The Grocery Store Rebellion continues…
This week, we didn’t buy much in the way of weekly food. Instead, I invested my money and time in prepping tomatoes for the year ahead. We learned several things this week, one of which is the vast importance of networking. Very few of us can self-sufficiently provide every bite of food we eat. There are a variety of reasons for this.
Perhaps you don’t have enough (or any) land for growing produce and raising meat. Maybe there are restrictions from your HOA regarding what you are allowed to do in your own yard. You could be living through a drought or just having a bad gardening year.
But if you know others who have a surplus, this can help you on your way to breaking up with the grocery store. By getting to know your local growers, sometimes the stiff regulations laid out by the government can be circumvented legally, without risk to either party. By using your skills to turn other people’s goods into delicious edibles, you can still provide valuable commodities, even if your own garden lies wilting behind fence. (Find local farmers HERE)
Where’s the beef?
Where’s the beef? Oh yeah…the USDA has it and they are holding it hostage.
The hardest thing to find outside of the grocery store is meat. I did find a fellow at the local farmer’s market selling meat that he raises. I purchased a few items to try them out. This way, before making a huge bulk purchase I can be assured we like the items. I bought ground lamb, grass-fed beef (which we know we love), pork tenderloin, and the most delicious bacon we’ve ever had. I still have a few whole chickens in my fridge, and next week we intend to try rabbit.
The biggest issue with finding local meat is that to be sold, it must be approved by a USDA inspector. This is quite costly and it rules out the sale from most small farmers, unless they dedicate themselves specifically to raising meat animals and sell them in enough quantity to allow for the inspection of a great deal of meat all at once. Some believe this is for our own safety, while others believe that it is a way to regulate the small organic farmer right out of business. The added cost is passed on to the consumer, making the purchase of local, grass-fed meat out of reach for most people. We’re talking about $9 and up per pound, and that is simply unsustainable on a tight budget. It blows my mind that CAFO-raised meat, which is far riskier for things like mad cow disease (triggered when cows consume other cows in their feed) and e coli, is perfectly acceptable to the USDA but a cow that grazes in a pasture raises all sorts of “concerns” for our safety. Personally, I’ll take my chances with the cow that eats grass over the confined, tortured animals in vile factory-farmed conditions any day of the week.
Here are the ways around it that I have found (and just so the USDA doesn’t hunt me down, I’m not suggesting that others throw caution to the wind, don dark sunglasses, and make a stealth visit to their local beef farmer):
Check out your local farmer’s market – there are still a few folks who brave the regulations and sell meat
Buy in bulk – when you buy a quarter of a cow or a half of a pig, the price drops dramatically.
Raise your own meat – chickens and rabbits can be raised in a suburban backyard in many areas.
Make friends that raise meat.
Learn who might consider barter as a payment option.
Check out Azure Standard and see if there are drop-offs in your area. The chicken is raised in a much better environment than the poor creatures that end up in the refrigerator case at the grocery store.
Here’s what we ate this week.
Local items, including stuff from my garden, are marked with a star *. Freezer items are marked with an (F). Pantry items are marked with a (P). We went out to dinner one night, and some meals were repeated because we ate leftovers.
Yogurt* with blackberries*
Omelettes* with bacon*, onion*, bell pepper*, cheddar*, and tomato*
Toast (F) with peanut butter (P) and blueberry jam *
Eggs* with bacon *, raspberries*
Oatmeal (P) with raspberries* and walnuts(P)
Bacon (F), lettuce*, and tomato* sandwich (F)
Creamy* tomato* soup with dill*
Black beans (P), rice (P), and salsa*
Zucchini* slaw with leftover chicken*
Lamb* meatballs with oregano*, tzatziki with homemade yogurt*, cucumber*, and garlic*, chard* salad
Roast beef* with potatoes*, carrots*, green beans*
Stir fry with leftover roast beef* and purple beans*
Leftover chicken* sauteed with chard*, carrot strips*, and garlic*
Baked peppers* stuff with leftover beef* and rice*, topped with marinara*
Meatballs made from local lamb* and beef*, marinara sauce*, baked eggplant*
Zucchini candy* (check out how easy this is to make!)
Veggies (bell pepper*, zucchini*, cucumber*) with yogurt* dip seasoned with minced garlic* and dill*
Fruit: raspberries*, watermelon*
Baked goodies from the farmer’s market
Here’s what I preserved this week
A local friend’s father gardens on a scale that I can only dream of. Every few days she calls me and I go to her home and pick up another 20-30 pounds of tomatoes for a bargain price, particularly since these are colorful, juicy heirloom varieties.
This is what 52 pounds of tomatoes turns into (not including the stuff we ate):
Thus far I’ve put back 7 quarts of plain sauce, 14 quarts of soup base, 8 quarts of marinara sauce, and 4 pints of salsa. I have plans for more marinara,more salsa, pizza sauce, enchilada sauce, and homemade ketchup. If I’m lucky enough to get all of that made before the windfall runs out, I’ll start drying them in the dehydrator.
I was excited to use my fancy new Ninja food processor – it made the job go far faster. I never thought I would love another kitchen appliance as much as my Vitamix, but I actually prefer the Ninja. Sorry, Vitamix, I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, but I’ve grown and you stayed stuck in your ways since we got together 14 years ago. I have to confess that I promptly sliced open my thumb on the blades of the food processor when taking it out of the box, despite numerous brightly-colored warnings throughout the box. The warnings were right – the blades are indeed quite sharp.
Injuries aside, another very real plus to the Ninja is that it is less than half the price of the Vitamix. I’d strongly recommend either unit if you do a lot of scratch cooking and food preparation.
Here’s what we learned.
This week was a little bit frustrating. We ended up grabbing food out several times this week because of a lack of time. There was nothing close at hand for a fast meal. Also, I felt like our protein selections were lacking, and putting together a school lunch, a task I usually enjoy, was much more difficult than normal. This makes me aware that we were relying on processed food far more than I had thought we were.
I need to do more food prep so that we have things that we can grab more quickly for a meal. So, this long weekend, I’ve made (and am still working on) some goodies for the week ahead:
- Roast beef
- Zucchini “candy”
- Gluten-free zucchini and carrot bread
- Homemade vanilla pudding
- Veggie “chips”
We also learned that Swiss chard tastes like lawn clippings – at least to our palates. We tried it uncooked in a salad with a flavorful vinaigrette and sauteed with meat and garlic. This discovery is particularly unfortunate since it is the only thing in my entire garden that is thriving with weed-like abandon. No nurturing required – we will soon have chard running out our ears. So the search is on for a way to make it that is, at the very least, acceptable.
I’m not a very good gardener. I never thought I had particularly green thumb but in the past I’ve been able to provide a decent amount of food – at least enough to keep us from needing to buy produce in the summer. This year, what I produced in my raised beds might be enough to keep us in veggies for a week, if you added all of it together from planting time until right now. The broccoli isn’t looking very promising, and the carrots and cauliflower didn’t sprout at all. But the good news is, I’m continuing to try. I’m making adjustments, starting replacement seeds, and moving raised beds to more optimum locations. My herbs are finally taking off, and my poor, sad wilted lettuce is rallying.
How was your week?
So, there’s the update for our week. Even if you aren’t jumping into the rebellion with both feet, did you use some things you harvested from your garden this week? If you ARE participating in the rebellion, how did it go? Share the details in the comments below.