It’s probably more than you’re eating right now. For instance, if you’re a thirty-year-old dude, you should be eating between 3 and 4 cups of veggies a day. But on average, you probably eat under 2. An underwhelming response to greens is true across the board and across all age groups. A country of Popeyes, America is not.1
Pricy Pounds and Traffic Jams
Part of the problem is price. Fresh veggies cost money. Savvy shoppers can figure out workarounds like buying seasonally or purchasing “random weight” (unbagged) rather than packaged produce, but there’s no getting around grocery-store markups. Bags of fresh spinach are an average of four bucks a pound; brussels sprouts are three; broccoli florets, just under two if you’re lucky.2 Multiply that by a family of four and figure out how to make several cups a day out of it for everyone, and the dollars add up.
Then there’s hassle: Leave work. Stress in the traffic. Head to the store. Stress in the crowds. Spend too much money on fresh produce. Fight the traffic home. Finally, start cooking dinner.
Backyard Gardens to the Rescue
We’ve got a better solution. It looks like this: head straight home from work. Put on comfortable clothes. Go out to the back yard and pick some greens. Cook ‘em up and serve ‘em for free. Go to bed chock full of vitamins and minerals. (Like all the Vitamin K in the whole world if you eat a cup of kale, for instance. Seriously. They should just call it Vitamin Kale.)
There’s some sunk cost in putting together a garden in the first place, but much less than you’d think. If you want to start small, just pot some tomatoes or zucchini on your back porch — you’ll only need seeds (or young plants if you’d like to transplant), some topsoil and a few containers. The last two you can get for a few bucks at any local home improvement store. (And by a few bucks, we mean two dollars for forty lbs. of soil. It’s quite the deal.)
The seeds or plants vary by type and by volume or size, but we did some scouting, and a big tomato plant in a two-gallon pot will run you less than $20.
If you’re willing to put in a little more money and a Saturday’s worth of work, dream big, and take over part of your yard. You could go with boxed garden (they’re easy to build), like this...
...or just incorporate some plants into your landscaping, like this.
Either way, you’ll need topsoil, a shovel, some time and some sweat equity. But your body and your bank account will both thank you in the end. Here’s to a healthier state, all the way around!
1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/. 2. Stewart, Hayden, Jeffrey Hyman, Jean C. Buzby, Elizabeth Frazão, and Andrea Carlson. How Much Do Fruits and Vegetables Cost? EIB-71, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. February 2011.