This post is part of Pennywise Platter hosted weekly by Kimi
When I started this journey last year I was emotionally committed and luckily had the resources to back that commitment up. I had decided that even though it costs more to eat this way we would give up other things and hopefully finances would even out. A month into it I was shocked at our food bill. But rather than give up I dug into other areas and cut out frivolous spending instead of caving. Once you start a blog proclaiming your steadfastness it’s hard to tuck tail and hide!
I had seen some significant savings immediately by grinding grains and baking myself and doing things like buying end of season boxes of apples and saucing them myself but the meat, cheese, fish and egg prices at the market were staggering!
The flavor was amazing compared to what we had been use to and I felt really good about supporting local farmers and eating that fresh, genuine food. So I stuck with it.
Finding Azure Standard was a boon for me because they grow many of their own beans and grains, grind them and make their own pasta. Finally, a semi-local source for corn, popcorn, and beans! Also finding BlueBird Grain and Lentz Spelt Farm gave me a ready source for truly local grains that I could grind as needed.
I taught myself how to make cheese but without a free source of milk I realized very quickly why cheesemongers command such a high price for their wares. The only cheese you save money making is soft cheese where you get a high cheese to milk ratio with a short waiting period. Mozzarella, feta and chevre are three such cheeses and they are very gratifying to make.
So how to get my costs down on eggs, meat, fish and cheeses?
Here is my short list for saving money with limited cooking time:
Buy a grain grinder and several 5 gallon buckets and lids to store the grains in. Buy grains and beans in bulk. The savings will floor you. If you work, consider buying a bread machine and crock pot. Peruse my category list for pancake, bread and other baked good recipes and quit buying pancake mix since you already have everything in your cupboard to make them.
Take 30 minutes once a week to plan out the week’s meals and write it down to keep you on track. Jot down reminders to take meat out of the freezer a few days before you need it. You can pre chop veggies days in advance to achieve some economies of scale.
Consider cooking several meals over the weekend so you have a few meals ready for the week, or get one day ahead on cooking so you cook tomorrow night’s dinner tonight (at your leisure) and simply reheat tonight what you cooked last night, or plan “build upon” meals successive nights.
This is when tonight you make beef pot roast in the crock pot, tomorrow night you make shredded meat tacos using that (or pasties) and start overnight beef bone broth, the third night you make shepard’s pie using that same meat and thickened roast juices, the fourth night you make beef barley soup with the final leftovers and your beef bone broth that you’ve now cooled, skimmed the fat from and seasoned.
This same progression with chicken would be roast chicken to tacos to chicken pot pie to chicken noodle soup. In this way 2 pot roasts and 2 chickens could provide you with the better part of your meat needs for a whole month so you can see how you can get your dinner costs down with some planning and supplementing with dried beans and fresh veggies.
Find a local source for 1/4 or 1/8 cow, 1/2 pig, a chicken package from a local farmer or case of fish fillets from local fisherman.
Learn to make spendy sausages by seasoning pre-ground meats, fish cakes from canned salmon, and meatballs to freeze so you have a source for quick meals at the ready. My local meat on wheels, Thundering Hooves, charges $8/# for sausage but only $4/# for ground meat. What a huge savings just for mixing some spices already in your cupboard into their ground meat!
Ask the farmers at your local farmers market if they have wholesale buying prices on large orders. Talk to them and ask if they know other local farmers who don’t participate at the market but would sell directly from the farm.
In the summer hit the Upick stands and freeze, dry or process fruits en masse. Freeze, pickle and lacto ferment veggies when they are bountiful and inexpensive.
Do what you can with the space you have. Plant an intensive orchard using fruit trees on dwarf stock that are proven to produce in your area. Plant a garden, again using crops proven to produce well with minimal disease in your climate.
Oftentimes neighbors will have productive fruit trees in their yard and let crops rot on the tree. When you see this ask if you can pick fruit and give them back preserves you’ve made with it in exchange. I did this last summer and ended up with pears, cherries and over 100 pounds of plums to dry, can and jam.
Find a canning buddy so you can divide and conquer. It’s much easier to spend a weekend canning one type of thing than to try and do several. If you spend the weekend canning peaches and peach jam perhaps your friend could spend the weekend canning tomato sauce and you can share in each other’s jars. Or host a swap with many friends and neighbors to really round out your stores in the fall. We did this last fall and I came away with jars of local honey, handmade goat’s milk soap, smoked salmon and new flavors of preserves.
Start small and build upon your success season after season as you gain confidence. Remember, produce is only one piece of the puzzle so don’t beat yourself up for not being able to devote your life to a huge organic garden. But gardening is the most emotionally empowering and visually inspiring thing you can do so definitely consider it.
How about you? What things have you found that help keep your costs and time down eating locally? I’d love to hear!