Real Food on a Real Budget : : Taryn of Wooly Moss Roots

Cutting up beet greens to put in our soup. 

How do we feed ourselves and our families healthy meals without spending a fortune? I think many of us are in the same boat, wondering the same thing. When it comes to how my family spends our humble income… to us: healthy food is the most important thing that we spend our money on. So first we always try to cut back spending in other areas of our life so we can spend more on the most important part: good food. We’ll happily purchase our clothing secondhand, hang our laundry to dry, and heat our house with wood. But even with that, we still need to keep our food spending within our budget. So how do we do that exactly? Firstly, we make all our meals from scratch. Three meals a day. We don’t buy food in boxes. And we save so much money that way! I’ve heard it said that if you want to eat healthy foods from the grocery store: shop the perimeter (where the fresh foods are) and avoid the middle (where the boxed and packaged foods are.) I think the same thing goes for saving money. In our family, we focus on buying whole foods from the earth and nutrient dense foods. I think your money goes much further that way, in the long run. If you buy a boxed snack, it might make your stomach feel full for a little while, but how long will it last you before you need another snack again? Empty food is a waste of money because it doesn’t give your body the nourishment that it needs and you’ll end up wanting more. Let’s say, for example, you choose a hard boiled egg or an avocado for your snack- it will carry you much further and end up being a much better use of your money. And speaking of grocery stores- a great way to stay within your budget is to write your list before you go and also to have an idea of how much you’d like to spend. I don’t always keep track of how much I’m spending when I’m shopping at the grocery store, but when I do and it keeps me from going over my budget. Sometimes I bring our list along when money is especially tight and tally it up as I go. If you go without your list, you’ll probably end up buying more. When you’re shopping for vegetables that are priced by the pound, like broccoli for example: choose the ones with the shortest stems since much of the stem is too fibrous to eat anyway. (You can prepare that part as well and feed it to your animals, we give those to our chickens steamed.) Or if the vegetables are priced by the bundle (like beets often are)- go for the largest bundles. These things are obvious and very simple, but how often do we take the time to slow down and do these simple money-saving steps while we’re in a hurry at the store?

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.

 Hard boiled duck eggs. 
Besides gardening, you can save lots of money by raising your own chickens for eggs. We decided to do an egg tally and discovered that even with feeding our chickens a high quality, organic feed, we were still getting eggs in our backyard for an incredible bargain: only $2.88 per one dozen eggs. Talk about nutritious food on a budget! We’ll probably be getting an even better deal in the warmer months when they lay more. Of course that doesn’t take into account other costs of keeping chickens, but regardless: we’re saving lots of money by keeping chickens and gathering eggs in our own backyard! Many towns and cities allow a few backyard chickens.

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.

Our three year old son Bracken showing me his hand covered in turmeric, after adding it to our meal (and thinking it was very funny.) 

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.

8 Responses to Real Food on a Real Budget : : Taryn of Wooly Moss Roots

  1. JSHealth Program January 18, 2018 at 10:44 am #

    Love your transparency here and the great tips for better managing a real food budget. What a great post and I completely agree if I don’t meal plan, I not only can get way off track on our food budget, but I also get completely off track in making sure we have balanced nourishing meals. And what a great idea to encourage us by featuring reader success stories!

  2. Lori Ann April 26, 2014 at 1:09 pm #

    It is now the end of April. I have been checking the site to find it from the beginning of the month for your last post. Keeping your family and you in our prayers – hoping you are just getting caught up on spring, homeschooling and the new home. Look forward to seeing your posts again in the future. Much love.

  3. Frank pichardo April 12, 2014 at 3:53 am #

    Very nicely written and great info!!!

  4. NinnyNoodleNoo March 26, 2014 at 11:38 am #

    5kg of carrots are the equivalent of $9.35 here – I'd love to be able to buy a 15kg bag of organic (we'd certainly use them!) – but that would be quite something out of our budget for anything else! This is why I get sad, we just can't afford it on top of similar prices and until we can get a proper garden started (we have to move again this summer, so only growing bits and pieces again this year).

    Feeding chickens scraps is illegal in the UK (although I suspect quite a few don't pay much attention to that – but get found out and your birds will be killed).

    Broth is fantastic stuff – I'm struggling to get bones from a 'reputable' source until my friend has some beef (45 mins away – but no beef to be had atm). Ditto for lard – 45 mins is a long way to drive for some fat (we don't really eat much pork meat – although I'm considering making my own bacon as we would use that) and we used up what I'd rendered a while ago.

    I think some areas are easier to source such things than others – although edible wild greens can be found pretty much anywhere (it's pretty amazing what you can find growing in towns and cities 🙂 )

  5. Ingrid F March 22, 2014 at 3:31 pm #

    So nice that you are back. I hoped you were just having a good time somewhere! I love this post. Very meaty, pardon the pun. I have loved all the bloggers you have had so far and every week I learn something new. Thank you to you for putting it together and all the ladies that have shared their knowledge.

  6. Brigitte March 21, 2014 at 8:37 pm #

    Very inspiring. And good to hear from you again.

  7. FishDogFarm March 21, 2014 at 8:26 pm #

    Love! I've been trying to figure out how to do make the change with our young family as well. Grains are so cheap and my kids actually like them that I struggle with the Hunter gatherer diet. I know I need to do it but I feel like the cost and then I don't know what to actually cook for meals. We have a 5 a 2 and a 1 with another on the way… How to get them to eat?! We have chickens and pigs right now(egg layers and broiler chickens). My husband and I will process our meat ourselves to save money. We did 2 cows last year which saved us a bunch when it comes to free range organic meats. This year we need to focus on the garden. I'm no green thumb neither is my husband…so it's a challenge. I'm encouraged to try again with the grain free. We rely on rice pretty heavily and wraps. Thank you for your post and many blessings!

  8. Angela March 21, 2014 at 8:00 pm #

    Wonderful information! So glad to see that you are well and enjoying some time with your grandson! Looking forward to reading all about your trip.

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