Another Real Food Menu Plan

    It is spring! We had our first day back at the CSA where we volunteer. It was a wonderful, beautiful day! With the warm spring we have had, the farm has harvested quite a bit already and the garden plots are all very green. One of our favorite parts of going to the farm is the critters we get to see. Yesterday, we had the delight of seeing a low flying blue heron as well as a pair of bright orange orioles making a nest. As always, we were able to bring home some yummy food. I am excited to try my new dehydrator on the pile of chives I brought home. It’s always a great day on the farm and I know we will have many wonderful meals from the food we get to bring home. Most of the produce we froze last summer is gone. It’s time to use up the rest and make room for the summer bounty. I have also been taking classes at the farm on foraging and natural medicine. I have spent time reading and learning more about it on Frugally Sustainable     and Common Sense Homesteading    , as well. I’m looking forward to collecting the medicines God has provided, should we need them. Also this summer, I’m planning to try my hand at fermenting veggies.

While pulling radishes (some of them a little curly), we found a few tiny stray red oak lettuce leaves and some lamb’s quarter to nibble. We each even had one sweet strawberry. Yum! Looks like there might be more of that sweet, delicious redness to come….

    Real food is simple. It can be as simple as eating a giant radish you just pulled from the ground, but cooked meals are great, too. On that note, I have prepared another menu plan     for you to check out. Please let me know what you think.

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I Gave Up Grocery Shopping

I don’t really like grocery shopping. It always seems to take longer than it should, cost more than it should and they don’t always have what I want. Not to mention all the things I forget to put on the list or have on the list but forget anyhow. Ugh! There are real, whole food choices, but many stores are limited in their selection.

I don’t like to grocery shop, but I do like to save money when I can. Buying lower quality does not save money, so how can I? I’ve looked into a variety of ways. Previously, I posted about a local bulk buying club I planned to check out. That didn’t turn out quite like I expected. The person running the club was a very busy person and by the time she added me to her email list (this literally took months), I had found alternatives I liked better. Besides, before I could even place an order, her son called and left a message. He wanted my help on a nutrition project he was working on. I thought, not sure why he called me, but ok, I’m all for helping in educational pursuits. Turns out his project was to sell me nutritional supplements. He’s not getting a passing grade on that project. I have no plans to pursue that club any further. The prices on some items were slightly better than what I have since found, but not that much.

I have looked at warehouse club stores. LOTS of food, some choices that are “real food”, hit-or-miss if they have it when you want it.

Delivered to your door fresh, local, organic produce – Part 1. I tried this a couple of years ago for a few months. Produce was delivered in a recycled cardboard box during the night and there when we woke up. It started off ok, but after a while I started getting a few bad items. The company had issues and went out of business and they referred us to another similar company. We were a bit gun-shy after the previous experience and never signed up again.

Delivered to your door fresh, local, organic produce – Part 2. We didn’t sign up that is, until a month ago. I have a trusted friend who has been a customer of the company to which I was referred for a year now. She has never had any trouble. The farm we volunteer at helps supply the company and I KNOW the farm’s food is awesome. Then I got a coupon, so I went for it.

Green B.E.A.N. Delivery offers different sizes of produce bins you can have delivered to your door every week or every other week. They come during the day in insulated plastic bins with freezer packs to keep everything fresh. Besides the produce, they offer a huge variety of other foods, such as milk, cheese, grains & flour, nuts, dried fruit, eggs and meat. Most of it is local and organic or sustainably grown/raised. Almost everything on my list. You have a few days each week to add or adjust what will be delivered to you. It’s no wonder their customer base has grown x10 in recent years! Plus, if you need to skip a week because you will be out of town, no problem. If you decide it isn’t working out for your family (not likely though), no problem. The prices are great and they have weekly sales. It is a doable option on a frugal budget. Locals: If you want to try it out, I have coupons I’m willing to share. 🙂

Amazon Subscribe & Save. We buy very few packaged products: a few canned items such as tuna, pumpkin and tomatoes and a few boxed items, such as crackers. At the suggestion of another wonderful friend, I have found many of these items are cheaper on Amazon with their Subscribe and Save program. You purchase multiple packs – I hesitate to say bulk, because it’s not quite as much as that term connotes – and sign up to receive this quantity every so often, every 2 months for example. You can cancel or adjust the subscription at any time. I received a 15% discount on an already competitive price, making this delivered option cheaper than the store.

Farmer’s markets and CSAs. I have blogged about these several times before. Wonderful options and opportunities to know your farmer! This year, we will be growing some of our own food.

I still go to the grocery store for a few specific items that I have found cheaper there, especially when they are on sale. But I’m thankful I no longer have to scour ads, walk the aisles, frustrate myself with forgotten items…. I’m also very thankful for friends who share what they know!

For those who have asked, a couple of resources:

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Think Outside The Box

We get used to buying from the grocery, but there are many other options.

Farmers’ markets: During the growing season, you can find a farmer’s market on nearly every corner. My hubby’s work has even started a farmer’s market for employees. Now that’s the way to think outside the box! It would be great for more employers to follow their lead and give employees easy access to fresh produce. Check out Eat Local Cincinnati to find a farmer’s market near you (some are open even in winter).

Speaking of farmer’s markets and SNAP benefits budget, Ohio has a program for food assistance recipients to access locally grown produce at farmer’s markets (2010 Ohio list has 41 farmer’s market locations listed that accept the benefit card, hopefully this program will grow).

CSAs: Pay ahead, work or both to get a share of the farmer’s harvest. You can search for CSAs near you.

Order for pickup: There are places that allow you to order your food and they will pack it up to be ready for you to pick it up. There might be member fees or minimum order amounts required. With this option, you don’t get to personally select items for purchase (which tomato looks most appealing to you), but it might save you some time shopping. You might also have access to items not available at the grocery store.

Sam’s Club Click ‘n’ Pull — variety of grocery available

Grassland Graze — grass-fed beef

Locally Harvested For You — meat, dairy, produce and other locally produced food items

Order for delivery: You order the food, they bring it to your door. There is generally a delivery charge and may be member fees. You don’t get to personally select items for purchase, but this might save you some shopping time as well as driving time and gas use.

Meijer — variety of packaged, shelf stable foods available for delivery.

Green BEAN Delivery — like a CSA, local produce and other items available.

Grow your own: Couldn’t get fresher or more local than straight from your own garden. You control what food to grow and how it’s grown. Cheaper than the grocery, but more work involved. You can find plenty of options to purchase organic, heirloom seeds or plants with an internet search.

We have tried all of these options (though not all of the places listed) and I believe they all have advantages worth considering. Where have you shopped Outside the Box?