Fuel Your Best Self: 5 Ways I am Improving the Food Quality I Ingest
Something I have felt really motivated to do this past year is to improve the quality of the food I am eating. That does not mean I just buy organically labeled food and call it a day. Instead, I am seeking out food that has been produced well at every step in the process. I am seeking out meat that has been humanely and ethically raised on farms as local to me as possible. I am seeking out produce that has been locally produced by smaller scale farmers who put the highest level of care into their crop. I am avoiding additives and foods stuffed with things I can’t pronounce. I am growing as much of my food myself as I possibly can.
Why am I doing this? First and foremost, I want to fuel my body with better food. We are only given one body for this whole long life and I want to treat mine right and fuel it as well as I can. Secondly, I want to support sustainable, humane and ethical food production. If 2020 taught us anything, it was that our large scale food production process is broken and in need of a revamp. There is nothing I can do to fix that all by myself but I can make personal food choices that will support the better food production and do my part. For the items I cannot grow myself, I want to support local farmers who raise animals humanely and planters who are as close to my own community as possible. There has never been a time where I have bought small or locally raised food and found the quality to pale in comparison to big box stores. Never. Thus, I will put my dollars into that market and support the better product.
This concept is not revolutionary by any means. It is a way of bringing us back to our roots in a natural and sustainable way. It was historically common and normal to eat this way but it has become such a novelty that city folk now flock to “farm to table” restaurants for a taste of homegrown food amidst their modern lives. In my life, I plan to harness that goodness and put it to work in my daily meals.
If you are interested in improving your food supply too, check out my 5 ways to fuel your best self with better food.
1. Grow My Own
What is the best way to ensure the quality of the food you are eating? Grow it yourself! Is this the easiest way? Absolutely not and that is why most people ignore it. However, you just cannot beat homegrown food in our modern world. Why do you see “farm to table” restaurants popping up everywhere? Because people crave this type of homegrown produce and enjoy eating food that they know was raised right by local, smaller scale farmers. Instead of paying $12 for a salad at my local farm to table eatery, I am going to grow my own greens and veggies in my backyard and enjoy that salad in my own kitchen even more knowing I grew it myself. Growing your own veggies can be pretty simple. Anyone can do this, even if you are living in an apartment. You simply need some pots in the house and you can have herbs and microgreens or even a potted tomato plant on your balcony in the summer. For those with just a bit of land, you would be amazed how much a simple 5×5′ garden plot will produce in one growing season. At our small house in the city, we had a 5×5′ garden plot and produced more food than we could even think about eating. Personally, I plan to have at least a 20×20′ garden plot this coming summer along with a greenhouse for some winter harvest. More on our gardening adventures coming later this spring.
Meat is a little more challenging. Growing your own meat is something only people with a decent chunk of land can conceivably do. Further, raising animals for food is something few people can emotionally do. There are lots of options for consuming better meat that will be discussed below. However, on our homestead, we have decided we can easily raise meat chickens once a year to stock our freezer. More on our chicken process here. We have the space for them as well as the emotional stamina to raise our own meat here on the homestead. As for other meat, that will remain outsourced (see below where I source from).
Growing your own food is so fulfilling. Knowing that you created this product from start to finish and it is now going to nourish your body is such a powerful skill and something to be so proud of. It is also so good to know exactly what is in your food and what you are putting in your body. This is not new and novel; it is a return to our roots and the way humans have lived for thousands of years before grocery stores and fast food. This is something you can scale to your life and do anywhere, whether you have a homestead or not.
2. Invest in Local
For the things you can’t grow yourself, I find it best to shop locally from small scale farmers. I try to avoid the big box stores for my produce and meat where possible. If you have ever tasted the difference between grocery store meat and locally produced meat, you know why I bring this up… there is truly no comparison on taste and quality. Beyond taste, there are many reasons why I have decided on shopping local as a way to improve my food quality. One, small scale farmers tend to take a much more hands on and caring approach to their livestock. Because of that, the animals quality of life is vastly better than on the large scale farms. The quality of life of the animals I am eating is important to me. Their life has a purpose to create sustenance but that does not mean that their life should lack in kindness, quality or care. For fruits and veggies, I have similar thoughts- produce I buy locally always tastes better because it hasn’t been prepped for long distance shipping, it is fresh and just so so good. Another reason I love shopping my local farmers is because I prefer for my dollars to be at work as close to my own community as possible. I find that this creates a stronger, better community when you invest locally.
3. Shop Online to Increase Your Reach
Not every community has a ton of options for locally grown and raised meat and produce. Thankfully, our modern world has expanded community to include many parts of our country through the connection of the internet and shipping. If you can’t find locally, humanely grown beef there is an answer- you can order it online! When you want freshly grown produce, you can get a box delivered to your front door. If you need quality ingredients but live in a community with just one tiny grocery shop that doesn’t carry a wide range of food, you can order in pantry staples from various retailers. The beauty of our modern world is that if you can’t find it locally, you can probably find it online and have it delivered. For example, I am able to get great local beef and I grow my own chicken but I was having to buy all pork in the grocery… until I found ButcherBox. Now, I get a monthly box of fantastic meats that are raised sustainably and humanely delivered right to my door!
4. If you can’t pronounce it, should you be eating it?
This is basically an underlying rule of thumb for what I eat. If I can’t pronounce it, do I actually want to eat it? Simple but also powerful. This is how I cut out many preservatives and chemicals found in mass produced food. A quick read of your ingredient labels can be very revealing and a little frightening. While I cannot apply this rule universally (lord knows I cannot pronounce anything French and yet, that is some of the best food in the world), it does create a simple guide I can use to remind myself to cut out all the crap. When in doubt, I lean into whole, natural foods and cook from scratch. Maybe consider reading more ingredient labels and asking this question as you shop and making some swaps for more whole foods.
5. Cook at Home
Cooking at home is honestly the single best way I ensure that I am eating healthy, good food. I enjoy eating dinner out and I have no problem with grabbing lunch when I am out and about but I do try to cook at least 80% of my food at home. That way I have control over exactly what goes into my meals and in turn, my body. I am far from a culinary genius but I have very respectable skills in the kitchen and can keep my family fed with good food without spending hours in the kitchen most days. Cooking from scratch with whole foods does not have to be difficult… it can be as simple as switching out canned beans for whole or opting for a quick homemade pasta sauce instead of from a jar. Instead of going out to brunch on the weekends, my husband and I love to cook up a big from scratch breakfast at home in our PJs. I truly enjoy putting together our meals and making sure we are consuming good, whole food.