Food costs have notably increased over the last few months. Due to global supply chain problems and general inflation, the price of food has risen more than it has in over forty years. Over the spring, numbers climbed over 10% compared to the same time last year. But don’t let that sway you from enjoying nutritious, balanced meals. While shopping at local farms won’t save Nashvillians any money, it’s a small increase compared to what a supermarket may charge you for similar quality foods already — and for considerably more nutrition. Additionally, growing a bit of your own food can be very inexpensive and rewarding. Whether you want to develop some healthy habits or just avoid the tense supermarkets, this guide is here to help.
Easy Container Garden Essentials
You can keep a steady supply of some kitchen staples with just a few gallon buckets, recycled pallets, a lot of dirt, and a bit of commitment. The work involved is a health practice on its own: the combination of exercise and mental stimulation can aid in stress management, sleep quality, heart health, and overall strength. Regular exposure to soil alone can be a great boon to the immune system. You can grow a container garden indoors with a grow light for year-round foods or grow seasonally outside. Either way, here are some foods that are great to have around and easy to produce.
Tuck one clove of garlic into a fertilized pot of soil, and you will soon have a head of garlic. Use some cloves from that for more planting, and you can multiply that garlic very easily and regularly. It doesn’t require much water, maybe only about an inch a week in well-drained soil. When the shoots are one-half to two-thirds brown, dig up your head of garlic and hang it to dry. Not only will it be tastier and stronger than the mass-produced garlic at the supermarket, but it is a natural insect repellent — a useful feature in the warm bug-ridden months.
If you’ve looked into gardening at all, you’ve likely heard about how easy it is to make an endless supply of potatoes in very little space. With an easy restructuring of some recycled pallets, one can build a planter box that will make more than enough potatoes. For even less labor at one time, you can slowly build the box upward as you add more soil. Start with about a foot of soil. Plant your potatoes about 3 inches deep and 12 inches apart from each other. More potatoes will grow, and you can simply add extra soil and wood slats to the sides of your box until you have a heaping harvest. Simply lift your pallet box and watch pounds of food tumble outward. Luckily, potatoes last for a long time. If you like, harvest some and leave others to produce more as you go.
Onions are an easy crop that can produce frequently, are relatively hardy, and last in storage for a long time. Green onions grow like weeds, so you can utilize the sprouts as garnishes alongside your cooking and sandwich staples underground. Simply plant an onion set (small planting onions that can be bought online or at a local farm) about 4 or 5 inches apart, in rows 12 to 18 inches apart. Sprinkle a little fertilizer or homemade compost on top every few weeks, and keep the soil nice and moist. You will have plenty of large bulb onions and a constant source of green onion shoots.
As long you can provide lots of light, having a steady supply of tomatoes is a breeze. They can be happy in gallon buckets, bags, planters, or window boxes. You can buy tomato seedlings, start from seed, or sprout tomatoes from slices you already have. Tomatoes are very happy in containers because they love rich, loose soil, lots of water, and good drainage. With only a couple of plants, you’re very likely to have more than you need of this versatile fruit high in vitamin C. Just make sure each plant has about one to two feet of space around it to grow.
A popular choice for the urban farmer, sprouts grow quickly, take no time at all, and need very little space. They are easily grown indoors because they don’t require any direct sunlight. Start with some seeds, and soak them in a jar at a ratio of about 1:3 (seeds to water) for about twelve hours. Keep them in a dark, room temperature place at this time. Once they are rehydrated, start draining them and rinsing them with cool water two or three times a day. This prevents bacteria buildup in your container that can lead to mold. It’s important to keep them in a single layer, to grow as many as possible, and allow decent airflow. Keep the seeds moist, but not wet, and in only a few days you’ll have a harvest of green sprouts. Add them to salad or sandwiches while you grow your next crop.
Beyond growing your own small garden, the temperate weather of Tennessee and the multitude of farms allow for plenty of fresh foods that will fill in any gaps, even year-round. Our longtime stronghold, the Nashville Farmer’s Market, is one option for year-round groceries. One can find farm fresh produce, as well as more artisanal goods like cheeses, honey, baked goods, and canned foods. It’s also a great stop in your pursuit to start your own garden, as it has a comprehensive garden center open every day from 8 am to 6 pm. The East Nashville Market is also a massive resource that is open throughout the year and has a huge amount of offerings similar in variety. It is a great choice for East Nashvillians who want locally farmed foods without much travel. Nashville also offers a number of smaller farmers’ markets open during the warmer seasons, including:
- 12 South Farmers Market (Tuesdays from 4 to 7 pm, May-October)
- Berry Farms Farmer’s Market (Tuesdays from 4 to 7 pm, May-October)
- Farmin’ in the Hall (Thursdays 4:30 to 7 pm, May-September)
- St. George Farmer’s Market (Thursdays 3:30 to 6 pm, May-August)
- Hip Donelson Farmer’s Market (Fridays 4 to 6:30 pm, May-October)
IS IT TOO EXPENSIVE?
When people consider shopping locally or for more healthy foods, the main concern is always about their wallets. While shopping at a local farm or market may cost another hour or two at work, the difference is not incredibly vast. Especially in regards to locally farmed foods, a lack of the need for expensive packaging and transport lessens the total price tag. Another important factor to consider is what exactly you are paying for — locally farmed foods are seasonal, harvested at peak ripeness, and transported much shorter distances. This means greater amounts of nutrition can be found in a local item versus the package costing a dollar or two fewer at the supermarket.
For so much more actual sustenance in your food, the cost becomes fairly reasonable. Take for example eggs: currently, in the grocery store, eggs from pasture raised hens run about $4 a dozen. From any local farms, they are more likely to cost somewhere between $5 and $6 a dozen. That’s only one or two dollars more for fresh, orange yolks. Settle no longer for pale yellow from the supermarket. Fresh and local grass fed beef generally will cost the same as old grass fed beef moved on a truck from hundreds and thousands of miles away. That leaves no contest, especially when local meat is available year round. A half pound of fresh spinach costs $6 at a local market, versus about $4 for a near-wilted variety at the grocery store. What’s the point of spending a couple less dollars, only for half of it to rot in your refrigerator drawer? With all of the farms in Tennessee, one would be crazy not to take advantage of the supreme quality that is readily available, for only $10 or $20 more on your weekly food bill.
Bread is a kitchen essential that has a gigantic difference in quality between fresh baked or mass produced. Have you ever made bread at home? The texture and taste of fresh bread are so sought after that customers flock to restaurants that serve it on our tables before we order our meals. Making bread at home is a bit time-consuming, but very simple, and hugely worth the effort. If you don’t have the hours, pick up some fresh local bread at any of the markets mentioned above and appreciate the difference for the equivalent of a fancy cup of coffee.
SUPPORT HOME AND HEALTH
We live in a beautiful state full of friendly people, gorgeous landscapes, and scores of farmland. It’s a blessing to live where we do, and practicing gratitude in our everyday lives by reaping the fruits of that blessing is a simple, joyous task. Not only does the act of shopping at local farms and markets support our taste buds and health, but also our local economy. While the country finds itself in crisis with inflation, food shortages, and the decomposing supply chain, we can find support and comfort in our local community and land. Sing along with the Music City!