Sunday, June 19, 2011

10 Tips on Giving up the Grocery Store

I get questions all the time about our year without groceries and people are always saying how inspired they are. I want to share some tips with everyone on how you can also be groceries free. 
 
So if you're feeling adventurous I've got a few tips on how you can give up the Big G too.
 
  • Make sure you have a game plan but if you don't you can still wing it. Now is the perfect time to start because farmers' markets and CSAs are in full swing. Planning is easy when the resources are out there. We visit our farmers' market every weekend to stock up on produce our garden isn't producing. Check out Local Harvest to find farmers' markets, independent farmers and CSAs near you. Once you're started and in the groove of things it will give you time to find food sources and stock up for the winter.
  • For those conscientious carnivores out there, you can now find meat, egg and dairy CSAs. Check out Eat Wild for farmers near you. If you've got room for a chest freezer buy a whole, half or quarter animal. If you don't have that much room, find some friends or family to go in on a large order and then take what you can fit in your freezer. The more of the animal you buy the cheaper it is. We got a whole organically raised hog for $2/lb.
  • Start small. Nothing says you have to eliminate everything all at once. Maybe focus on buying all of your produce at the farmers' market right now. Or sign up for a CSA. Or eliminate processed food. Try finding something each month that you can eliminate buying from the grocery store and learn how to make it yourself or find from an alternative source.
  • Even your cheesemonger needs some love. Don't be afraid of specialty shops. Real butchers are making a comeback. You don't have to give up buying food from all retailers - the main point of giving up the Big G is to get closer to the source of your food. If there's a fantastic cheesemonger that makes their own cheese, or a butcher that breaks down whole animals that have been raised sustainably and they are willing to talk to you about where they source from then there's no reason you shouldn't buy from them. Plus you're helping to support your local economy and a larger portion of the money you pay is going to to the farmer.
  • Learn how to can. Again, right now is the perfect time to stock up on produce at the farmers' market and preserve it at home for the winter months. A pressure canner is a worthy investment if you don't want to pickle everything.
  • You don't have to be a chef or even that good of a cook, all you need are some good cookbooks and a willingness to experiment. You will fail sometimes, but don't let it bother you. We all had to start somewhere and as long as you keep at it you'll get better until it's second nature. I was terrible at making bread at first - always ending up as a brick - but over time I've been able to perfect it.
  • Find a buying club or local cooperative or start one. I found an organic, local buying club that a woman runs out of her garage. We place a monthly order for bulk staples like flour, rice and sugar and pick it up from her house the following week. I found mine by Googling "food co-op in __________."
  • It does take time, but not as much as you think it does. We no longer have to go to the grocery store. We go to the farmers' market once a week and pick up our order once a month. Running an urban farm is a total time suck, but preparing our own food independently of that is a drop in the bucket. My husband and I work together which helps save a ton of time. He'll make the spaghetti sauce while I make the pasta. Leftovers are eaten the following day for lunch. 
  • Have the right tools. It can sometimes require an initial investment but in the long run it will save you time and money. I picked up a brand new bread machine for $5 at the flea market. When I don't have time to make bread by hand, I can add ingredients to the machine before bed, set the timer and wake up to the smell of fresh baked bread for less than $0.50 a loaf. My stand mixer is indispensible. I don't know what I ever did without a mandoline for slicing soon-to-be pickles or a food mill for removing tomato skins and seeds while making sauce.
  • Be prepared to eat seasonally and locally. When we gave up the grocery store it also means giving up tomatoes in the winter, citrus in the summer and pretty much all tropical fruits like bananas. In exchange for giving up out of season produce you get fresher foods with more flavor.
Be prepared to fall in love with being free from the grocery store. When we hit our 6 month mark we realized that we really enjoyed eating this way and decided to keep doing it when our year was up. 

17 comments:

  1. Thanks for the Eat Wild link. I have been searching for months no no avail and it seems on this link there are some right near me. very excited!

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  2. Bountiful Baskets is a good food co-op choice if they deliver in your area. bountifulbaskets.org

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  3. When I first read the internet article I thought 'I can't do this!' But after reading your suggestions I realize that it may be easier for me than for you! We have a very large 'open market' that we can purchase everything from... so maybe I only need to start making my own bread... I may give this a try... thanks for the inspiration!
    Hadassah

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  4. I've been wanting to do something like this. Your blog is very inspirational!!

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  5. Thanks! I've shared this to my FB status.

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  6. I love what you and your family have done and that you shared it with the rest of us! Thank you for the inspiration along with the item to take off the grocery list this month I'll be getting a bread maker.

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  7. Do you have any recipies you would be willing to share with those of us starting out?

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  8. Hi Daisy! We've got lots of recipes to share. Our main go-to recipe when we're short on time and energy is a frittata. It's quick, you can customize it and it's filling and healthy. We generally just serve it by itself or with a side of veggies. Simply saute any veggies and meat you want in it (we like bacon, ham or sausage), then pour 5 eggs beaten with a 1/4 c of milk of it. Cover and cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes. You can add cheese to the top for the last couple of minutes if you want as well.

    You can also find a few recipes on this blog, there's a link on the left, or you can check out our other blog http://www.dogislandfarm.com where we post recipes weekly.

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  9. I lived in hills of Vallejo - I'm a landscape contractor & had tons of fruit & produce (raised beds) avocados, peaches, plums, beans, cucurbits, citrus, tomatoes, cruciferous veg... w/ out chemicals not because I give a shit about being organic - I didn't need to spray. John 415.574.9746

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  10. Hi Rachel. I found your blog through an article I read about what you and your family are doing. I truly am inspired to do the same thing and I am even bring friends and family on board. I've had no issues with finding where to get fruits, veggies, and meat. However, I am having an issue finding here to get things like flour, rice, sugar, etc. I googled "food co-op in orlando" and I did Kissimmee as well and there just aren't any resources. I figured starting my own was my best option but I don't know where to get these items from. Any advice?

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  11. United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) can help get you started. I believe there is a minimum $500 order for delivery. Here's their "Getting Started" page: http://www.unfi.com/GettingStarted.aspx

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  12. To add onto what Rachel said, I used to live in the Orlando area, and if you look in St. Cloud as well (it's right next to Kissimmee) and a few other small farm towns near Kissimmee, you should be able to find something that works for you. Good luck.

    @Rachel, this blog is absolutely amazing. I was feeling so frustrated earlier this week because my fiance and I spent about $15 on breads (burger buns, hot dog buns, and regular whole wheat loaf), only to find that since there are only two of us at the moment, it all went to waste (lots of bits of mold grew all over it within 3 days.). We thought that buying freshly baked goods from the grocery store was a good way to eat healthier, but it's not if all the bread goes bad so quickly. I'll be getting a bread maker and also learning how to make my own pizza dough very soon, thanks to you. You rock! I hope you and your family live healthy and long lives!

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  13. thank you for sharing your story. My husband and I do alot of these things, tho not on a consistent basis. i'd say we're about 75% home to 25%processed. thanks for the inspiration to get it lower on our end!

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  14. Wow, how wonderful that I found this website. I moved 1 month ago into a home that is on 1/2 acre in the city of Phoenix. A small home is on one lot and a garage and large storage space on the other lot. What to do with the garage??? I am definitely going to look into using that space for a coop. What a great way to help your neighbors who don't have an empty space to use. Thanks to your website and links to go to, I feel empowered to get started with my own coop.
    Many thanks and blessings to you for sharing.

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  15. Hi I love that you have accopmplished what many American people on wish they can do. I live in Central Maine where winters are very cold. I've been searching for foods that I can purchase locally but during winter months it can be a little challenging without being able to have a "garden" or the availability of farmers markets. I'd be happy to know what others have done living in "frozen" winter climates to not have to purchase your food at grocery stores. God bless! If you send me an e-mail or post to this blog I will respond. E-mail: the perfectfinish@yahoo.com

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  16. Hi! My grandmother grew up in the Tetons without running water or electricity. Of course don't go that far, but what they did for the winter was stock up during the summer by preserving the bounty. Use a root cellar to store vegetables if you can. Otherwise can, dehydrate and freeze. You can make soup mixes by dehydrating vegetables and herbs. There are tons of books out there now that have all sorts recipes and ideas for preserving food for winter. If you have a garden check out Eliot Coleman's Four-Season Harvest. Coleman lives in Harborside, Maine where he has a year-round organic farm. Good luck!

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