A few months ago, Josh posted an article about the cost of healthy eating. He points to a study from the American Dietetic Association that shows the cost per kilocalorie of “healthy” foods, such as fresh vegetables, fruit, and grains, was over ten times more expensive than “junk” foods, such as crackers and chips. The difference was still growing at the end of the study, which doesn’t look promising for the cost differential today. This really got me thinking about the difficulty of maintaining a healthy lifestyle for a family who is trying to live on a moderate or reduced budget due to the economic times. When you are worried about paying the rent or the mortgage, trying to get out of debt, or saving up that emergency fund, cheap frozen pizzas or the fast food dollar menu really allow you to save some bucks. But overtime, this lifestyle really starts affecting your health, which could lead to costly medical bills in the future or even the inability to go to work. It really comes back to bite you in the end. What is the solution to this dilemma?
Start your own garden. (Well, this is not really the full solution, just something I thought would help) The idea of starting a garden from scratch is probably intimidating to most people. It is to me. But I started thinking about all of the benefits of creating your own garden:
1. Cost - I started researching what it takes to start and maintain a garden, and the results really surprised me. I found a blog called GetRichSlowly that is featuring a series called the GRS Gardening Project. For this project, they are measuring the cost, time, and rewards of building a garden from scratch. Within the first six months, the estimated spending a total of $318.43 on seeds, fertilizer, and water thorugh the first six months. They are on their currently on the 11th month and have estimated $606.97 worth of food has been harvested from their garden. This means that they actually saved money by not having to buy food, and this happened during their first year of gardening.
2. Nutrition – We all know that the food typically grown in gardens is healthy. I won’t beat the dead horse that leafy greens and bell peppers are healthier than a Waffle House Double Texas Cheese Steak Plate. We all also know that the fresher food, the more the nutrients will be preserved. But one of the things you might not think about when you start your own garden is that you are in control. You control what soil, fertilizer, and pesticides are used. You control the quality of the seeds and the time when you harvest. These are all key factors in the nutrition benefits of freshly grown foods.
3. Fitness – The Garden Fitness Plan on GardenFitness.com said it best:
Research shows that gardening for 30-45 minutes most days of the week has significant health benefits, such as decreasing the risk of high blood pressure and diabetes, as well as contributing to healthier bones, muscles and joints. Elements of gardening such as digging, weeding, trimming shrubs and mowing the lawn can require the same energy requirements as other physical exercise activities such as walking, cycling, swimming and aerobics.
I thoroughly suggest checking out all of the information on GardenFitness.com. It is a great resource.
4. General Physical and Emotional Health – Along with the nutritional and fitness benefits there are other health benefits as well:
- The time spent in the garden and in the sun will give your body its daily source of Vitamin D.
- The time spent gardening can give you a nice silent moment to reflect on your day, think about a problem, or just clear your head.
- Seeing the garden through, from planning to completion, provides you with a sense of accomplishment.
- The fact that you are experiencing the natural process of life: new life, nurturing, growth, decay, re-birth, brings you closer to the Earth and that always is a peaceful feeling.
5. Family and Education – Gardening can also be turned into a great way to connect with your family. It allows you to spend time with your wife and kids away from the TV or the Internet. It provides a break from the normal hustle and bustle of family life. It is also a great educational tool for children; from concrete things like science and nutrition, to less concrete topics like patience, persistence, and the value of hard work.
I plan on starting my own garden next year. I have never been an outdoorsy type of person, but I am so excited about this idea. I plan on keeping everyone informed on the progress and provide tips where they apply. I’ll probably do my own version of the GRS project to add another data point to the cost and time metrics. If you are interested in starting a garden with me, please drop a comment or send me a tweet. Remember: Have fun and stay active!