It occurs to me that I have developed an ability over 4 years (4 YEARS!) of eating a significant part of our diet from the local foodstream that most suburbians don't have. I can basically walk into one of our local farmer's markets and come out in 20 minutes with food to feed my family for the next week. Without a real plan. My goal is to get as much of our diet locally as I can-without creating false hoops to jump through. (I'm shooting for 75% of the volume of our food to be from the farmer's market. I want 100% of our meat and eggs to be local, sustainably and humanely produced.). We are a house full of omnivores but we have reduced our meat consumption over the past 4 years to about half of what it used to be. Meat is expensive and because of that, we use all of the meat that we buy in more creative ways.
I'm going to try and start sharing what I'm buying (or getting once CSA season starts) so that maybe I can share some of how I go about selecting food and then what I do with it once I've nabbed it. I am not trying to convert anyone to a new way of living. I am not a purist in any sense of the word. I AM kind of a snob in that I want an apple to taste like an apple (and not like apple flavored goop). I don't want to eat fake food product-but if that's where you are in life, I'm not judging you.
I enjoy cooking and I realize that not everyone does. It's a steam-release valve for me but I have lots of buddies who get freaked just thinking about making cookies from scratch. That means that I've made enough mistakes to begin to have some 'go-to' recipes and methods. I can be flexible when I show up at the market. Not because I'm a great chef or I attended culinary school (I'm not and I didn't) but because I just like to get in the kitchen and muck about. I'd like to share my mucking!
One of the things that drives me crazy is when people say you can't eat locally on a budget. It is true that you can't eat the same thing every week of the year and eat locally-at least it's true right now in central NC. But if you can be flexible, you can feed a family of 4 for a week for under $200. I do it all the time and feel as though we're eating extremely well. I could actually get it down to under $100 a week if I had to-I'm very thankful that I don't have to because I am a glutton for good food-this is not a blog about saving money after all. However, if you really wanted to save a lot of money, you could grow a bunch of stuff yourself in your own little urban oasis....I sense another post coming on.
This week I spent approx. $170 on groceries for my family. I went to 3 places over approx. 1.5 hours. I did stop in the middle to eat lunch at Centro. (yummm...Centro). I could have only gone to 2 places and spent a little bit more money....but I like hunting for food. Please pause for a lunch break.
Here's the haul from Mid-Town Farmer's Market (I spent approx. $60). My market trips generally involve me with my cooler bouncing around from farmer to farmer. I do one walk-through before I buy anything. Then I start trying to build meal options from what I see around me. For instance, the hamburger purchase came after I saw that my friend Jason had green peppers on special (frost is coming, peppers need to go). It's also ok to ask farmer's what they're cooking right now for inspiration. They eat what they grow-they know how to make it tasty.
- 1 lb of hamburger
- 1 pack of beef soup bones
- 1 pack of sweet italian sausage
- 5 sweet potatoes
- 1 lb of green beans
- 2 kohlrabi
- 8 large turnips
- 6 small harukai turnips
- 1 head of romaine lettuce
- 4 beets with greens attached
- 8 green peppers
- 2 bunches of carrots-greens attached
We stopped by the Grand Asia Market and spent $10. I am a sucker for cheap when cheap is good and Grand Asia Market really knows how to treat a girl right. Plus, it's kind of on the way to Whole Foods for us and it's a great multi-cultural experience for our kids. WIN-WIN!
- 2 packs of rice noodles
- 2 packs of mushrooms
At Whole Foods, we stopped in for about $100 worth of stuff. You will notice that this list highlights my imperfections the most. I try to go for organic when I can't get local. I will sometimes eat fruit that is local and not organic if I can understand how the farmer treated it. I have a lot more knowledge than the average person about what treatments mean. If my children want to eat apples and grapes, then we are going to have apples and grapes for them to eat. If I need a snack while on an airplane or in a rush, then I will have a Luna Bar. We're all making choices and trade-offs. My own growth continues and will be different next year than this year. For now, this is our reality and I'm okay putting my list on parade for full disclosure.
- organic milk-1 gallon
- organic half and half
- organic sourdough bread
- sliced cheddar cheese
- organic jasmine rice
- large can of diced organic tomatoes
- organic celery
- organic grapes
- organic granny smith apples-about 10
- organic yellow onions-about 6
- 1 lb of pecans
- 1 lb of walnuts
- dried unsweetened cherries
- organic unsalted butter
- pre-made hummus (i'm lazy)
- 2 boxes of pre-cooked organic cannellini beans
- Chocolate Peppermint Luna bars-1 case
Generally, I don't set an actual menu for the week. If I do that, then I usually end up rebelling because it's too strict for me. I like to have room for creativity and options. To balance my need for creative with my lack of actual time during the week, I spend a large part of Sunday cooking and prepping for the week to come. Sundays at my house are usually for dessert making, stock or soup making and chopping/sorting.
This week I know I will have:
- Green Peppers stuffed with rice, hamburger and tomatoes
- French onion soup made with my very own beef stock and some of those mushrooms
- Sweet italian sausage and kohlrabi-probably with some noodles and more mushrooms
- A large salad with apples, nuts, and dried fruit along with those sweet little turnips
- A gratin from the large turnips, a sweet potato and some little white potatoes that have been hanging out in my cupboard for a while doused in cream and the nubbins of cheese in my cheese drawer
This Sunday, I made beef stock with the soup bones, an onion, the tops of a couple of carrots, slices of ginger, and some celery. That just bubbled away all day on a back eye while I did some other stuff. I roasted beets and chopped up some sweet turnips. I washed, sorted and stored greens. I took the tops off of the carrots and scrubbed them and put them away. I actually made the stuffed green peppers. Snapped the green beans. Even though this sounds like a lot...my actual active time in the kitchen was probably an hour and a half.
My point is...I have this thing that I do...and do well...that I'm trying to figure out how to share. It's not that hard really-a little prep, some flexibility, and a joy for eating and being in the NOW. More posts to come.