Even in the thawing spring temperatures of Washington, D.C., First Lady Michelle Obama still finds time to tend to her new garden. Yesterday, the First Lady, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and 25 fifth-graders from the Bancroft Elementary School planted the first seedlings of broccoli, onions, kale, collard greens, herbs, blueberries and other fruits and vegetables in the White House garden all for no more than $200.
"We can produce enough food to feed us for years to come," said Mrs. Obama.
The students will return later this year to cook some of the food in the White House kitchen and at a local soup kitchen as a way to promote healthier living. Ready to take on Mrs. Obama's example? Here are ten ways to incorporate homegrown fruits and vegetables into your daily diet.
Head to the Farmers' Market
Farmers' markets will allow you to stop being a slave to the sometimes old and badly bruised fruits and veggies available at your local supermarket. Instead you will develop a one-on-one relationship with local farmers who can offer fresh, flavorful produce.
Plant a Garden in Your Backyard
Just like the First Lady, it's time to give back to Mother Nature. Even a small plot of land can reap great benefits. Charlie Nardozzi, senior horticulturist at The National Gardening Association, believes growing your own food can help anyone to save money, according to the Daily News. Companies are selling out their seed like never before, and according to the association, gardening in a 20-x-30-foot plot can help you save up to $600 a year.
City Dwellers Find Another Way
If you don't have the luxury of a backyard, try planting herbs in a potted plant, hanging baskets or window boxes in your kitchen. Think how great it would be to throw a sprig of mint, chives, rosemary, basil or thyme into your homemade sauce.
Find a Community Garden
Bring your neighbors and friends into the mix by getting together to start a community garden, especially if it will help address some of the needs that exist where you live. You'll be able to meet new people, promote environmental awareness and know that you're giving back to your community on a deeper level.
Get the Real Deal
Organic foods are held under strict conditions from processing to packaging, so look for an official stamp. Make sure it reads as organic and not "natural" or "hormone free." A government-approved certifier inspects all organic farms around the country to ensure they are without artificial preservatives, additives, or synthetic pesticides, but that doesn't mean you're in the clear. You should still always wash or peel all fruits and vegetables before eating them to decrease the presence of any pesticide residue.
Organic Grocers and Health Food Stores
Indulge in organic grocers like Whole Foods where there is a core mission is to sell the highest quality natural and organic products while supporting farmers and suppliers domestically and abroad. And don't forget about your community health food store where you can get great deals on natural food products. Natural foods are those usually in their raw form where there are no added refined sugars, flours, sweeteners, food coloring or flavors.
Become Part Owner in a Food Co-Op
Get natural foods on the cheap by joining a collectively owned grocery store. While anyone can shop at the store, food co-ops allow only their members to purchase food at discounted prices. Besides an annual fee, you may be expected to share in the mission of social responsibility by contributing a few hours of work unpacking boxes, stocking shelves or doing whatever the co-op needs to keep things going.
Eat Better, Feel Better
Organic farmers use less energy, less water resources, and absolutely no toxins or pesticides. Organic foods offer more vitamins and minerals and can contain as much as 300 percent more nutrients than non-organic foods. Even the First Lady says that as a mom, she understands the importance of a healthy balanced diet for her girls and the White House garden is one way she's maintaining that philosophy.
Go Organic First
If you're shopping at a traditional supermarket, be weary of certain fruits and vegetables that have the highest pesticide residue, according to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit environmental research organization in Washington, D.C. At the top of the list are peaches, then apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, lettuce, grapes, pears, spinach, and potatoes.
Consider the Cost
We know going organic can mean dipping into your reserve funds. Organic foods can be 50 to 100 percent more expensive so we suggest you buy items that are in season and consider shopping at online grocery stores that often have great sales.