Superfoods Make Super Kids: The benefits of growing your own organic produce

Ask any nutritionist what the best foods to feed your kids are and they will say superfoods. These are foods high in protein and nutrients that have some incredible health benefits, such as helping their growth and preventing digestive problems, among many other things.

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Olive picking home grown tomatoes

There’s no denying that a superfood-based diet is what’s best for your kids (and your health as well, obvz), but the problem is, high-quality superfoods don’t come cheap. When you’re a parent, you know that every penny counts, which can make feeding your kids high-quality foods a little tricky. After all, money doesn’t grow on trees, does it?

The good news is that even if money is somewhat tight (or even if it isn’t), there’s a simple way that you can make it easier to fill yours’ and your kids’ plates with lots of lovely superfoods, and that is by growing them yourself. Believe it or not, growing your own produce is much easier than you would think and is a great way to cut food costs and still eat healthy, superfood packed diet.

Where to start

Still not sure about growing your own produce? Are you worried that it may be a time consuming, high effort task that produces very little? You can grow many easy superfoods in your own back garden, on a patio or even a balcony from your little flat. As my nan used to say “where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

It’s an enjoyable hobby that the whole family can get involved with. Go shopping for some cheap pots and tubs. Places such as Poundland sell some fab tubs suitable for veg growing. Or keep your eyes peeled on sites such as Gumtree or Freecycle. Dad could have a go at building some easy raised beds, and the kids can have fun sowing seeds and watering their new plants.

tomato seedling

Thanks to smart technology, a lot of kids aren’t getting enough time outside. However, if you choose to create an allotment in your own back (or front!) garden, you can encourage them to spend more time outside. Kids love growing things, especially when they can eat the end result, which is why an allotment or smaller vegetable patch is guaranteed to get the little ones outside more. I hate seeing children on iPads (you can read more on that here) when there is a huge fascinating world to explore outside. Children struggle to understand where food comes from in the 21st century, when everything they eat can be found on the supermarket shelves.

morrisons fruit and veg

A lot of families struggle to find a hobby that they can enjoy together, which is why growing your own produce as a family could be a good idea. You and your little ones can team up to grow lots of delicious fruits and vegetables, building your bond and making memories that will last a lifetime. Honestly, growing produce with your kids can be a right laugh and a lot of fun. I let my 2 year old sow some Spring Onions by herself a few weeks ago. I didn’t know where she had planted them, until yesterday I spotted them sprouting under my rose bushes. Errrrrm. But she had fun, so what?!

Obviously, if you have never grown your own food before, you will need some allotment advice and to learn about the best times to plant different seeds, as well as what it takes for them to grow into healthy food-producing plants. It’s important to realise that learning can be fun, especially when you learn as a family. Start watching Gardener’s World on a Friday night (BBC1), together as a family. A lovely TV show, and I guarantee that you will all learn something new each week.

Save (a lot of) money

Above, we mentioned that growing your own produce can save you money, but a lot of people don’t realise how much money. The markup on organic fruit and vegetables (and meat too) is crazy. In fact, the markup on all food is mental.

Outside there was a veggie patch to explore.
wonderful veg patch at Gardener’s World Live 2016

As an example, a bag of organic carrots from a supermarket costs around £1 for a bag of ten carrots. That equates to 10p a carrot. You can buy a packet of 800 carrot seeds for around £2, which means that even if just half of these seeds turn into carrots, you will be making a huge saving. On average, with the cost of fertiliser included, organic fertiliser obviously, each carrot would cost less than a penny to grow, and that’s if only half of the seeds were successful. If they were all successful, each carrot would cost less than half a penny to grow. That means that the markup on supermarket carrots is around ten times the price it costs to grow them, maybe more.

Just think of how much money you would save by growing your own produce. The start-up cost of making space growable in doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg either. If you own a spade, simply dig out where you want to grow your food and off you go. Don’t waste money on weedkillers (eliminates the organic aspect too), and you’ll get a better job done by weeding with your own hands. And it’s very therapeutic too.

Your food will taste better

There’s a good reason why so many of the best chefs insist on only using organic ingredients in their cooking, that’s because they taste better. Not only are organic fruits and vegetables packed full of more vitamins and nutrients and better for you and your little ones because of it, they also taste better and have more flavour, or at least, according to the world’s top chefs they do. I agree with the chefs.

bbc gardeners world live

Of course, the reason that organic food tastes better is because of a range of factors. From well cared for soil that gets all the nourishment it needs from organic, natural fertilisers to not being grown under a grow light to help speed up growth. Organic food has the time to mature at its own rate, which helps to add flavour.

I also firmly believe that when you have sown a seed, cared for it, watched it grow and harvested the food yourself, you can taste your own hard work. And it tastes bloody amazing.

Your kids will be more willing to eat their greens

Then there’s the fact that if your little ones have helped to grow their greens, they will be more willing to eat them. A lot of kids are fussy when it comes to what they will and won’t eat, especially when it comes to healthy foods, but usually, if they’ve grown it themselves they are much happier to eat it. After all, what kid would miss out on tasting their handy work? They helped grow it, so they are going to want to eat it.

More and more parents are turning to growing their own food to encourage their kids to eat their greens and be healthier in general. As well as fruits and vegetables, a lot of parents are also starting to produce other foods themselves, such as free range eggs, to encourage their kids to eat a healthier diet. Often, if a child has helped grow the carrots, collected the eggs and taken care of the chickens, or seen the honey being collected, they are more open to trying it. We would never be without our hens now, and the kids love collecting their eggs daily!

Protect yourselves from pesticides

There is no doubt about it; pesticides are bad for our health. Study after study has linked them to all sorts of problems, from behavioural problems in kids to conditions like allergies and cancers. A lot of people don’t realise it but the majority of pesticides were registered for use before research into their link to cancer was performed, and many of which were shown to be carcinogenic.

The only way you can control what does and doesn’t go into your food is if you grow it yourself, which is why so many people are opting to grow their own fruits and vegetables. Growing organic food isn’t just about the pesticides but also about the soil and fertilisers used. There’s a lot more to it than meets the eye, that being said once you have got to grips with what’s involved, it’s fairly easy to grow organic food.

By growing most of your food yourself and buying the rest from local suppliers, you can ensure that you have fewer chemicals on your plate at mealtimes.

Have a go at making your own compost too. 4 pallets knocked together makes a fab compost bin, any food scraps/peelings, paper and cardboard, egg shells, chicken manure, garden waste such as grass cuttings can all be added and after a few months you shall be rewarded with  beautiful home made compost. Just leave out meat scraps, animal poop from carnivores, fire ash, dairy and fats.

You can sell any extra

If you are wondering what you can do with any surplus produce that you have left over, you can sell it. A lot of people who grow their own produce put a table outside their homes with an honesty box where they can sell any extra bits and bobs. This is a great way to make sure that nothing goes to waste and to earn a little extra money at the same time. Our chickens often produce more eggs than we can eat or bake with, so my hubby takes them into work for his colleagues.

Why not swap food? I created a Facebook page where our local townsfolk can swap an item for something else. One regular user swaps spare chicken and duck eggs for frozen veg as a treat for his chickens. If I get any gluts from our allotment, I shall swap it for items that I use lost of such as flour or sugar.

As well as selling your produce in its raw form, you could also opt to turn it into preserves like chutneys and jams. Organic, local chutneys and jams tend to sell well, so this could be a nice way to make a little extra money from your vegetable patch. Or, how about making wine with some of your leftover fruit? Homemade wine can be made with a range of fruits and tastes delicious, plus it can make a great hobby and will certainly save you a few bob too.

My homemade rhubarb jam, on warm toast.
My homemade rhubarb jam, on warm toast.

The fact is that as the experts say, superfoods make super kids. There’s no getting away from the fact that kids who eat plenty of superfoods are much healthier and much less prone to illness, which is why it’s so important to make eating organic superfoods more affordable by growing them yourself. Teach your kids a wonderful lesson in life and teach them to be healthy, and happiness shall follow. Step away from the chicken nuggets!

HOW I FEED MY FAMILY OF 5, FOR UNDER £10 PER WEEK

OK, this post is long overdue. Very, very overdue. I have promised so many people that I would write it, and I never actually have. I am approached by so many people to tell them of my secret. School gate mums, Facebook faces I have never met, and even strangers in the street. I bought £97 worth of food shopping for £7, in one shop. This isn’t a rarity. I do it all of the time. I feed my family on pennies. Daily.

How I feed my family of 5 for under £10 per week.

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Sometimes it’s a tenner, sometimes it’s less. Rarely is it more. Here are my ultimate tips for achieving similar. I promise you that the food shall be tasty and it will be easier than you think. There is a little extra work needed when preparing to freeze your haul, but it guarantees eating well for less. Admittedly we don’t buy meat, so that shaves our shopping basket price down- Going veggie isn’t just good for animals and your health, but apparently it’s good for our wallet too!

  • Find out what time your local supermarket reduces it’s ‘best before’ stock. This is our biggest ‘must-do’. We shop on a Tuesday, 6pm for Sainsburys, followed by 7pm for ASDA. Tuesdays has the best bargains, Wednesdays are rubbish. These are just my local stores. It’s worth popping in each evening until you discover the best times and days the bargains are to be had.
  • Learn a mental map of your store. You MUST know where the bargain fridges are, the discount freezer and those little cheap-o shelves lurk. Not food, but last week I picked up a nail varnish for 70p thanks to those shelves. When you go into store on a reduction mission, make a bee line straight for those fridges. DO NOT STOP FOR ANYTHING. “Hi Aunt Mary, Busy Busy, Must dash. Bye Aunt Mary.” DO NOT STOP FOR MARY. The difference between a convo and eating for 10p is massive.
  • If you head to the reduction fridge and it’s empty, there is a good chance the items haven’t been bought out yet. Make your way over to the bread section while you wait. Keep moving, keep your eyes peeled and repeat those bee lines. Maybe I should call them Ant Trails instead. Up, down, up, down.
  • Damn, there’s only cheese and mushrooms. Sometimes you see boxes upon boxes of one product. Don’t be afraid to grab it all. I mean, leave some for others if you’re feeling kind, but don’t be afraid to stock up. I have a saying (that’s a lie, my friend said it) ‘If you find it on a pizza, you can freeze it.’ Cheese: grate it and freeze it. Yoghurts, freeze it. 50 tubs of mushrooms… take them home, peel, slice and freeze. Voila, you are now stocked up for home made pizzas for a few months. Pineapples, Yeah you can freeze those too. In chunks obvs.
  • Freeze left overs or take them to work for lunch. Freeze portions once cool in freezer bags or takeaway tubs as soon as possible. If you have left overs daily, you will soon have built up enough freezer stash for a quick and easy dinner when you just can’t be bothered to cook. Buying lunch every day when at work can soon add up. For example a shop bought meal deal at £3 per day, will add up to £15 per week! Meal deal sandwiches are never as filling as that tasty left over Spaghetti Bolognese either.
  • Keep your eyes peeled for a big chest freezer. We’d all like a big chest, wouldn’t we? I picked up ours up for £20 on a Facebook selling page 3 years ago. It has been my best friend since. We swapped our big fridge for something smaller, because we weren’t using it that much any longer. The freezer became our go-to for dinner, not the fridge.
  • Buy loaves of bread like it’s going out of fashion. Seriously, 20 loaves of bread at 7p each might seem excessive, but it bulks the freezer out and keeps it running efficiently. You can toast it from frozen but defrosts in minutes if need be. Don’t just think toast either- bread and butter puddings, etc etc etc.
  • For those items that you rarely see on offer (I’m talking bags of pasta, sauces, tins) plan back up meals, so you know exactly what you need and stick to it. If you buy items as you see them, the chances are you will go completely off course and crash into a pile of unwanted items in your pantry.
  • Make your own sauces when you can. If I see tubs of tomatoes on offer I grab them, bring them home, puree them up and freeze into pasta sauce sized portions ready to just chuck into my pasta dishes. Tomatoes can be frozen whole but they tend to go mushy when defrosted or cooked from frozen, so prepare them before freezing.
  • Have you ever noticed that the most expensive items are at eye level on the shelves? Shops do this for one reason alone, to make more money. Look up or down (or all around- *bursts into song*) for the cheaper options. Quite often value alternatives taste just as good as the more expensive.
  • Consider growing your own fruit and veg. Some vegetables are super easy to grow and require minimal effort. Lettuce, cress and potatoes are fantastic for beginners and don’t take up much room at all. Lettuce can even be grown easily indoors on windowsills and you simply snip off what you need as and when with a pair of scissors. Potatoes, carrots and beans can be grown in small gardens on patios in tubs. Growing your own food is so satisfying, you know exactly where it came from and it teaches kids some great lessons at home about produce! In just 12 weeks of living in our new home our garden has given us Swiss chard, potatoes and even one lonely strawberry.
  • All fruit and vegetables can be preserved one way or another. If your supermarket has tubs upon tubs of strawberries on offer, have a go at making your own jam. The day Wimbledon finished my local store had around 100 boxes of strawberries at 10p each. I bought 15 tubs. I made 9 jars of jam, one big jar of dehydrated strawb-slices for snacking and then sliced and froze the rest. I now have frozen strawberries to throw into smoothies, porridge, cakes and crumbles. Many items of veg don’t need any preparation before freezing, but if you have any questions Google normally has the answers.

 

  • If you have a baby at weaning age don’t waste your money on jars of baby food. Did you know that the battery farm chickens that are no longer good for egg production become turned into baby food? Why not rescue some ex battery hens, then you’ll have tasty eggs from your back garden and save a life. Make a little extra portion of whatever you are having for dinner, blend and serve to baby. Or look into baby led weaning, where you simply soft cook food and let them feed themselves. Making a few portions of baby ‘mush’ and freezing means that you know exactly what ingredients have been used and you’ll save a lot of money in the process. Simply defrost and heat up. Happy baby tummies all around!
  • If you see microwave meals or fresh pizzas reduced buy them and freeze them as they are. No need to defrost pizzas before cooking, after all… what do you think a frozen pizza is? Tubs of margarine, bottles of milk and even wine can all be frozen too. The frozen wine will only be suitable for using in cooking though… anyways, who’s ever heard of left over wine?!
  • Learn to cook. If you are not a confident cook I suggest trying to cook 2 or 3 new recipes a week. OK, you may make some mistakes, but learning is a journey. You could always take up cooking classes, but that costs money and time away from home. YouTube has some amazing simple cooking videos that shall teach you from the comfort of your own kitchen… and if anything does go wrong, you will save the embarrassment of it happening in front of a room full of people.
  • Make smaller meal portions. Many of us have expanding waist lines and thinner wallets are to show for this. A smaller portion reduces excessive calorie intake and means you won’t be cooking or wasting so much food. Buying slightly smaller plates helps too. We swapped from modern steak plates, to 1970’s dinner plates and boy! have portions grown?! The plate sizes are very noticeable. Weirdly even on smaller sized plates, our portions are smaller but because the plates are still covered our brains tell us we have eaten plenty and we are satisfied.

By making small steps at first, you will soon start to notice the savings. By preparing and freezing you shall reduce how often you have to shop, save time in the long run, avoid days when you are tempted with takeaways and you might find that you even get healthier in the process. There are so many benefits to learning how to be more frugal in the kitchen. I am very proud to say that our food wastage is absolutely minimum in our house. Even the veggie peelings are used… as compost. When we started saving money with our food shopping we suddenly became more aware of where our spending was going. I have branched out from just being frugal with our food. We no longer buy any disposables, including toilet paper. I’m not suggesting you jump straight into that, but our journey of watching what we feed our family has taken us on a huge life journey.

If you have ANY questions about preparing, freezing or preserving food leave me a question in the comments box below and I’ll reply as soon as I can. If you have any of your own tips, post below and share the knowledge!

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Also, please take a moment to vote for The Newhouse Family in the UK Blog Awards. All it takes is an email address. Choose ‘Green and Eco’ in the drop-down list.

http://blogawardsuk.co.uk/ukba2017/entries/newhouse-family

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