Monday, June 21, 2010

Local/Seasonal/Organic .... On A Budget???

The local/seasonal/organic movement has been building for the past few years, and Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle brought even more attention to it. I've been interested in eating like that for years, but for awhile, I, like many people, figured that it was just more expensive to eat that like.

And if you want to have 17 different varieties of fruit and vegetables at one time, it probably is. And when you are just starting out with canning/dehydrating, it probably is.

Over the years, I've shifted slightly the way that I eat. And to be brutally honest, I still have some non-local/non-seasonal/non-organic food in my home, but it is primarily for the preschool/daycare children that I take care of in my home. I still strive for healthy snacks and lunches, but I don't always serve them the food that I buy for the rest of my family because I know that they won't eat it, and I don't want it to go to waste. I also have some non-local/non-seasonal/non-organic in my food storage, although I am striving to preserve more and more of food from my garden for my food storage.

Anyway, I started with just Organic. And I started by trying to buy Everything Organic. That lasted about a month. We didn't need Organic or Non-Organic Oreos. So then I went mostly the other way, where I only bought a few things Organic (primarily milk and apples.)

Then I started with Local (and by default mostly, also Seasonal.) I went to our Farmer's Market and I'd buy things, but that first year, I'd get frustrated when I'd go there that first week, and the only thing that they would have was radishes, spinach, and herbs. I wanted corn. I wanted carrots. I wanted tomatoes. So I'd buy what was there, but I'd buy what I wanted at the grocery store. At the grocery store, you can get whatever you want, whenever you want.

And then a couple years ago, a new Health Food store opened in town and they sold milk from a local dairy. I started getting my eggs from a local farm. And I started in earnest to study about vegetables that I wanted to plant in my garden. And I started noticing more about when fruits and vegetables came into season.

Last year was the first year that I canned by myself (well, not by myself. I canned with my sister. But it was the first time I canned as an adult. It was the first time I canned when I wasn't just helping my mom.) It was almost magical how I could preserve food from my garden and be able to eat it during the many months in Illinois when there aren't any crops growing.

So here we are to this year. My first priority is Local. I buy my milk from a local dairy. I buy my eggs from a local farm. Same with my cheese. I buy cream from the local dairy so I can make butter. I'm asking for a yogurt maker for my birthday so that I can make local/organic yogurt.

Then I go for Seasonal. This is either bought at Farmer's Market or from the Health Food store (they sell local/seasonal food as well as organic food.) BUT, and here is the real Kicker. I only buy either ONE type of vegetable and/or ONE kind of fruit per week that is in season. I budget a certain amount per week for produce and that's what I spend. I supplement with food that is grown in the garden, although most of the food in the garden is preserved.

There are some slight exceptions to this rule. For example, earlier this month, I went to a Strawberry U-pick and picked 15 pounds of strawberries and made strawberry jam. That was over my produce budget. Later on, I'll buy lots of peaches and can them, and in the fall, I'll buy lots of apples, and make applesauce. But when I buy lots of fruit for preserving, I buy them when they are in season, and I buy them locally.

Another exception is I do buy things, like yogurt, which I don't make yet, and I don't have a local source. So I get organic yogurt, and I pick the yogurt that is produced as close to Illinois as I can.

And there are just some things I don't buy anymore. If a fruit (or vegetable) is ONLY grown outside of the continental United States, we don't buy it.

So with the food I buy, there really isn't a lot of variety. Like I said, basically, during the growing season, I buy one local/seasonal/organic vegetable and/or fruit each week. But with preserving food, and that year's garden, we are often able to have two or three choices per week. And I am able to do this AND stay on budget.

Postscript - I didn't address meat in this blog post. During the growing season, I honestly try to cut WAY back on our meat and eat mostly fruit and vegetables. During the late fall and winter, I buy organic beef and chicken. I buy sometimes from local sources, although I do sometimes buy it from the store. My goal is to have a chest freezer/upright freezer by next fall, and to get a quarter of a beef, some pork from a local pork farmer, and a large order of whole chickens from a local chicken farmer.

1 comment:

The Queen Bee said...

OK you have me interested in a couple of things. Where do you get the local chicken? Is it cost effective? Also I'd like to know about making your own butter. Is it cheaper to make butter than buy it? Where do you get the cream? E-mail me!!