There are ways you can eat healthier and inexpensively this year. Michigan produce will be available soon. Asparagus, strawberries, peaches, tomatoes, sweet corn and apples at peak freshness bring smiles to our faces. The smells and taste keep us coming back for more. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have those great flavors all year long? Well, you can! Michigan State University Extension recommends several strategies you can use to plan for local food all year long that will help you eat healthier and save money.
1) Plant herbs in small amounts in windowsill gardens every three to four months and use in meal preparation. Dill, Basil, Parsley, Rosemary, and Thyme can be used fresh or dried.
2) Preserve food in a variety of ways starting with making small batches of jams or jellies. Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and cherries can be made into jam and then used as toppings on ice cream, desserts and on muffins and toast.
3) Freezing vegetables and fruits can be a quick preservation method if you have freezer space – I prefer this method for making strawberry or raspberry jam, tomatoes and peaches. This method is especially quick if you have a large quantity of ripe produce that needs to be preserved as soon as possible and does not require a lot of equipment. Freezing vegetables for soups, sweet corn, and broccoli after blanching can give you a variety of produce to eat next winter.
4) Canning tomatoes, salsa, spaghetti sauce and green beans are great ways to enjoy the bounty of summer when you follow approved home canning methods (see the National Center for Home Food Preservation for the latest guidelines).
5) Try your hand at drying vegetables and herbs. Vegetables that are dried can be stored in glass jars or plastic bags which could save valuable freezer storage.
6) Explore making pickles, pickled beets, and relish which are all great additions to any meal.
7) Grow your own vegetable garden in large yard or small spaces. Find great resources at MI Garden.
8) Find a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program in your area and sign up to receive a weekly share of produce that a farmer grows and you pick up once a week. Check Local Harvest.
9) Shop at the local Farmers Market or find a farm stand near you. Locate one at Local Harvest.
10) Pick Your Own orchards and farm operations are a great place to show the kids how food is grown and harvested. Visit Pure Michigan to find one near you.
Choose one strategy or a couple of these ways to get one step closer to eating local.