Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Food Freedom; growing , preserving, and budget shopping
-Let me start by saying, I realize that many of you reading may not be able to grow a big garden or have farm animals, but maybe this post will still help you shave a couple of dollars off that grocery bill!
We are a family of 3, and I spend between 35.00-45.00 a week at the grocery store. This was a near 8 yr process to get to this point, and Yes there are times I go bit above this. but generally it lands in the lower 40's range.
Yesterday my bill was $36.00 . From seed to table, we are able to enjoy delicious homegrown food year round and remove ourself from the financial stress of groceryshopping.
Even if you are spending 200.00 and want to half that, I am hoping this post helps and inspires you give it a try!
1. Grow your own
If you have a yard, you have room for a garden! Heck turn your yard into a garden, why not? growing your own bounty/gardending is great stress relief ( therapy really), good exercise, does wonders for pent up energy/anxiety/depression( soaking up that sunshine and digging your hands in he earth is a very healing act). and, you are rewarded with a bounty of organic veggies!
We currently have 4 gardens, all pretty good in size. totaling about 2700 sq ft of garden space. I grow enough for our family and extra to sell at the market.( this will be talked about more in #9).
If your space is limited consider growing items you can preserve and have enough of to get through to next season. Potatoes are great because they don't require canning, are easy to grow, are filling, go with any meal, and can be cooked so many ways!
other items to consider, : Tomatoes ( for salsa and pasta sauce9, green beans, and cucumbers for pickles,)
If space allows plant some blueberry bushes, or fruit trees! they are great for jams, canned fruit and for desserts in the winter.
This particular topic should really have its own blog post, and I will stop here before I get carried away.
the point is, if you don't have a garden, and have room ( even for a container garden),its really the best first step in saving money and being self sufficient.
2. Preserve your Bounty
So, if you have a garden, and now have a garden big enough to have extra coming in. Can it ,freeze it dry it! There are many methods to choose from depending on what you are growing, and what you would like to do with those homegrown goodies , come winter.
below is an example of what we grow and preserve and how we preserve them
Green Beans: can
Tomatoes: canned tomatoes, and salsa canned
potatoes; stored in baskets on cool floor
Sweet potatoes, stored in baskets on cool floor ( these keep very very well!)
Jams: canned ( peach, strawberry, wineberry , blueberry, applebutter, and grape)
winter squash ; stored in baskets on cool floor
apples for baking ; canned
grape juice ; canned
chicken stock ; canned
peppers; pickled and canned
apple cider; canned
Pesto ; frozen
Chickens ( we do 50 in a year, usually about 12-15 at a time ) frozen
eggs; daily and fridge
honey; room temp in buckets
broccoli ; frozen
Shiitake Mushrooms; canned and dried
Garlic; hung up
lettuce, kale, chard, onions, carrots, radish, spinach are eaten when in season
3. cook from scratch
So, I am "lucky" enough to be able to stay at home. I put "lucky" in quotes because I really think its a lifestyle choice for many. (which is why I am posting this blog!). Along with growing a majority of our food, from seed to table, nearly everything we eat is cooked from scratch.
While we do shop for snacks ( oh lord my daughter might have a heart attack should there not be crackers in the house) we do not buy boxed food, ever,and I can say that with confidence.
even things like pancakes, brownies, cookies,pie crusts, pizza crusts etc are all made from scratch.
Dinner consists mostly of what we grew. and the times that it isnt always has alteast one item from the garden on the table at dinner time. this lifestyle choice, among others, has allowed us to live on a smaller budget. and yes I am lucky, but It also take a lot of work.
4. shop local
ok, I know what you are thinking,, its more expensive,, and this may be so,, BUT your options are limited at the farmers market. you have your basic choices without the 10,000 boxes of processed (overpriced )food to choose from, so it forces you to cook :) a few basic ingredients, some spices and some pasta , for instance, can make a delicious meal with enough for leftovers!
5. plan your meals
You don't have to be Julia Child to make a meal plan. And it doesn't have to be fancy. Heck you don't even have to write it out (although that's not a bad idea). But you should always see what you have, what basic ingredients you need, and what you need to buy to make the meal happen, and anything you might need for leftovers.
Keep it simple. For instance if I thaw a chicken, we might have Chicken , potatoes and green beans one night. The next day Ill cook down the bones for stock, make a pie crust, and use the stock and other canned veggies to make a pot pie , another 2 days of meals.
6. match it up
I think I kind of covered this. Match what you don't have at home with what you do have. I know this seems like a really obvious statement, But I really wonder if sometimes people just go into the store with no idea what they have at home to begin with. This can really contribute to waste of money and and food, (I talk about that in #7)
7. waste not want not
freeze those old bananas to make banana bread later in the week, make fried potato patties out of those mashed potatoes you almost pitched. Crisp up that lettuce with some ice water, its still ok!
Is your bread ( homemade or not) at the end of its life? dice it up coat lightly with olive oil, throw some seasoning on , and bake on low for some delicious croutons or breadcrumbs. Save your leftover veggies pieces parts in a bag in the freezer, pull them out at a later date to make some veggie stock. Think twice before pitching anything!
I guess I covered creative in the "waste not want not" section. If you see something on sale, think outside the box, is there something you can pair it up with at home for that nights dinner? Maybe you don't have have all the ingredients suggested in your cookbook. Well someone made up that recipe, so why not recreate it a bit and make up your own !
9. Make it financially sustainable
Ok here is the biggie, and the biggest question I get asked about our homestead..
"Doesn't it actually cost more to grow and preserve your own food?"
For us? No. I would like to think we eat for Free ;)
The idea of sustainability always comes first. we sell eggs to pay for the feed to have free eggs. When we process , say, 20 chickens, we will sell 7 or 8 to pay for the cost of the chicks an feed to we have free chicken.
We sell some of our vegetables and plants to pay for the seed, soil, or anything else that may have gone into the gardening/growing process.
We attend the farmers market weekly to sell our Honey,soap candles. some of the Money we make from that will go into purchasing beef, goat cheese ; items we don't produce ourselves. Many times we trade :)
It all works really well for us and enables us to live off the land as much as possible.
10. Eat with the seasons
Easy peasy! Eat what you grow, and if you don't grow it, you will surely find it at a good price in the grocery story or market when its in season. Strawberries in June, peaches in July, apples in September, or sweet potatoes in October... You are sure to find many items close to half off when they are in season!
If you a garden even better!!! I have some great recipes throughout my blog to help you when you have an abundance of one item :)
If you have a pick your own farm nearby, that is a great time to get your apples, peaches, strawberries at a great price . bring them home, enjoy some and preserve some for winter ( make apple pie in December... your family will thank you :)
11. Expired snacks
STOP, for the love of god, STOP paying 3.49 for a box of crackers ... find a store ( like Big lots) that has an expired or near expired shelf. I can get brand name crackers for .75 sometimes,, then I just buy all of them, haha. because we all know they aren't gong to magically go bad on that expiration date.
Snacks are the one things we do buy ,mostly crackers, pretzels, nuts... basic and somewhat healthy and can be paired with homemade dips, goat cheese , topped with veggies or mixed in salads. This way I have a stockpile until I score more
Whether you are beginning your life on your new homestead, trying to achieve a life of self reliance, or just looking for ways to cut your grocery bill, I hope some of these tips help you achieve your goals and save some money!