Food security is the concept of measuring food availability and accessibility. Having food security means having access to sufficient nutrients. There are many people battling hunger and nutrient deficiency within the United States. Though, most people aren’t starving; our high calorie, processed foods are leaving us hungry. Most issues stem from lack of financial, educational, or physical resources. While hunger isn’t as big of a problem in America as many other countries, it’s important we consider ways to improve our agricultural system. I believe, through time management, purchasing whole foods, and supplementary gardening our diets can be transformed. We can save money AND access higher quality food. So, let’s dive into how to improve your food budget.
When it comes to eating quality food, most people’s excuses involve money or time. Either healthy food is too expensive, or they don’t have time to prepare meals. Ironically, not having time causes one to indulge in more expensive alternatives such as fast food and frozen/packaged meals. These two dilemmas create a snow-ball effect that can be hard to escape. While processed foods come in cheap and easy packages in the short term, they add up more in the long term. Just compare a fast-food meal to a home prepped meal. Fast food might cost ten dollars for a small drink, fries, and a burger. At a store, you might have to pay $10 just to get a pack of burger meat. Plus, burger buns, condiments, potatoes, a frying pan, and a pack of soda may cost an additional $20+ dollars. The time spent cooking a whole meal might be an hour. However, that investment in whole ingredients created six whole meals instead of one. You can apply that same concept to frozen and packaged meals. Imagine even, a box of pasta compared to a bag of flour, some eggs, and a pasta maker.
So, you get the picture. Buying whole foods, that are unprocessed and unpackaged, are better investments. Fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, and some meats tend to be quite affordable. Purchase in bulk or buy items on sale when possible. Another great hack is local farmers’ markets. Prices aren’t fixed in the same way they are at a grocery store, which tack on extra storage, employee, and delivery costs. You can often find healthy unprocessed foods at a fraction of the cost. I’ve been offered a whole bag of peppers for only three dollars at a farmers’ market! The trick is to purchase what’s in season. Check out what markets are open in your area; it can be quite a fun afternoon activity.
But what if your problem is really that you work a full-time job and have kids to watch, so you have no time? My advice remains the same, to cook large meals at home with whole foods. In this case, you should utilize pre-made meals. Spend a couple hours every weekend to cook and freeze the leftovers. Cook the whole batch of eggs, peppers and onions, pasta, rice, or whatever else you like to mix and match. Then, portion your meals out into Tupperware containers to use the for the rest of the week. Take them to work, on the go, or heat them up when you come home exhausted. A nice air fryer will even restore the original crispy texture of fried foods, in no time! If you think about it, this is no different than buying fast food, frozen meals, or packaged meals. You are doing the exact same thing, except prepping the food yourself.
If you have access to an open outdoor area or extra space near windows, try supplemental gardening. This is food you can grow that has no sales tax, delivery or production costs added. Contrary to popular belief, you can start a garden inexpensively. Build a wooden planter box in your yard if you happen to have the space. Another option would be to buy planter pots or make some yourself. In the past, I found some old plastic buckets laying around the house and painted the outsides white. I cut some holes into the bottom and voila! If you don’t feel like going all out, you could even get some small window pots and make fresh herbs or small fruit.
Sprouting the seedlings should be done indoors, in small cups. You don’t have to purchase seeds either. Instead, use seeds from fresh fruits or vegetables you already purchased. I once grew a whole pot of potatoes, simply by chopping up a spudded potato I got from a farmers’ market. Allow a couple weeks for the seeds to sit in the sun with plenty of water. Once the sprouts start forming, you are ready to plant. It might take a couple of months before you see results, which is why I saw you should rely on this as your main source of food right away. Taking small steps toward cultivating food security is enough. Do it at your pace, and before you know it, you’ll be eating more with less in no time.
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