Wednesday, February 3, 2016

How to eat for less in a world of expensive veggies.

I had a great chat with my dad last week and then with my son Jordan about the price of veggies and eating well. And this morning on Facebook a friend of mine in one of our groups answered the question of "do you support and buy local" by saying that he bought what he could afford, mostly canned vegetables, processed foods and pasta. He's a senior on a fixed income and I think he represents a lot of people who have to eat and don't have a lot of money. 

When cauliflowers $7 per head people freaked out and all the national newspapers in Canada carried stories about rising food costs. It was the big news story of the week and everyone was interested because let's face it, we all eat. 

So what's causing these price shocks? The majority of our imported produce is paid for in US dollars and with the current exchange rate that means things cost more. It's winter, and there's little local produce available. And people have forgotten how to eat seasonally. We don't prepare ahead of time by storing out of season foods and we expect bananas, strawberries and lettuce to be available year round. How can we complain about the price of lettuce being $4 when it has to come all the way from South America? Of course it's going to cost more. 

I'm not saying we shouldn't eat lettuce in the winter but what we should do is focus our diets on what is local and available. For us in the Maritimes that means roots, cabbage, leeks, potatoes etc. Andy's squash right now is 33 cents a pound. Potatoes are 25 cents a pound and carrots and turnips remain pretty steady year round at under a dollar a pound. Once you've got the basics covered you can add in the lettuce and tomatoes etc. Even frozen vegetables like peas and green beans are fairly cheap and retain a lot of their nutrition. 

The $7 cauliflower didn't last. When people asked me what I thought about that situation I said it was simple, wait a week and see if it goes down again (it did). I also told them that now is the perfect time to join a CSA veggie box program like ours. You're essentially doing what the big guys do and pre-buying your vegetables at a fixed price. Your share is paid at the beginning of the season and regardless of what happens you'll get your veggies delivered fresh and on time for 26 weeks. 

I realize not everyone can afford to join a CSA so another great option is growing your own food and learning to store it. There's really nothing quite like a home grown perfectly ripe tomato sliced up in a sandwich or peas right off the vine. If you're finding that seeds are expensive then I recommend you enter our contest and take the seed package as a prize.  It's got some good hardy and productive varieties.

 Now is the time to think about having a garden. If you've never grown one before then start now and every year you'll learn more and more. Talk to friends and neighbours, gardeners are a friendly bunch and will love to take you under their wings. 

Happy Garden Planning. 

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