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.