There are things we enjoy that are not the most economical, but if our overall food purchasing is (and we make lots of things ourselves), than it allows for our occasional “treats.”
One thing that took some creativity for our family was how to eat on a budget after we had drastically changed our diet (to a hunter-gatherer style diet.) We stopped eating grains, legumes, sugar, and dairy. We couldn’t rely on milk from our goats anymore or filling our pantry with dried grains or beans. Instead of grains on the side with some vegetables in the mix, every meal included fresh vegetables and fresh foods, which we were afraid would make us go broke. But since the dietary changes made our bodies feel so much better, we knew the challenge was worth finding a solution to. We discovered we could buy 15 pound bags of organic carrots at the local grocery store that were constantly on sale for around $12. They were for juicing and when we checked out in line people often asked if we had horses and their jaws would drop when we replied that the carrots were for us. “You eat all of those carrots?” Yes, we do. Carrots in soup. Perhaps some meat, greens, and carrots for breakfast. We never have any problem eating up the carrots.
Where we enjoy spending our food money more than the grocery store, is at the local farmer’s market. In addition to feeling good about our hard-earned money going to hardworking local farmers providing a valuable service to their community, we’ve also done a lot of trading at the farmer’s market. Since we have a booth with our handmade items at the art market right next to the farmer’s market, it makes trading pretty convenient that way. My husband Jeff is a woodworker and has carved several signs for local farms, which we have traded for food. A few times we traded a farmer some cabbage in exchange for homemade sauerkraut. Trades for local food have been a huge blessing for our family and we’ve been immensely grateful for each and every one. I know farms around our area that welcome people to work on their farm in exchange for food. What a wonderful idea! Make connections in your community and at your local farmer’s market and you never know what kind of incredible opportunities might open up for you. Get creative! You might even get bulk discounts if you buy more at once and preserve it. Since friends and neighbors know that our family is willing to work, they’ve shared windfall apples, pears, and more with us because they know we’ll actually use them and they won’t go to waste. Apples that are not the best for keeping can always be made into applesauce. And if you harvest things in season, when they are abundant at farms around you, you’re more likely to get a better deal. We’ve picked strawberries, blueberries, peaches, apples, plums, and more, ourselves so that we could save money. Checking out the u-picks available in your area is well worth your time and it’s something enjoyable that your whole family can do together. (Plus, picking it yourself is a lot more memorable than simply buying the same thing somewhere.) There’s a farm we know that has a sale at the end of the growing season and we’ve been able to get incredible deals: stocking up on onions, winter squash, and more for the winter. There’s no better feeling than watching the shelves fill up with jars of canned and dried food, and seeing the freezer and fridge fill up too. When the growing season has passed and it’s cold outside, you’ll sure enjoy your dessert of canned peaches (a taste of sunshine) while you’re nice and cozy inside!
And the best place of all to get your food? The garden. We grow as much of our own food as we’re able to and make an effort to produce more of our own food each year. There are so many benefits to having a garden besides saving money: time in nature, exercise, fulfillment, and plus: gardening is just good for the soul. Even when my husband Jeff had a full time job (or a few at a time), he somehow still managed to make time to have a garden because gardening is just in his bones and it brings him so much joy. If you don’t have the space to garden or there are other reasons, there is a wonderful way to produce your own fresh greens in your kitchen: and that’s sprouting. You don’t even need to have a sunny location. You can do it very inexpensively- with just jars and a sprouting lid (or cheesecloth.) We didn’t end up doing sprouts often enough that way so our family eventually decided to invest in a sprouting machine for sprouts made easy. For very little money we are able to have fresh, nutritious greens growing right in our own kitchen. Sprouts rival vegetables in terms of nutrition and take very little effort to grow.
When our ancestors ate meat, they never let anything go to waste and always ate the whole animal. One chicken can give you many meals. We’ve gotten great deals on stewing hens (old laying hens) from our friends at Deck Family Farm. (Slow cooked in the crock pot will make tough meat tender.) Besides the meat, you can make broth with the bones. No bones go to waste in our house. Every chicken bone, beef bone, lamb bone, or anything else- gets made into broth. (If we don’t have enough to make a whole batch of broth, we’ll save them up in a bag in the freezer until we do.) Broth is so nutritious and incredibly healing for the digestive system. It’s also an important source of calcium in our family, since we don’t consume dairy. Another wonderful thing about broth is that it acts as a protein sparer. So if you have to limit the amount of meat you are able to purchase, then broth will help the protein go further. And making broth is easy. At the local butcher, grass fed beef soup bones are $1.98 a pound. They are in high demand, sometimes selling out. (The marrow bones are especially popular, for a bit more at $2.98 a pound.) I consider soup bones a very good use of our money. I might order 20 pounds at a time and keep them in the freezer, bringing some out each time I make a batch in the crock pot. We make all our soups with a base of bone broth.
Jeff’s favorite way to 0have beef broth is by sauteing onions and making french onion soup. There are other great deals at our local butcher, Long’s Meat Market. They have local grass fed ground beef for $3.98 a pound! (If you buy 10 pounds at a time it’s an even better deal: $3.58 per pound!) It’s completely grass fed and organic. Organic ground beef at our local grocery store costs double that amount and it’s not even grass fed or as high of quality. I think that price is even less than what they charge for run-of-the-mill, icky, factory farm stuff at our grocery store. And another great deal at the butcher? Liver! I know, I know, it usually elicits a lot of response. Grass fed beef liver costs $2.98 a pound. You won’t find a more economical way to get that much nutrition, anywhere. (I’ve shared our secret for eating liver in this post.) Our ancestors always went for the organ meats first because they knew that’s where the most nutrients were concentrated. If you want to eat the healthiest foods possible- organ meats are where it’s at.
We don’t buy cooking oils from the store, we make our own oils to cook in. We get pastured, organic pork fat from our friends at Deck Family Farm and make lard with it. Animal fats are incredibly nourishing and healthful and are stable when cooking at higher temperatures. We occasionally buy olive oil to use raw on salads, since it’s not a good oil for heating, and try to make it last as long as possible. For salads, we make our own salad dressings. We use either oil and vinegar or sometimes instead of the vinegar we use sauerkraut juice or pickle juice leftover from our ferments. It’s delicious and full of probiotics. We never throw out the leftover brine from our ferments! It’s too precious.
What it comes down to: the more you do yourself, the more money you will save. Yes, it’s a lot more work. But you’ll be healthier and that is so worth it. Plus, good food is one of life’s greatest pleasures and homemade just tastes so much better. If you have children, you’ll be teaching them important skills that will help them for the rest of their life. Every time they watch you cook a meal, pick berries for the freezer, or bake something in the oven, it’s making an impression on them. You might can and fill up your pantry with jars for the winter, saving you lots of money in the long run. But don’t forget that even when you aren’t able to save in the big ways like that, you can still save in little ways. You can eat your leftovers right away. (If you leave them for too long, you’re less likely to eat them. Or if you start getting sick of them, you can freeze some for later.) You can eat your nutritious beet greens (and not just the beet roots) instead of throwing them out. If you have chickens, you can feed them your kitchen scraps. Little things add up! You can learn about wild foods and harvest those for free. Our family planted a nettles patch, which gives us super nutritious greens for much of the year, and we love taking a stroll in the woods to search for mushrooms. When it comes down to it, it’s less about how much money you have and more about how creative you can get!
Tricia here: Thank you Taryn!! That was amazing information 🙂 I miss having duck eggs and I second you on the big bag of organic juicing carrots.
Hi all, I have been AWOL in Florida at our homestead. I had a last minute opportunity to come home and seized it with both hands. We have been here enjoying every minute of warmth and being all together again. My grandson Lewie is all I can think of so I hope you forgive me for cutting and running on this blog for a few days… what’s that you say? 10 days? Oh dear, I hope you didn’t worry. I will not be here tomorrow but will start the Pinterest challenge again next Saturday. I will be back home midweek and back here to share our trip with you.