My food budget vs. food ethics - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 30 Old 06-11-2010, 10:26 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I have been having a really hard time with this lately. I saw "Food, Inc." recently & I'm reading "The Story of Stuff" right now. I've read Michael Pollan's work and Eric Schlosser. My thinking about food is completely changing.

However, my budget is not.

I run a tight ship here - I'm family CFO, and everything, including food is tightly budgeted. We eat out less than once a week, I buy fancy lattes about five times a year, we don't have a flat screen TV or even a laptop, we shop thrift stores, etc., etc. We're your average middle class frugal family.

We don't receive any assistance. When I go to the grocery store, I buy mostly generic and shop the perimeter - I cook from scratch, and we eat pretty simple meals. However, I'm trying to feed a family of four with under $400/month. I am mostly able to do it, but I buy a lot of store brands and rarely buy organics - that's how I save money. Also, my parents and ILs give us groceries for birthdays and Christmas: my ILs gave us a quarter beef from an Amish farm last year & my mom stocked us up on frozen vegetables and canned goods (we live in the upper midwest .... winter lasts a long time! no local fresh stuff most of the year).

I'm having a really, really hard time with this now. I feel like I should be buying organic everything --- oh, and my Co-op is an hour away, 100 miles round trip, so it's not a weekly trip for me. Mostly monthly. --- but I'm struggling with how to do this on a tight budget.

Help. How have the rest of you wise mamas solved this??

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#2 of 30 Old 06-11-2010, 12:02 PM
 
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Gardening, farmer's markets, shopping around for the best prices and stocking up.
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#3 of 30 Old 06-11-2010, 12:18 PM
 
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When you say coop, do you mean the closest CSA?

I think all any of us can do is prioritize. I am a member of a CSA, and it's organic too, so that's great. But my priority is no factory meat. That means we don't eat much meat, but when we do it's the good stuff - local, pastured, etc. Pricey, though.

I would like to say that all our cheese was the same but I just can't swing it.

Organic is important to me but it's not #1. For you, maybe your #1 is getting the dirty dozen in organic. Start from there and just make your priorities. Your priorities might change over time and that's ok too. I agree that it's not within reach for most of us to have a completely ethical diet, I'm extremely sorry to say. I also agree that cheap foods carry huge amounts of hidden costs (government subsidies paid through our taxes, health care costs due to poor food, etc.) but, all the same, we can't get out of paying the hidden costs (that's the "beauty" of the system the food conglomorates set up) so ultimately we have to choose to take on more of the financial burden ourselves, or not.

I think anyone who can take it on, should! But I live in a blue collar town, I know most people can't pay $20 a pound for cheese or $8 a gallon for milk or $10 a pound for meat. If you can't swing it, that doesn't say anything about what kind of person you are, or aren't. You are not the one who made the food system the way it is. All we can do is prioritize the ways we can stop supporting it, to the best of our abilities.

I have found that in our area, not necessarily everywhere, vegetables direct from the farm are very close to the price we pay in the store. So for us, it's a no-brainer. Fruit is a little more but still ok. It's the animal products that are a lot more, but unfortunately the part I have the most ethical qualms about. So, like I said, I draw the line at factory meat, and just try to do the best I can with the cheese stuff (which is still a major ethical concern for me but what can I do other than reduce as much as I can?).

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#4 of 30 Old 06-11-2010, 12:32 PM
 
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Honestly, my priority is my family. Then other people like farmers and others involved in food production and then animals. Which means that because we are low-budget and because my daughter has multiple food intolerances and must eat a diet primarily made from animal products I simply do not have the option of purchasing only locally farmed, organic, pastured foods. I do believe these are the *best* and any time it is within my power to purchase those types of food I will do it but at this time I just can't and I choose not to feel guilty about it.

I agree about gardening if you can do it, which will supply with nearly free organic produce and then you can put the money you would have spent there on higher end animal products.

I've checked the farmer's markets around here and honestly can't afford them either. Their prices reflect their practices and their need to make a living wage, which is great, but I don't find them to be the place to go to look for bargains.

Currently I shop at Sprout's, which unfortunately is only available in four states at the moment, but they are a low-cost natural foods store where I feel very comfortable buying food. Not the best I'm sure but a huge step up from big box stores. I can buy milk there which is local to the area and the meat is all free of hormones and additives.
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#5 of 30 Old 06-11-2010, 12:43 PM
 
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I totally see where you are coming from. I also live in the midwest but near a larger metro city. So I have a better chance of co-ops, food deliveries etc. We have done sides of meat such as beef and a whole pig which is costly upfront, but worth it since its then paid for. Not everyone of course can swing that.

With the long cold winter, its impossible to stock up fresh veggies etc. We have kept a garden several years. We can during harvest and our menu changes according to the season.

The only thing I can suggest is get creative. Yes my meat is not Certified organic, its from a hobby farmer I met thru his dd who I met on mdc. Same with my whole pig. A friend's brother is the pig farmer and no its not certified but I know the practices which are IMHO organic. Just like my backyard garden is organic because I planted it and know what I did and didnt do.
Chicken is the hardest one. DH came up with a creative solution. Halal meats. Its a bit more expensive than the mainstream grocery store chicken but better treated while raising, better tasting and nicer looking poultry. We cannot swing the almost $20 cost of a whole chicken that is certified organic, so we do the halal. I have talked to several muslim friends and they told me what halal means and it works for us.

Try to find a similar compromise??

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#6 of 30 Old 06-11-2010, 04:10 PM
 
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I hear you. Our food budget is EXTREMELY tight, and it's impossible to eat the way I want my family to eat.

We do have a large garden this year, and should eat fairly well out of it. And my aunt has chickens and so we get all the fresh eggs we can eat, and sometimes butchered chickens.

I have to feed my family, first and foremost. That is my number one priority. I wish I could buy local, organic meat, vegetables, dairy, and fruit, but I just can't. So I do what I can.
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#7 of 30 Old 06-11-2010, 04:15 PM
 
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I struggle with this a lot, too. I tend to go in phases-- I'll go through a phase where we go back to eating a lot of supermarket food, because I'm concerned about money. Then I read a book or see a website that gets me all fired up about ethical eating and good food etc. and I start buying local, organic, etc., again. Then a month or two go by, and I realize I'm WAY over budget, and I swing back the other way. It's a serious ongoing dilemma for me, and all I have figured out is that I have to make tough choices and set priorities.

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#8 of 30 Old 06-11-2010, 04:57 PM
 
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I understand where you are coming from. I started attending a lecture series last Fall titled Sustainable Planet: Food and became MUCH more aware of the food system on ALL levels (local, national, global). I've read a wide variety of books on the topic, too.

I agree with the PPs. Prioritize, search out other options, and do what you can. Every step you do take is another step towards bettering the system for everyone.

Each area has some unique aspects. Our area has no butchering facilities at all. Everything raised here (pastured or grain-fed, small or large, family-owned or commercial) is sent North to other counties for butchering/packaging and then sent back. The closest facility is over 100 miles away. We have pastured animals much closer, but the infrastructure isn't there yet.

We chose to support the closest turkey farm and butcher shop (unrelated except for distribution) doing the best they can for Thanksgiving. Sticker shock, for sure, but oh my did it ever taste soooooo GOOD!!! And, it made so many meals, and we were so much more aware of every little part of that bird and came up for uses for every scrap. In the end, we probably spent less per ounce last Thanksgiving than in years past, but that was through careful thought and usage and zero waste.

We joined a CSA this calendar year. In order to swing the cost and the "unknown" factor, we asked everyone we know if someone wanted to split the share with us in the beginning. Lots of interesting conversations! We split a large box ($30) every other week with another family. For our $30/month investment, we receive local, organic fruits and vegetables in season that last longer than, and taste better than, even our local health food store produce! (WAY better than the regular grocery store produce, even their organic produce isn't as tasty as our CSA. The hfs organic is very similar quality, but far more expensive.) We are learning the growing cycles unique to our area as a bonus. (Gardening literature is off-the-mark for this area!) Furthermore, we are eating a lot more fresh veggies year-round because it keeps coming every two weeks.

We garden, too, but our space is very small (think large patio in townhomes) and our soil is very challenging. I've been working on the soil for years (cheap and free methods) and have grown herbs in containers for three years now. We started growing veggies and fruits in the last calendar year (various timeframes), mostly in containers. We just planted veggies in the ground recently, but have been experimenting with "garbage" gardening for a lot longer. (Tossing whatever starts sprouting before we eat it out into the beds; neighbors and friends help us, too...LOL) We knew the garden beds were ready to support life when these random produce items began to GROW finally!!!! I got seeds in a cropswap (extras they were giving away free) one time and they are growing nicely in two spots (one container, some directly in the ground). I buy six-packs and single starter plants and other gardening supplies from a local, family-owned nursery. I'm more open for flowers and general containers to keep costs lower.

We have a mini co-op thing going in our neighborhood. Those of us in our HOA have banded together to share tools and labor to conserve space and money. We've expanded this to growing edibles, too. In our larger community, I have certain friends that we share things like this with, also. Within our playgroup (spread out in the city/county), we have done babysitting co-ops and food swaps and lots of other sharing groups. I never have to buy lemons, ever. I receive organic Meyer lemons from two different sources and other organic varieties from two additional sources. We love lemons! Obviously, this is just one example.

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#9 of 30 Old 06-11-2010, 08:33 PM
 
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Eating out "less than once a week" still sounds fairly often to me. Could you cut it down and use that money to buy a "fast" meal like pastured steak? I mean, if you're going to spend $30 anyway eating out, splurging on ethical meat doesn't seem so splurgy. Then if you get your fix of good meat, you might find it less difficult to go semi-vegetarian between times (if that's what you feel you need to do, ethics-wise).

I feel your pain - I was brought up to be very frugal (above considerations of ethics, taste or nutrition!), so it totally goes against the grain to buy expensive stuff. We have out no-nos - no MSG, which rules out cheaper bacon and sausages. I don't worry tooooo much about meat because NZ red meat is grass-fed by default, but I do need to switch to more red meat than chicken (as chickens are either uber-expensive or battery-farmed). I can't afford to worry about organic at the moment. I grow a bit of food, although honestly, a TINY percentage of what we eat - I'm not a very good gardener. We buy organic cheese because I got it once and the conventional stuff tasted like plastic afterwards.

But as it is, yeah - there's a definite element of privilege to healthy and ethical eating. DH just says nonchalantly "Oh well, I'll have to start earning heaps of money". We are lucky enough to get raw milk from a friend in exchange for my home baking, which works out way cheaper than the prices I see people paying here on MDC. He keeps my tin of biscuits in the shed, the milkers eat them up and everyone's happy. So - every place has its pros and cons. Find your area's, exploit them and don't angst too much about the rest.

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#10 of 30 Old 06-11-2010, 09:58 PM
 
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If you can buy local food in season and stock up it would help. I am waiting for strawberry season (end of June?) and plan on getting a bunch to make jam with and to freeze and use throughout the year. Apples are cheaper in the fall, etc.

As for meat, DH and I agreed that it's worth it to buy better quality meat even if it means we don't get to eat as much of it.

And we're having a garden this year. First ever, so we'll see how it goes. Ideally, I'd like to grow enough to last a good chunk of the winter and have focussed on root/squash crops that can be stored whole (turnip, beets, carrots, potatoes, parsnips, buttercup, spaghetti squash and pumpkin. We also eat a lot of tomato sauce (pasta, salsa, pizza sauce etc) so I'm trying to grow enough tomatoes to make a difference. (We'll freeze sauce because I'm just not into learning how to can this year on top of everything else going on!) I have high hopes!

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#11 of 30 Old 06-11-2010, 11:54 PM
 
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First of all, organic doesn't necessarily mean ethical. Salon had a great expose years ago about what a nasty company Horizon is. The big store brand organics may or may not be great, so don't beat yourself up too much. I think the best way you can eat ethically is to keep up what you're doing and incorporate more small, local farmers into the mix (like you're doing with beef). I think ethical eating means supporting your local economy and eating as much food grown in season as possible. I also think it means that if you're going to eat animal products, eating those you know were treated well.

You can also think about keeping chickens. We live in the city and have them and it's been really wonderful.

Our family of 3 eats really well and almost all of our animal products are locally raised by people we know (including our selves). We spend about $400/month. We get meat from one farm, milk from another, and have our own chickens. We buy cheese, coffee, dry goods, etc at our co-op and grocery stores and we grow as much as we can in our little yard. We're regulars at the farmers market. We also only eat a small amount of meat- much less than most Americans. Since it's so expensive, we almost never eat meat as our main dish.

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#12 of 30 Old 06-12-2010, 04:57 AM
 
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Chicken is the hardest one. DH came up with a creative solution. Halal meats. Its a bit more expensive than the mainstream grocery store chicken but better treated while raising, better tasting and nicer looking poultry. We cannot swing the almost $20 cost of a whole chicken that is certified organic, so we do the halal. I have talked to several muslim friends and they told me what halal means and it works for us.
Just so you know, in terms of animal treatment what halal is supposed to mean and what it means in practice fairly often does not match up. As with any food it's good practice to know your sources.
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#13 of 30 Old 06-12-2010, 06:00 AM
 
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It is my priority to eat a pure diet. I would live in an RV before I would compromise. The wage earner here was laid off work 4 mo ago. He has had no luck finding a job yet. We are currently getting $450 a month in FS. I was spending $800 a month on food. We never eat out. I am eating a lot less meat. We don't do dairy anyway. We are GFCFSF. The flour is more expensive that's for sure. I watched Food Inc and part of Earthlings, and I want to be vegan but am struggling with it as of now. I make almond milk for baking and such. Oil is a big expense, but it is organic olive and organic sunflower. I do compromise where I can. For instance, I will buy non organic bananas and watermelon and asparagus. I will not buy strawberries, spinach or bell peppers unless they are organic. Here is a Greenopolis guide http://greenopolis.com/myopolis/blog...nt-buy-organic . I am still eating chicken and eggs at this time. I get ethically raised and fed chicken at the organic store. I want to find a new place to get eggs since finding out about the cleaning that even organic eggs get http://articles.mercola.com/sites/ar...ery-store.aspx . If it were up to me, I would have a couple of chickens in the back yard eating our scraps that we open compost, and collect their eggs. But winters are harsh and long here and the person that owns this house won't even let me put up a clothesline, let alone get chickens.... The organic dried beans are pretty cheap and I am eating them more. I also buy nuts and dried fruit which I eat a lot. OP since the store is so far away, you could consider Azure and I agree growing it ourselves is the way. I have a plot out back but I am not doing it all right, and the climate here is bad for gardening..... Last year I only had one zucchini plant grow big enough to produce squash... I think this year will be better but it is mid June and things are only an inch or two high.... I will get it right one year though gg

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#14 of 30 Old 06-12-2010, 06:06 AM
 
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I can definitely relate. I try to buy local (or at least within the country- I'm in NZ, so none of it is too far away!) & buy organic the things that are high on the pesticide list & are also regularly available at my local grocery & not too ridiculously expensive (apples & carrots mostly). I also try to buy in season.

I will only buy free range eggs, I don't compromise on that. Having your own chickens is a great idea! It's actually fairly common for people to have chickens here, even in the suburbs! I know it can be trickier in the US depending on the neighborhood (& neighbors!).

We are vegetarian so don't buy meat, but I feel a bit guilty about the generic brand milk & cheese we buy regularly. Buying the posh good stuff is just too much though! I had to give up soy milk for myself because of cost.

Other than that, I try to stick to the outer isles. I also buy flour, spices & dried beans in bulk.

p.s. animals acually suffer quite a bit with halaal styles of butchering.

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#15 of 30 Old 06-12-2010, 11:34 AM
 
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I tend to think perfectionistic thinking is what's preventing most people from even trying.

Make the small changes you can and keep your eyes open for opportunities. We do a CSA for meat/eggs/root veggies in the winter and for veggies & fruit in the summer, but we didn't start there. We started with small changes - more meatless meals, keeping an eye on sales for organics, looking for alternate sources, shopping farmers' markets. Our next step is doing more of our own preserving.

Don't guilt yourself as you find your way. It's a journey, not a destination.

It will come!

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#16 of 30 Old 06-12-2010, 01:42 PM
 
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i totally totally understand you. ive read a lot of books / articles etc, watched movies that just made me want to go organic NOW, never buy a burger from a fast food place, etc. which i can't really afford to do on our current budget. we still do it most of the times, and sacrifice in other areas, but man, check out counters make me sick...
actually, ive recently read a very good book "green gone wrong" that gave me a good perspective on the "green" trends, its not all rosy and wondeful.

we eat a lot of beans / lentils - good source of protein and cheap, even the good organic varieties.
sometimes frozen stuff is cheaper then fresh and we buy that, freezing still preserves vitamins. except you have to be watchful of the country of origin. a lot of frozen produce comes from somewhere like china and then its quality is questionable.
ive also found small natural grocers store that carries good organic stuff that costs only a portion of the same thing at whole foods, thats where we shop mostly.
buying fruit / veggies that are in season is better, even if they are not organic, stuff that grew when it was supposed to grow probably received less chemicals than something like strawberries grown in december.
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#17 of 30 Old 06-12-2010, 02:38 PM
 
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Just curious - for those of you who suggest gardening, do you live in a warm climate or produce enough to store for the winter? We live in the northeast and gardening is a 3-4 month thing, not a year round thing. I can't imagine producing enough to get us produce year round. The same holds true for farmer's markets, which are open July - Oct.

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#18 of 30 Old 06-12-2010, 11:11 PM
 
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Just curious - for those of you who suggest gardening, do you live in a warm climate or produce enough to store for the winter? We live in the northeast and gardening is a 3-4 month thing, not a year round thing. I can't imagine producing enough to get us produce year round. The same holds true for farmer's markets, which are open July - Oct.
We have a short gardening season. I planted a fairly large garden and hope to get a lot out of it. Some veggies can be 'root cellared', dried, frozen, or canned. Sure, it's a shorter growing season, you just need to plan a little bit more. I expect it would take a bit of trial and error to get the garden growing well and to know how much we would need to put by. I'm sure it will takes years to get it right, but in the meantime, every little bit helps.

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#19 of 30 Old 06-13-2010, 01:27 PM
 
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Just curious - for those of you who suggest gardening, do you live in a warm climate or produce enough to store for the winter? We live in the northeast and gardening is a 3-4 month thing, not a year round thing. I can't imagine producing enough to get us produce year round. The same holds true for farmer's markets, which are open July - Oct.
We garden from May-November here. Farmers' markets are open about the same time. We *try* to eat seasonally, and I also try to store for the winter. Last year, I was able to can 100 quarts of tomatoes (purchased tomatoes--we didn't grow that many), plus we ate fresh from July to September. So, we ate canned/jarred ones from Sept-July.

I would rather eat frozen or canned/jarred vegetables in the winter that the anemic ones we get in the grocery store. Mostly, though, that's a taste preference, and part of me being a picky eater. I just don't eat fresh tomatoes or peaches in January. I can't force myself to do it. So, for me, preserving stuff in season is the way I make sure that we have access to it year round.
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#20 of 30 Old 06-13-2010, 03:53 PM
 
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You can do pick your own berries at some farms that don't spray. Then you can freeze some of it. Also I grow a bit in my backyard - blueberries and blackberries in addition to my garden. My Dad grows a lot of fruit too and he shares. I also found some local people who sell pastured eggs for $2/dozen. I've also been trying to eat more beans and lentils and I usually buy frozen fruit instead of fresh. If I can't afford to get organic then I try to follow the dirty dozen list. Sometimes it helps to ask around people who live near you to see if there are cheaper farms you haven't heard of. Also some people with gardens have extra produce they love to share.

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#21 of 30 Old 06-13-2010, 06:49 PM
 
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I'm in a similar position as the OP. I am feeding a family of five adult sized people and three littles. It's HARD. We have similar convictions about local, free range, humanely treated animal protein sources but with the added difficulty of kosher slaughter. Yikes!

We are mostly vegetarian. There's just no other choice for us. We only eat meat on the Sabbath and even then it's rare than we eat beef. We occasionally eat fish during the week.
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#22 of 30 Old 06-13-2010, 07:10 PM
 
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Just curious - for those of you who suggest gardening, do you live in a warm climate or produce enough to store for the winter? We live in the northeast and gardening is a 3-4 month thing, not a year round thing. I can't imagine producing enough to get us produce year round. The same holds true for farmer's markets, which are open July - Oct.
Well, it depends on how far you take it. You can just have it help during the warm months. Or you can grow enough to preserve the bounty (canning, freezing, drying, pickling, etc.).

I live in Northwest MA and I'm only experimenting with gardening at this point (not because I'm not interested but I have a seriously shady yard and my past attempts have failed; this year I seem to have maybe hit on a small location that is working though).

But around here, winter farmer's markets started gaining steam as of last winter. They had one around November, before Thanksgiving - and it was so well-attended that they planned two more over the winter (both also well-attended). Some people might think "what do you grow in winter in MA?" - a winter market would involve root cellared items harvested in the fall. They keep really well. I had onions last me until May. Garlic until April. Beets lasted a while (not as long as onions though), etc.

Our CSA also has worked to lengthen the season. They offer a main season share and a full season share - the latter of which lasted until February of this year. I think next winter it will last until March. We ate a lot of potatoes (sweet and regular) and squashes and carrots and the other things I mentioned.

I believe meat was also offered during the winter but I'm not sure of the details. Our dairy farm has a couple of large freezers of meat; I think over the winter they didn't restock much but everyone just kept whittling away at the cuts (the most expensive bits are always the last to get sold). Chickens are a summer and fall meat if you're doing pastured. A farm with layer hens did a cull in December, that was the last of the chicken for the year. Some pigs were slaughtered in February or so too.

Anyway, sorry for the novel (I tend to do that) but the point is just that even in the northeast, food is available for most of the year (March and April being the only months I really just shopped at the grocery store).

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#23 of 30 Old 06-14-2010, 12:26 AM
 
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Well, it depends on how far you take it. You can just have it help during the warm months. Or you can grow enough to preserve the bounty (canning, freezing, drying, pickling, etc.).

I live in Northwest MA and I'm only experimenting with gardening at this point (not because I'm not interested but I have a seriously shady yard and my past attempts have failed; this year I seem to have maybe hit on a small location that is working though).

But around here, winter farmer's markets started gaining steam as of last winter. They had one around November, before Thanksgiving - and it was so well-attended that they planned two more over the winter (both also well-attended). Some people might think "what do you grow in winter in MA?" - a winter market would involve root cellared items harvested in the fall. They keep really well. I had onions last me until May. Garlic until April. Beets lasted a while (not as long as onions though), etc.

Our CSA also has worked to lengthen the season. They offer a main season share and a full season share - the latter of which lasted until February of this year. I think next winter it will last until March. We ate a lot of potatoes (sweet and regular) and squashes and carrots and the other things I mentioned.

I believe meat was also offered during the winter but I'm not sure of the details. Our dairy farm has a couple of large freezers of meat; I think over the winter they didn't restock much but everyone just kept whittling away at the cuts (the most expensive bits are always the last to get sold). Chickens are a summer and fall meat if you're doing pastured. A farm with layer hens did a cull in December, that was the last of the chicken for the year. Some pigs were slaughtered in February or so too.

Anyway, sorry for the novel (I tend to do that) but the point is just that even in the northeast, food is available for most of the year (March and April being the only months I really just shopped at the grocery store).
I was just about to respond to Sunflower Mama but you said much of what I was going to say. I would just add though that I live in Maine and due to the growth of the eat local movement we now have winter farmers markets/CSA's. Last winter we had tons of storage items like potatoes, cabbage, leeks, etc. Our storage stuff lasted straight into April so there really was not that great of a gap between the fresh local stuff. Also using the u pick places of you preserve your stuff you will have a lot to last the winter. I know plenty of folks who preserve and create a storehouse of goodies to get through the winter.

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#24 of 30 Old 06-14-2010, 01:09 AM
 
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I also vote for the gardening angle. It's hits both the ethics and budgets aspects of food. Not only that but it tastes better.

If space is an issue-there's all sorts of options you can try. There's containers, you can try some plants inside, just like other houseplants, and there's even topsy turveys. Just work within what you have. If you only have 5ft of balcony on a top floor apartment, well, maybe all you get is a tomato and a pepper plant or something. It's important to remember that every tomato you eat from your own plant is one less purchased from the store. Also, you can look into community gardens. Some require that you rent space, some require that you trade space for work, some that you trade space for a donation of some of your harvest to a food bank.

If time is an issue-squeeze as much as you can into the time you have. Most everything can be frozen or canned in some way. Grow as much as you can, and freeze everything that you can't eat right away. Also, some plants do well in cool weather, like broccoli and cabbage. Last year, I was pulling the last of my cabbage heads in December, and I am in the midwest, so it had snowed on them a couple of times. And when time do put all the work in is an issue, consider sharing it. My mom and I share our gardens. This year she has cukes, melons, onions and peas, and I have green beans, lettuce, zukes and jalapenos. We both have green peppers and toms and then we combine our harvests to make salsa and canned tomatos that we split, and we share the cukes, zukes, peas, beans, melons and lettuce. And we share the work of weeding among both gardens. Weeding goes a lot faster when there are two of you doing it, even with two gardens.

And, a seperate tip-coupons and strategic shopping. It's very true that there are rarely coupons for fresh and organic. But there's a lot of other stuff, like toiletries that you can save big on, and use that savings for the more expensive food. And, even for stuff that doesn't have coupons, when there's a great sale, stock up and freeze. The key with strategic shopping is to buy when the stuff is at it's cheapest, and preserve it, so that when you need it, you already have it, rather than buying only what you need when you need it. It really is cheaper that way, I have been doing it for a few months and cut my monthly grocery budget by like $200 (I do include toiletries, pet supplies and baby diapers in that cost). As an example, using extra bucks and coupons, I got 4 boxes of tampons and a razor for my dd last night, for free. And tomorrow, I will be getting about 5 packages of baby wipes for free, because Walmart has them clearanced for $1.97 and a coupon came out last week for $2 off on package of wipes, I have 5 of those.


Just start small with whatever you do and work slowly on making little improvements here and there-start your garden with just a few plants, then expand after a few years. Learn to coupon with just one or two key stores or items and work your way from there.
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#25 of 30 Old 06-14-2010, 04:23 AM
 
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I've been trying to green my groceries as well. We are trying to feed a family of three and a half (pregnant mama!) on about 200 a month. We do a lot of shopping at Aldi's, which doesn't give you a lot of organic options at all, but it does stretch the budget. We do have a costco membership, so we've decided to try to do once a month shopping there with a trader joe's trip thrown in at the same time (both a long distant drive). We're also hoping to get to some u pick farms this summer. We haven't yet because a lot of things have come up, but we are looking forward to it and then doing some freezing. My sister has a co worker that has grapes he's going to let us have too, and mulberries. If I could ever figure out how to crack them, my parents have black walnuts in their backyard. So these things will help as well.
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#26 of 30 Old 06-14-2010, 09:41 AM
 
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We prioritize.

Meat and milk are critical to me. And quality meat and milk are expensive, so honestly we eat a LOT less of these than other families. I buy small amount of meat and about a gallon of milk a week for 5 people. Our meat comes from a local family that we know and trust, same with the milk.

I do the CSA share in the summer, we u-pick a lot and freeze (I am not much of a canner yet), and we have a big garden where I grow a LOT of greens, onions, eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes, beans, melons, cukes, and herbs. The gardening helps, but it does not feed us. But it does add a little more to the table that is local, fresh and organic without breaking the bank. We are fortunate to have started with good soil and sun.

The rest? I do my best, but it is not perfect. I buy rice and beans in 25 pound sacks, same with wheat free flour. And then I simply go to the local grocery store and get the rest. It's the best I can do right now with what I have available to me.

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#27 of 30 Old 06-14-2010, 10:54 AM
 
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Just curious - for those of you who suggest gardening, do you live in a warm climate or produce enough to store for the winter? We live in the northeast and gardening is a 3-4 month thing, not a year round thing. I can't imagine producing enough to get us produce year round. The same holds true for farmer's markets, which are open July - Oct.
Another MA mom here. I garden but I don't grow the typical things like tomatoes. I try to grow what will last through the colder months- winter squashes, turnips, beets, parsnips, carrots, garlic, onion, potatoes, etc and things that I can't afford at the outrageous store prices- tomatillos, lettuces, ground cherries, strawberries, raspberries, etc.

When I first started I had trouble spending money on non-gm, organic seeds, etc. But now I realize that I am getting my money's worth! $40 land rental fee, about $20-40 on seeds/plants annually and I would easily pay over $900 in the grocery store for what I produce. I save seeds, transplant annuals (strawberries, raspberries) to keep them healthy and producing. Plus there is something very satisfying about eating what you grow.

Me.  With 1 spouse, 4 kids, 16 chickens, 74 matchbox cars, 968,562+ legos, a dishwasher waiting to be emptied, a washing machine waiting to be filled and a lost cup of tea in the house.

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#28 of 30 Old 06-14-2010, 11:35 AM
 
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Just curious - for those of you who suggest gardening, do you live in a warm climate or produce enough to store for the winter? We live in the northeast and gardening is a 3-4 month thing, not a year round thing. I can't imagine producing enough to get us produce year round. The same holds true for farmer's markets, which are open July - Oct.
I live in Idaho so growing season is 3-4 months. I grow alot, trade with friends, pick at u-pick farms and preserve it all. It doesn't last us all winter usually. We do still have some berries and shredded zucchini now, but that's it until July when my garden starts producing. But I hate grocery produce in the winter, so we stick with frozen or canned and just wait until summer when we can have fresh.
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#29 of 30 Old 06-14-2010, 08:44 PM
 
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Just so you know, in terms of animal treatment what halal is supposed to mean and what it means in practice fairly often does not match up. As with any food it's good practice to know your sources.
Funny you say, I was told the exact same thing. I had a few people point us in the direction of what should be done and from places with a rep of doing just that.

"The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly out distances us."
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#30 of 30 Old 06-15-2010, 11:14 AM - Thread Starter
 
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OP here. Thanks, everyone, for your thoughtful responses. I have really been thinking about this (brooding upon?) for several days. I don't want to get lost in the whirlwind of despair when I think about multinational corporations and such, but it is just so easy to do.

I appreciate the links, and I loved the idea of winter CSAs -- I am going to ask around about those.

Also, when I was running into the library the other day, the librarian stopped me and we were chatting for a second & she introduced me to a group of people who happened to be meeting there that morning -- they are a local "Transitions USA" group starting up in my county, working to bring sustainability to our area (not easy to do in a northern mining/lumber area). They asked me if I wanted to join them, and I am. Perhaps I can help effect local change.

Also, it looks like I may have to learn to garden and can.... More to think about there. I have a black thumb, but I've always justified it by supporting *other people's* stands at the farmer's market.

Thank you for giving me a lot to think about --- practical steps that I can do which will help me to do -something-. I love MDC.

Mama to A 8/05 and S 11/06
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