markets and produce stands are great places to find in-season produce, milk, eggs, etc.
It’s also worth checking to see whether any of the farms near you have Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares available. CSA shares are paid for before the season starts (or on a payment plan). You then get a bag or box of produce and other farm fresh items every week for a certain number of weeks.
However you choose to find local food, it’s one of the best ways to participate in a sustainable food system. Not to mention that the farmers get to deal with all the bugs, droughts, floods, frosts, and anything else Mother Nature decides to throw into the mix.
You just get to enjoy the end result and support them in their efforts.
Choose Your Stores Wisely
There are always those things that just aren’t practical (or possible) to grow in your garden or to buy locally. Trying to grow bananas in my backyard in the northeastern U.S. just isn’t going to work. None of my local farmers grow them, either.
Those of us trying to live a sustainable lifestyle often fight against the ‘convenience factor’ and don’t believe that buying products made thousands of miles away is a good thing. The modern grocery store is often all about convenience, and the products on the shelves come from who knows where.
That being said, we can be sustainable and practical at the same time. Grocery stores and business owners are starting to get the message that people care more about where their food comes from and how it’s grown.
We have a lot more options today to buy ‘food with a conscience,’ even from the large chain stores. Some of the larger grocery stores where I live even offer some foods and products from local growers and makers.
I do think it’s important to choose wisely when it comes to deciding where you buy from and what you buy. Where people choose to spend their money goes a long way toward determining what is offered to us.
See if your local stores have any produce or other food products that come from local growers. Pay attention to which country your choices were grown in and buy from your own country when possible. Learn what ingredients are really in the foods you buy.
Little things like these can make your shopping experience line up with your values of sustainability and quality. The most important thing to remember? Don’t stress.
Supporting local growers and growers from the country we live in is important, but there’s nothing wrong with thinking global and supporting farmers from all over the world. Make the best decisions you can and just enjoy what you end up with!
You’ve Got This
If you are ready to grow more of your own food, I think that’s a good thing! But remember, there’s more than one way to support a sustainable food system. You get to decide for yourself what lines up best with your values.
Here’s a summary of my take on it:
- Yes, it’s important to be aware of where what you eat comes from
- No, it’s not something that should be stressful
- Start a small garden for the best, freshest food you grow yourself
- Support local growers and farmers for the food you can’t grow
- Shop wisely at the grocery stores and pay attention to labels
Changing the way you look at where your food comes from is a process. Just make changes one small step at a time, and soon you won’t even have to think about it!
(If you mostly buy your food, here are some tips for how to fit more organic produce into your budget.)