By benefits of DIY food, we mean benefits to anything you make yourself to either eat or keep – cooking, preserving, drying, fermenting or curdling (e.g. cheese!). Each of us has our own motivations for doing these things – I can think of no less than 10 brilliantly motivating reasons why making your own DIY food is better than buying readymade food items from the shop.
For many, the main impetus for cooking and preserving various foods is cost – it is often SO much cheaper than buying ready made food products or meals. Take yoghurt – it can get pretty expensive keeping a household of kids in yoghurt, but when you make your own, the cost reduces dramatically. When you preserve or dehydrate seasonal produce you are getting it at its best and cheapest – and can then enjoy that product year round without paying the hike in price when it is out of season.
For a start, you know exactly what is in anything you have cooked – and also what is definitely NOT in it. Icy Poles made in re-usable holders from only ingredients you have selected are a good example, as are home-made Squeeze pouches for kids (not to mention the reduction in packaging waste when you use re-usable options!) And of course, seasonal foods are at their best and most vital – cooking foods that have been vine ripened, recently picked, and not stored for any length of time means they retain as many of their vitamins and nutrients as possible.
3. Supporting Your Local Growers as Well as Your Own Garden Patch
If you have a huge excess of fruit or celery in the garden – don’t waste it! Dehydrated celery is great to have in the cupboard for winter stews and soups. Plus you’ve paid to water it….value what you have grown by storing it for year round use.
Even without a garden, if you are buying fruits and vegetables in bulk that are seasonal to your area, you are supporting local growers. To really support them, buy a farmers box of locally grown produce somewhere like Local Farm Box. And it goes without saying, choose organic or chemical free produce – even if the produce comes from interstate, you will be supporting small scale farming that focuses on healthy ecology for natural plant health.
4. Avoiding Food Waste
Did you know that Brits throw out around 30% of the food they purchase? As we discussed above, if you have grown a bumper crop of something that you just can’t use up – don’t waste it, store it for year round use. Even if it’s something you’ve purchased and just can’t use all of, there is always a way you can keep it for future use – whether by cooking, freezing, blanching, drying, preserving, pickling…the list goes on.
5. Avoid the Embodied Energy Inherent in Packaged Foods
Yes, you will use some energy in cooking and storing foods yourself – but nothing like the amount of energy that would be used to create mass produced foods. Here are some of the things that contribute to the embodied energy of food:
- energy used for broad scale farming
- transport from farm to place of manufacture
- transport of workers to manufacturing facility
- running machinery for production of food products
- transport of finished product to distribution centre (and possibly refrigeration)
- transport from distribution centre to supermarket
- transport from shop to your home
- refrigeration at home
By using locally grown produce and making your own rather than buying mass produced foods, you cut out a huge proportion of embodied energy.
6. Opportunity for Community Building Through Skill and Equipment Sharing
The first time I ever did preserving, several friends and I put together to group-buy a preserving kit – and we share it still! Whenever I do a two day preserving stint, I invite friends to come and learn how to do it. A friend whose family has a tomato farm lets us all buy bulk preserving tomatoes through her family farm. Making our own foods lets a whole community work together like people used to, sharing their skills, energy, equipment and ideas, and everyone comes away with something of value.
7. Ready Made Gifts
I don’t know anyone who would not appreciate the gift of some home-made food. With a cupboard full of preserved fruits, home made jams and chutneys, you always have a beautiful and useful gift ready to take along to a party or just to visit a friend. Because you have made it yourself it is so much more special.
8. Resilience for Your Family and your Community.
What is resilience? It’s all about being able to get by despite whatever obstacles or challenges you face.
Car has run out of petrol? No matter – you have preserved tomatoes, frozen broad beans and spinach, and home grown eggs… plenty to whip together a meal.
Blackout on the grid? No matter, you generate solar power, and your home has been fixed up to stay warm even in winter. If it gets cold, you have plenty of friends you can go and visit who have various ways of warming their homes. This is resilience.
Supporting local business (farmers and producers), generating your own energy and resources, saving energy, sharing and swapping produce, equipment, skills and energy among local friends makes your entire community more resilient.
Taste alone could be your motivation for making and storing your own foods. Seasonal produce is at its best and most tasty, and you can taste it in preserved produce – there is absolutely nothing like eating bottled stone fruits or jams.
10. Educating Kids Into the Future
Not everyone may agree, but I am convinced that lifestyles into the future will become more de-centralised, and that those of us who are the most hooked up to small scale, local farming and production will be what I happily call the ‘wealthiest’ of people. By ‘wealthy’, I mean able to live a life full of good food, comfort, friends and leisure, without having to reply on far away places or people to provide things for us. Being ‘wealthy’ to me means walking to work, working a 6 hr day, picking veggies from the garden for dinner, being safe and comfortable at home, and spending plenty of time with family and friends. Not traveling 2 hrs to get to work, working an 8 hour day, all to buy food, energy and disposable ‘comforts’ because you have no way of producing it yourself.
What do you think – are there other benefits you can think of to making and storing your own foods?
Written by Lucinda Flynn of Going Green Solutions. Lucinda is passionate about sustainability in every aspect of her life. As well as founding Going Green Solutions and building it to what it is today, she is a fully trained Energy Assessor.