Eat Better. Spend Less.
Any top chef will tell you that good food starts with the best ingredients. With California’s continuing drought, prices of quality produce are likely to increase again this year. How can you guarantee a healthy, quality supply of fruits and vegetables without spiking your grocery bill?
Two economical ways to get the best of the season’s harvest are to either grow your own garden, or pay someone local to do it for you. While not everyone is thinking about eating fresh local radishes, strawberries, lettuce, peas, tomatoes and peppers right now, it is in fact the time to plan for a tasty and budget-friendly bounty this May – September, and even longer if you can, dry, freeze or otherwise store seasonal foods for future eating.
If you enjoy selecting your own varieties and have access to soil and water, putting in your own garden can be the right choice. March through May is the time to invest time and energy for the best yields. See these helpful monthly tips about what to do when in our 5-6 planting zone.
Whether you saved seeds from last year’s crop, need to purchase pre-packaged options, or typically buy starts from local markets or garden sales, you can definitely create a delicious and nutritious selection. For some extra fun and extra savings, “check out” the Seed Library at the Hillyard Library, where you can find some heirloom varieties in exchange for returning some for check out next season.
Whatever your approach, it’s important to figure it out now. Seeds need to be started, soil given some extra vitamins, starts planted (onions in particular), and thinking about how to protect fragile new plants from a late Spring flurry is a good idea too. Growing your own takes a little time and effort, but perhaps a neighbor would be interested in doing it with you, sharing the time and expense. The reward is beautiful, tasty produce right out your doorstep all season.
If you travel a lot, don’t have a yard or balcony, or like me, your thumb doesn’t always come up green, it’s nice to have another option. Spokane has reliable, talented farmers who provide CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares. These are weekly boxes of ripe and ready produce, and when you join as a member, you can purchase the right size share to fit your family size. These shares are purchased in advance, to help your surrogate pay for the tools and time required to grow your food. Since a CSA farmer provides food for numerous members, the costs are “shared” and tend to be less than purchasing the same foods in a retail setting. Most CSAs also allow you to customize a bit too, ruling out certain foods that you don’t enjoy. Based on the size of their growing operation, a CSA can only provide a certain number of memberships, so it’s good to commit early. See The Whole Plate’s Eat Local page for Spokane area options.
While some articles are advising consumers to consider more canned and frozen options in response to the likely leaner supply and higher prices of produce in grocery stores this year, fresh food tastes better and great local options exist that keep it affordable. Better for you, better for small farmers in our area and better for the environment.
Additional food stories can be found on this site at The Whole Plate.