Could you go an entire year without buying groceries? Would you know the first thing about when to plant your tomatoes? What about raising your own livestock? Or foraging in your backyard? For most of us, living off the land would feel like a near impossibility, but for one Canadian couple, their inexperience became a source of inspiration. Their goal: go an entire year without buying anything from the grocery store.
Many of us felt the impact of COVID-19 on our local supermarkets, shelves more empty than we thought, our favorite items unavailable. These shifts made some ask the question: “What if we had to live off only what we could grow or raise?”
Stef Lowey and Chris Hall, too, began to see empty shelves at the market where their basic necessities used to be stocked. And soon after, they decided to embark on a journey to explore what a self-sufficient lifestyle would look like. This adventure would lead them to better health, a smaller carbon footprint, and a greater appreciation and understanding for their food.
Let’s see what it takes to go an entire year without buying groceries, and what you learn along the way on such a change in lifestyle!
You may be thinking “Oh brother! Why would someone create so much more work for themselves?”
It’s true, it takes a lot of knowledge, dedication, and physical labor to grow and raise your own food. The agricultural workers that feed our country really don’t get enough recognition for all that they do! It is well worth the effort though, there are many remarkable benefits to only consuming what you can grow, raise, or forage.
Firstly, it’s great for your health.
Growing your own veggies and raising your own source of meat ensures that there are no excess hormones, harmful pesticides, or plastic packaging involved. Ditching processed foods reduces inflammation and is, overall, one of the best things you can do for your body. 1
Plus, when everything is fresher because it doesn’t have to travel to get to you, your food will be more packed with nutrients and taste better too! In fact, vitamins and antioxidants in some types of produce may be more than 100% higher in local crops versus imported ones! 2
Second, it’s so much better for the environment.
When you think about all of the resources that get used up transporting food to your local grocery store…fuel, carbon emissions from big farms and delivery trucks, packing materials, etc…it’s almost mind-boggling to think how much can be conserved when you eliminate it from your lifestyle. One recent study found that fruit and vegetable transportation produces twice the amount of greenhouse gasses released during their production! 3 So, growing and buying local can go a long way in reducing your favorite veggie’s carbon footprint.
Lastly, less waste!
Now, I’m not just talking about less food packaging, but less waste in general. One of the great things about growing and raising your own food, is that you have a much grander appreciation for your food, especially when it comes to meat. For example, there’s an undeniable satisfaction and sense of gratitude that comes from making the most out of a chicken that you raised. From collecting eggs, to eating the chicken, to using the bones to make stock… the entire process becomes more meaningful.
In the video we’re about to watch, Stef and Chris even used leftover scraps from their chickens as bait for their crab traps! Let’s see how they managed to only create 2 tiny bags of garbage in 3 months, and discover more insights they learned during their 365-day homestead adventure!
Chris and Stef’s journey all started as a way to lessen how much they rely on stores and corporations, but the experience clearly transformed them, inside and out. They documented their whole journey, and you can find more of their helpful content on Instagram and their YouTube channel Lovin Off The Land.
You don’t have to be 100% self-sufficient to put some of these practices into place!
The majority of us probably don’t live in a climate where you can grow things year-round, or if you’re like me and your old bones won’t allow for that much crouching in the garden, there are still some obtainable ways you can inch in the right direction.
If you are interested in becoming more self-reliant, or are looking to improve your health and the health of the planet, here are some easy ways to get started.
Shop local for produce.
Head to your community garden or local farm stand to shop for produce. Eating what’s locally grown and what’s in season is the best way to get a nutritious bang for your buck. They almost never use plastic packaging, and because it was just picked it’s the freshest of the fresh! A great way to participate is by supporting a local CSA–community supported agriculture–it’s a win-win of supporting local farmers and getting fresh farm goods each week. There’s also something really lovely about meeting the hard-working individuals who put so much care into growing your food. To look up a CSA in your area check out sites like Local Harvest, or simply Google “CSA near [Your Hometown]”.
Grow your own.
Gardening is great exercise and the absolute best way to obtain fresh veggies. Even if you don’t have a lot of land, many things can be grown in containers! Tomatoes and lettuce grow especially well in buckets and raised beds. Got a bright window at home? Growing your own herbs is easy and home grow-lights are very easy to find these days. If you’re a beginner gardener, explore the Farmer’s Almanac Grower’s Guide to discover what will grow well in your region and when to plant it. YouTube creator Gardener Scott also has some fantastic tutorials that are great for anyone interested in starting a veggie garden.
Foraging for mushrooms, berries, and wild herbs is a fun way to add some seasonal options to your dinner plate. Make sure you have a reliable source of identification before you go taste-testing in the wild though. Join a foraging Facebook group in your area for a second opinion on questionable mushrooms. Or better yet, bring a friend who knows what they’re doing and then share the knowledge!
Barter and trade with thy neighbor.
Very few people in today’s modern world have the ability to tackle growing all the food groups on their own, and this is why it’s so important to help eachother out. Got a neighbor who has chickens? Try trading some of your foraged goods, or offer to repair their chicken coop in exchange for some eggs or meat.
There are countless helpful resources on the internet, particularly Youtube, on the best ways to live off the land. It really is a treasure trove of information out there!
Here are a few articles from us here at the Goodness-Exchange to inspire you and kick off your own journey.
Get The Most Out of Your Groceries: Easy Ways to Use Food Scraps
Wait! Before you throw away that banana peel or compost your coffee grounds, you can give them another life. Here are some simple ways to start reducing waste and maximizing your grocery budget.Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast
Into the Wild World of Mushroom Hunting—the Perfect Social Distancing Activity!
Have you ever looked at a mushroom and wondered, can I eat that? Well, before you decide to take a bite, you might want to meet a few of the guides on today’s adventures. They’ll have you excited to grab your basket and start foraging!Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast
Why Are These Fridges Mysteriously Appearing on Street Corners?
Could a fridge on a curb change the lives of an entire community? In places where getting access to fresh healthy food is nearly impossible, neighbors, restaurants, and friends are teaming up to support and nourish each other. Here’s how it works and how you can get involved!Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast
Safeguarding Hawaii’s Future by Connecting with the Past
What if there were a new place to look for a sense of security in these times of turmoil and uncertainty, and it did not involve inventing something new or forcing ourselves forward? Instead, what if the answer to our thriving, right now, lies with remembering how our ancestors thrived!? Here’s how they’re doing it in Hawaii.Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast
Like everything in life, it’s all about balance. Do what you can, pay attention to how it makes you feel, and pass down the knowledge to future generations.
Keep dreaming, and notice the beauty around you!
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- “How to Use Food to Help Your Body Fight Inflammation.” Mayo Clinic, 2019, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/how-to-use-food-to-help-your-body-fight-inflammation/art-20457586. Accessed 23 Sept. 2022. ↩
- “The Benefits of Garden-To-Table Produce versus Supermarket Varieties.” Gardentech.com, 2013, www.gardentech.com/blog/gardening-and-healthy-living/garden-to-table-goodness-and-nutrition#:~:text=Vitamins%20and%20antioxidants%20in%20some,local%20crops%20versus%20imported%20ones. Accessed 23 Sept. 2022. ↩
- Li, Mengyu, et al. “Global Food-Miles Account for Nearly 20% of Total Food-Systems Emissions.” Nature Food, vol. 3, no. 6, June 2022, pp. 445–453, www.nature.com/articles/s43016-022-00531-w[, 10.1038/s43016-022-00531-w. Accessed 23 Sept. 2022. ↩
- Goodful. “We Didn’t Buy Groceries for One Year.” YouTube, 28 Aug. 2021, www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2iEJnDcqkQ. Accessed 23 Sept. 2022. ↩