If you open any refrigerator most people have some form of fresh produce readily available to prepare daily meals. Why? That’s easy because it’s part of a healthy diet.
Have you been thinking about growing your own vegetable garden? If so, now may be a good time to start, here’s why……
If purchasing fresh produce is part of your weekly grocery budget be prepared to see the costs increase over the next few months.
California is a major exporter of fresh produce including grapes, melons, peppers, tomatoes and avocados.
They are currently experiencing the worst drought they have seen in a very long time. Canada currently imports approximately $5 billion worth of produce from California every year.
The majority of the organic produce we see on the shelves of our grocery stores in Canada is imported and the bulk of it is shipped in from California.
How could this impact us in Canada?
While it is uncertain exactly how much of an impact it will have, paired with the declining value of the Canadian dollar the drought that has hit California hard this year. It is expected to increase the cost of purchasing fresh produce in the United States as well as here in Canada.
Some predictions say that we could see an increase in cost of 20 percent. Buying fresh produce from a grocery store already eats up a good portion of our grocery budgets so can you afford for it to eat up even more?
Planning your shopping trips and buying produce that is in season has always been a way to spend less on your fruits and vegetables though it does limit the options that are available to you when do your grocery shopping.
Importing and shipping costs can easily skyrocket the retail costs of produce compared to the cost of purchasing local food.
This past weekend I had some kid-free time to take a trip out to our local farmer’s market for fresh produce. I have always enjoyed strolling through the various vendors to see what kind of deals can be found while supporting local businesses and farmers.
My favourite vendors to visit are the food vendors, both the meat and fresh produce vendors. I can always walk away feeling like I have scored a deal and have saved money in our grocery budget that can be added to my savings or used to pay down debt that month.
It’s also nice to have the opportunity to chat directly to the farmers about their products just in case you have questions about a specific fruit or vegetable. This type of one on one conversation is something that you don’t get at a grocery store, rather you get an employee that works in that department. Although they may have produce knowledge getting any information about the food you eat from the source is valuable to many people.
Many people wish to purchase fresher produce that has spent less time in transit being shipped in, while it’s not only fresher like mentioned above it is typically cheaper.
Unfortunately, while there is a lot of locally grown produce available in most areas due to climate requirements locally grown produce is not available year-round. While the produce may not always be local food in many cases it is purchased from the grower in bulk so it can still be sold much cheaper.
On the Saturday of the Easter weekend I sent $20.00 with my sister when she was going to our local farmer’s market to bring me home some fruit. My $20.00 brought home 4 pints of strawberries, 2 packages of raspberries, a bag of clementines and a bag of green grapes.
While it was not all locally grown, if I had purchased it at the grocery store I would have paid at least $3.99 each for premium strawberries alone which would have used up almost $16.00of the $20.00 I had budgeted right away.
Grow your own
With the cost of produce expected increase there is no better time than now to starting growing your own garden at home. If you aren’t sure about where to begin you can read my “Garden guide” which will teach you about preparing your garden.
Food doesn’t get any more local than growing produce in your own backyard or on your balcony. You do still have time to start your garden from seeds indoors and to plan how you will plant your garden.
If you need to work on your green thumb before starting your plants from seed at home buying plants from a greenhouse is also an option. Retail sales for vegetable plants will start to pick up this week so don’t wait too long to pick yours up to be able to get the selection you would like.
Think outside the box
Whether you have a small yard or an apartment balcony there are options for you from hanging baskets to re-purposing an old hanging shoe organizer. Even if you have a small space to garden you can come up with some ideas that can provide a home to grow your vegetables.
Vertical gardens are becoming a popular choice for many hobby gardeners as they often require less work to maintain and require the use of less space on your property. If potatoes are a vegetable you want to grow but don’t have the space you can grow potatoes in a box like I did just last year.
Wood pallets can be used in various ways, vertically or horizontally, to grown your vegetables with no digging required. The pallets can be enclosed on the bottom and sides with landscape fabric stapled on all sides except the side you will be planting on.
These pallets should then be filled with a nutrient rich potting soil and then planted with your favourite vegetables. There are endless ideas for the use of pallets in your garden on Pinterest, take a look and see how you could incorporate one where you live.
With the growing concern of pesticide use on commercially grown produce, growing your own is the best way to be in control of what we are putting into our bodies.
Start out small
If starting a garden and growing your own vegetables seems intimidating as it does for many people pick one or two vegetables that you would normally purchase from the grocery store and learn how you can grow it yourself.
All the information regarding individual plant’s growing requirements and ideas on how to plant them can be found all over the internet. As you become more comfortable with gardening gradually increase the amount of home-grown, local food you and your family get to enjoy.
While a vegetable garden is a valuable tool in reducing the amount of money you spend in your grocery budget it is an investment of your time and money. When gardening you want to make sure you are taking the appropriate steps to care for and protect your investment.
Buying from your local area may be a great way to save but remember nothing is better than growing it in your backyard.
Do you try to eat local food and does the increase in the cost of produce worry you?
What are you doing to offsets these costs?
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