Saturday, June 29, 2013

My Week in Groceries

I feel very passionate about buying my family’s food from local farmers.  There are so many reasons why this is a good idea:  fresher, healthier food, supporting the local economy and small businesses, the relationship and connection I build with the people who produce our food, more variety in my family’s diet, and the creative outlet that sourcing and cooking traditional food gives me.  When I talk about how I get most of our groceries locally, I get the feeling that often people don’t believe me.  And if they do, they think I spend a ridiculous amount of money and time.  The truth is, I enjoy the time I spend sourcing and cooking—it’s my hobby.  I think time and money invested in the pursuit of healthy, local food is worth it.  However, I do have a life and I do not have an unlimited budget. 

So, just to prove that it CAN be done, here are my groceries for the week:

This morning I went to the Marietta Farmers Market.  I spent slightly more than an hour from the time I left my house until I got home.  Here’s what I bought:
From Southern Swiss Dairy,  ½ gallon grass fed cream- $11. We put this in our coffee and I cook with it.  Occasionally I make ice cream or some other treat with it.  I use about 1 pt a week (unless I make ice cream), so I split it up into pint jars and freeze three of them.  When I notice the pint in the fridge is almost gone, I take out another pint to thaw.  I won’t buy this again for 2-4 weeks.
From Capra Gia,  ½ gallon raw, pastured goats milk- $6.  Anna will drink all of this.  Anna seems to digest goat milk better than cow milk.  1 doz pastured eggs- $4.  Latas eats a boiled egg for breakfast and I cook with them.  Unfortunately, my kids refuse to eat scrambled eggs (sad face) so we don't need more than a dozen a week. 
From Pine Street Market , 1lb pastured kielbasa sausage, 1lb bacon burger (ground sausage), 1lb pastured bacon, $20.  I buy the "Summer Sampler" because it's a bit cheaper that way.  No, I am NOT afraid of cured meat, especially when it is from a local, artisanal charcuterie who sources his pork from Gum Creek Farm.
In my CSA box from Jackson Lowe Vegetable Farm, $24 (I paid $480 at the beginning of the season for 20 weeks of veggies):  Red cabbage, fennel, blueberries, purple potatoes, onions, green tomatoes, lettuce
Extra vegetables, also from Jackson Lowe, $6: beets, chard.

On Thursday I went to the Carlton Farm milk drop.  This took me about 30 minutes and is a part of my regular routine, right after the kids finish their weekly music lesson.  I could also buy my veggies and eggs from Chad Carlton and save myself the trip to the farmers market…but I LOVE the farmers market, so I choose not to.  I could buy my milk from Southern Swiss Dairy at the Farmers Market along with my cream, but I prefer my milk raw.  Southern Swiss vat pasteurizes (but does not homogenize) their grass fed milk.  I would give my kids this milk if I didn't have an option to give them raw milk or if I felt uncomfortable about raw milk (I feel very comfortable with raw milk because I have researched it and I have seen the animals my milk comes from, and the conditions they are milked in). I never buy pasteurized milk from the grocery store, even if it is labeled "organic".   I bought 1 gallon raw, grass fed cow’s milk, $7.50.  Isaac will drink most of this.  I will use a little for cooking and a little for thinning out the cream.  A pint or two might sour at the end of the week and I will make chocolate milk as a treat for my kids.

Local groceries purchased this week.

Yesterday I stopped at Trader Joe's, my preferred grocery store.  I spent about 20 minutes shopping and 15 minutes driving (I was running other errands, too, so I am estimating the drive time).  I didn't think of writing this post until this morning, so I didn't save my receipt, but I spent about $45.
I bought 3 lbs organic gold potatoes, honeydew melon, bananas, 1lb organic carrots, cherry juice(used to flavor kombucha-more on that another time), Applegate Farms hotdogs, organic corn chips (my one "crappy-carb" snack food purchase--see, I can compromise), grade B maple syrup-$16 (along with local, raw honey, my favorite sweetener. This will last about a month.)
I also ran in to Kroger to get (10 minutes) 1 quart of Greek Gods full fat yogurt.  I used to make yogurt from raw milk but found that my family wasn't super excited about it and it was a lot of work.  This is a compromise food for me-it's got living cultures in it, so that offsets the "ick" of pasteurized dairy, and the label is clean.

You’ll notice that I didn't buy much meat this week.  That’s because I buy all my fresh meat (as opposed to cured) in bulk from local farmers, a few times a year.  At the moment, my freezer is a little bare.  We are trying to empty it out because in July I will receive a half-cow.  Then it will be full and we’ll be eating a lot of beef!  Until then, I only have about a dozen frozen whole chickens and a few packs of chicken parts.  These were bought for an average of $4 per chicken at different times.  They came from Mother Earth Meats, Burns Best Farm, or Joyful Acres.  I also have a ham steak that is all that is left from a bulk package of meats I bought a few months ago from Joyful Acres as well as a beef tongue left over from a half cow I bought last year (yes, I am going to cook that thing, just as soon as I figure out how…).  I took 2 of those chickens, a pack of chicken legs, and the ham steak out of the freezer to thaw for this week.  So, in shopping from my own freezer, I figure I spent about $15.  I’m not sure how much time I spent sourcing that meat, although of course, it took me 2 minutes to fish it out of the freezer.  In finding local, humane meat, the time is spent up front, researching, talking to people, and then sometimes driving to pick it up.  Since I always buy in bulk, and since I already have my sources nailed down, I don’t feel like I spend very much time at all.  Let’s say I spent 30 minutes sourcing the chicken and ham.

This week I spent $93.50 on local food and $44 at the grocery store.  It took me about 2 hours and 15 minutes to source my groceries.  How about you?  How much money and time did you spend getting groceries for your family?

In my next post, I will tell what I am going to do with all this lovely, local food this week!

Friday, May 17, 2013


Strawberries are my family's favorite berry--the only one all four of us love.  I use frozen strawberries all year round in smoothies and shakes (and my daughter eats them from a bowl when she gets the chance), so when I realized that strawberries need to be organic, I suffered over the price--as much as $5 for a small bag that would make 2 smoothies.  Last year I bought lots of fresh strawberries from the farmers market and we enjoyed them until the short season was over.  I also planted three strawberry plants in my front flower bed (our backyard is very shaded, and our HOA is very anti-front yard gardens, so my front flower bed harbors a few tomato plants and lots of herbs, as well).  Once the heat hit and the short berry season was over, we were back to expensive organic berries from Whole Foods.

This year I am getting more proactive.  Our strawberry plants have matured and now produce enough berries for a nice daily snack.  That's great for the kid (not naming any names)that runs outside and picks them first, but not for the other three strawberry lovers in our family. Yesterday morning we drove out to Lone Oak Farms in Grantville, Georgia and spent the morning picking strawberries.  We came home with about 25 pounds of strawberries and some color in our cheeks.  The strawberries were $2.50 per pound--a bargain when you consider that they go for about $7 per pound at the farmers market and conventional strawberries are about $5 at the supermarket (A quart of strawberries weighs a bit over a pound).  True, I had to spend gas driving out there (I went with a friend who split the cost with me) and it was hot, tiring work.  However, it was still a very enjoyable morning that ended with a picnic on the bank of the farm's pond and happy time spent with my kids and my friend (and her kids).  My friend actually did even better than me, picking almost twice as many berries as I did, but the truth is, I let my kids off easy and she did not.
 When I got home, I cleaned and hulled the berries--this was almost as exhausting as the picking.  There were some that got a bit bruised on the ride home, so I put those in a separate bowl which my daughter, the fruit bat, kept emptying for me.  The few bruised ones that were left I used to make these berry and coconut popsicles from Coconut Mama.  Big hit today after lunch.
The rest of the berries I put on cookie sheets and placed in my freezer over night.  This morning I transferred them to ziplock bags.  Now my freezer is full of local organic frozen strawberries for $2.50/lb (plus a little sweat equity).  Sweet!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Perfect Spring Treat: Quinoa Tabouli

I love tabouli.  In fact, sometimes I get a craving for it.  If you've never experienced it before, tabouli is a Middle Eastern salad made with fresh spring herbs, finely chopped veggies, and bulgur wheat, all bound together by olive oil and lemon...yum.  It's one of those dishes that you feel virtuous eating-you know that the reason you crave it is because your body WANTS all that vital green.  So, I generally eat as much of it as I can get.

Sadly, I had to give it up when I gave up gluten.  To be honest, I felt more heartbroken about never eating tabouli again than I did about ditching bread.  The worst part was that there is no substitute—tabouli ‘s main ingredient is wheat. 

Yesterday afternoon I was out in my herb garden and noticed that the parsley is trying to take over. 

I was feeling sad as I pruned it back, thinking that I could easily eat all that parsley if I could just make some tabouli.  I had to throw bunches of parsley into the compost.  What a waste.

Then I went inside to make dinner.  I was making quinoa.  Quinoa looks like a grain but is actually a seed.  It is gluten free and easy to make- I cook it just like rice and use homemade bone broth instead of water to boost the mineral content.  As I was spooning the quinoa out of my rice cooker, it occurred to me that it looks a lot like bulgur wheat.  In that moment I had what I believe was a flash of genius:  quinoa tabouli!
 I am going to insist on believing that I am the first one to come up with the brilliant idea of substituting quinoa for bulgur wheat, and I refuse to google it and prove myself wrong.  If you or someone you know has made it this way before, I'd appreciate it if you'd keep it to yourself.

Non negotiables:
2 cups cooked quinoa, cooled and fluffed with a fork
1/4 cup good olive oil
Large handful fresh parsley, chopped fine
1/2 red or yellow onion (or 3-4 green onions, include white and green), diced
Juice of 3 medium limes or lemons
Salt to taste
Mix and match:
3 or 4 sprigs fresh mint OR small handful cilantro OR small handful basil (I don't like to mix these three-i think they compete with each other.  However, you can experiment with any combination of tender greens in your tabouli, along with the obligatory parsley.)-finely chopped
1/2 cucumber, seeded and diced
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
3 radishes, diced
1/2 green bell pepper (any color or mix), diced
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl.  If you can control yourself and put it in the fridge for a few hours, the flavors will meld and intensify.  If you are like me and don’t understand delayed gratification, just eat it immediately.

Thursday, March 22, 2012