It’s amazing how this simple change can eliminate clutter and simplify your life.
I do most of the grocery shopping and cooking in our family. That’s not because Linda can’t do either. It’s because she works weekdays which is the best time for grocery shopping and my work time is much more flexible than hers. Plus, I enjoy cooking and she catches a break during the week, freeing her up to do cooking when she can better enjoy it, too.
One of the problems with my shopping is that I’m something of a hoarder. When something is available at a good price, I load up on it. Since the best price breaks often come in large packages, I tend to buy rice in 20-pound bags and potatoes in far larger amounts than we need. Holiday hams and turkeys after the holidays at drastic markdowns frequently find their way into our freezer. All of this takes up space and forces us into a “we’ve got to eat this” mode. It’s a habit I’m trying to break since the time will come when we won’t have the space for food that we have today.
Eating fresh foods serves a dual purpose. First, it’s better for you. Food prepared from scratch is more nutritious and tastes better than processed foods. Second, it takes less space. A pantry full of canned goods or a freezer full of processed meals is more a liability than asset if you cook your own meals from scratch.
Eating fresh, though, has its drawbacks, especially if you live in a four-seasons state like Iowa. The local growing season is relatively short and we don’t like to buy out-of-season produce that has to be shipped hundreds (or thousands) of miles and doesn’t taste as good as the in-season bounty.
We get around this some by growing our own. Pictured is my square foot garden, which is off to a great start this spring. The garden consists of a dozen 4 x 4-foot squares with slightly raised beds of soil that is much improved from the area’s heavy clay. So far, we’ve planted a salad square (lettuces, arugula, spinach, beets, turnips, carrots and radishes), onions, eggplant, broccoli, edible pod peas, cantaloupes, cucumbers, butternut squash, tomatoes, bell peppers, strawberries and herbs (lavender, oregano, chives, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme and mint). We also have rhubarb and horseradish in a separate area. Still to be planted: green and wax beans, basil, lemongrass and okra.
That’s a lot of variety in a relatively small area. Our garden will allow us to vary our meals with fresh produce through the summer with some left over for the freezer for side dishes and soups next winter. What we don’t grow, we can pick up at various farmers’ markets in our area.
Though we don’t eat a lot of meat, we’re not vegetarians. I like bacon, barbecued ribs, chicken and an occasional burger and Linda loves seafood, but meat is not a big part of our food budget. That helps our family’s bottom line. In addition, this year we plan to buy more of our meat products from local producers.
If you want to know more about modern food production, marketing and how it relates to the obesity epidemic, check out the documentary, Food, Inc.; the book, Fast Food Nation; or the ABC-TV program, “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.”
Linda and I hope our modified eating habits will lead to better health and vitality and less clutter. We’re not there yet but we’re convinced we’re headed in the right direction.
Larry Lehmer is a professional personal historian and senior legacy planner at When Words Matter, Ltd., in Urbandale, Iowa, where he connects generations through their stories. To learn more, visit his web site, check out his Passing It On blog, send him an e-mail or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.