Mindful Mama posted a great article about eating locally and in season. I thought I’d share it for you all to check out too!
Shared via AddThis
Mindful Mama posted a great article about eating locally and in season. I thought I’d share it for you all to check out too!
Shared via AddThis
A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a writer for the Denver Post. He was doing an article on Urban Homesteading. Cool! Yes I was interested in talking to him (and thrilled he might be interested in talking to me, just based on my blog here). After a few emails back and forth, he ended up not being able to meet up with Rick and I as scheduled… his deadline was too close.
However, I wanted to share the article with you all. Looks like there’s a trend going here in the Mile High City. Glad to say we’re more than three years into it ourselves… And cool to see others in Englewood (my town) and other places in the Denver-metro area that are doing it too.
Check out the article: Green (1/8) Acres Sprout in the City by Douglas J. Brown.
Well… asparagus season is upon us! Today I drove up to the CSA farm to pick asparagus! Yum! I picked two rows, not sure what that equates to in pounds of asparagus, but I will find out as I put most of it up for storage tonight (and I’ll probably report back as well). But, oh! The sweet green shoots just called my name as I picked! And I happily munched as I went along filling my big bags. Henry enjoyed munching behind me as we went too! Thanks to the Monroe’s who can sell their spears for $8/pound at the market for letting us take all we wanted!
I read a couple of cool blogs today and wanted to share quickly: the first was found on Hen & Harvest, called Convenience Store(d) Food. Wendy shared some great recipes for pudding mixes. I had done a Thrifty Thursday post about making your own mixes a couple months back, and thought this would be a great addition to it.
Then I followed the link to Wendy’s blog, Home Is, and saw she was doing something called the Independence Days Challenge. This led me to another blog, where it seems the challenge (at least on the web) started. Check it out: Sharon’s Independence Days Challenge. I really like the idea, and I’m going to try my hand at participating. I hope you all find this interesting, and that I do as well.
The basic idea of the challenge is to do something each day or week or weekend that gets you closer to your goals (for example #91 on my 101 in 1001 list). Basically, that big change can come from little things. I like how Sharon put it:
It is easy to forget how important this “little stuff” is – easy to think that your little garden doesn’t matter very much, or that your preparations won’t be enough. But we should also remember the exponential power of saying “no” and doing for ourselves. The corrollary of the fact that every calorie of food takes 10 of fossil fuels is that every stir fry or salad you eat from your garden saves 10 times the oil as the calories contained within it. The fact that almost every packaged ingredient uses 7 times as much energy to create that packaging means that your choice to buy bulk oatmeal just saved 7 times as much energy as the package contains.
In 1944, American Victory Gardens grew as much produce as did every vegetable farm in the country – fully half US produce came from home gardens. And while no one was sufficient, all together were something big. Every bite of food you grow, every bite you preserve, every bit of waste you reduce is a contribution to a larger project – keeping everyone fed. Every bit of compost you add to your soil, every bit of organic matter, every tree you plant is a contributor to a larger project – storing some of our emissions in soil, so we can have a future. Small things are the roots of vast and powerful ones.
Every kid who tastes a cherry tomato or a strawberry from your garden comes away with something that they take back to their homes and forward to the future. Every neighbor who stops to chat as grow on your lawn or water the peppers in containers on your stoop is a new connection in your community, and a potential future gardener. Every seed you plant multiplies and produces a hundred, or a thousand more seeds for next year (not to mention the food). Every dollar you save you save on groceries that goes to the food pantry means your plot feeds not just you, but others. Every time you point out that you are storing food and preparing for a different future, even if people don’t get it, a seed is planted somewhere in the back of their heads, where they realize…people kind of like me think about this stuff. The future depends on a whole lot of little things.
I’m excited about it, though I’m starting the challenge a bit late. :) But here goes! There are seven categories in the challenge, and you are supposed to do something in each one. The categories are:
Make sure to read the challenge for details on each category if you’re curious or you decide to join the challenge too. I’ll report in weekly… Wish me luck!
For the month, our total is $398.56. This includes the trip to the farmer’s market and a smoothie from Whole Foods Saturday, two trips to Chick-Fil-A (although Rick packs his lunch, he just can’t seem to keep away –it’s addicting!), and I took a friend to coffee at a local shop (but the coffee was only $2.50 for the both of us). We count as a family of four, since I’m pregnant, but that is even under the family of 3 limit. We still have $64.44 (if we counted as three) to spend for the month, and that is good, since I know we will need milk, some greens, and some lunch stuff before the week’s over. But I don’t expect to surpass the limit.
Crunchy Chicken didn’t have the success she expected on this challenge, and from the looks of the comments on her wrap up, neither did most of her readers, though most remained optimistic that it was possible. One of the readers at Crunchy Chicken’s blog commented:
I admit, I find the “you can do it but we didn’t” message a little troubling in this particular challenge. Most people who have to live on food stamp budgets don’t really have the option of going over – if you hit the limits, you eat what’s in the pantry (or you don’t eat much) for the rest of the month.
I don’t mean to give you a hard time, but I guess asking people to live like they live on food stamps, to prove something to the people there, and then really disregarding the limits, while still asserting the validity of the challenge – “sure, you can do it” seems a little troubling to me.
There is so much truth there. We are not on food stamps, but our budget is such that we can NOT go over on our grocery budget each month. If we run out of money, we eat the rice in the back of the pantry. We took the challenge quite seriously.
I don’t know if this would actually be possible on food stamps because the majority of our savings came from food saved from the CSA last summer, the hog we bought whole last fall, things we saved our money up for so that we could have a year of sustainable eating on our tight budget. That and two years of practice at cutting the grocery bill each week a bit more, while still making fresh meals for my family. Things like eating out, coffee shops, and convenience foods have not been in the budget for a long time (though, I’ve seen the Chick-Fil-A receipts creep in this month).
Dollars wise, it does work. But I don’t know that anyone raising a hog accepts food stamps for meat and processing (though they should if they don’t).
Bottom line… I enjoyed this challenge. It got me thinking about ways that we could eat more sustainably, and even prompted discussion of not buying bananas (or at least not so many). :) And it illustrated to my husband that we really do have a tight and good grocery budget. I was even surprised that we spend less than what is alloted for food stamps.
I was disappointed to see the results of so many unsuccessful at this challenge. But I think to jump into this kind of lifestyle without practice or preparation is not really setting yourself up for success. I was really pleased with the outcome our family had. I greened up more of our purchases without going over our budget, made extra effort to get to the one farmer’s market that was open in April around here, and even crossed things off the grocery list that we’re there in the store, at a good price, but were not local.
Can it be done? Yes. Does it take practice and preparation? YES! Should that keep you from trying it? Please, no! It’s a great feeling knowing where your food comes from, supporting local farmers, and saving money!
How many times have you thought about eating organic and locally grown food, only to convince yourself it’s too expensive? Or maybe you do eat locally and organically grown food, and try to convert your friends, but you can’t seem to get them to believe it’s something they can afford.
For the month of April, The Crunchy Chicken is issuing the Sustainable Food Budget Challenge.
I hear so many times, from many friends that “they just can’t afford to eat natural/organic.” This way of thinking really discourages me. Rick and I have a very tight grocery budget. We do not spend our whole paycheck at Whole Foods, nor do we think anyone should. Yes, our grocery shopping is supplemented with our garden and hunting, but those things aren’t free either, and take lots of work. Not counting the garden, the CSA, and hunting, we spend between $60-100/week on groceries during the winter, and only $30-60/week during the summer. I will calculate out the cost of meat, as well as garden & CSA veggies to add into that later, to give you an accurate reflection of what we truly spend per month to eat locally, organic, sustainable food.
But first, the details on the challenge: The idea here is to feed yourself and your family on sustainable food sources while staying within a set, tight budget (more on this below). So what is “sustainable food?” To me, it is food that has the least impact on the environment, while having the most impact on your health. Locally grown organic veggies are at the very tip top of this list. For example, a tomato from your garden, grown without fertilizers or pesticides, using grey water or a drip system, has a very low impact on the environment (no fossil fuels were used to get it to you!) and you get all the health benefits of an organic tomato.
So besides a garden, where do you find this stuff? Start at the farmer’s market, food co-op, U-pick farm stands and local food stores. Then move on to the grocery chains and big-box last. Local food store will often carry more locally grown food then the bigger chains and big-box stores. And, usually at cheaper prices. You will need to weigh the benefits of buying locally (but maybe not organic) versus buying organic produce flown half-way around the world to your local Wal-Mart. Crunchy Chicken has a follow up post here about what sustainable means as well. This is a helpful clarification since many of us live in areas where the farmer’s markets aren’t yet open.
Crunchy Chicken raises the question: “is it possible…?” as well as lays out the rules for the challenge:
So, the question remains… is it possible to eat an organic or sustainably grown diet on a budget? A few years ago, there was the argument that those individuals who received food assistance from the government didn’t receive enough money to be able to afford healthy food. Some took it further and argued that poor Americans really were excluded from being able to eat sustainably strictly because of the higher costs. There are a number of factors at play here, the majority of which have to do with food availability such as the fact that not many supermarkets remain in some inner city areas and it’s difficult to travel out to the suburbs to shop at stores that sell the kinds of foods we are talking about here.
But, for the rest of us, can it be done? For those of us who live in areas where ample farmers markets, farms and grocery stores selling sustainably grown food exist, is it affordable?
I’d like to challenge us all to see if we can eat sustainably using the Food Stamp Allotment Program guidelines. It will take a lot of careful planning, but the end result is that we can save a lot of money on our food budget by trying to spend within this framework for a month.
So, here’s the skinny. Based on the following allotment chart, you are to stick to the corresponding amount for food for the month of April. The challenge is that you must buy according to the following guidelines (from Locavores). Do not include non-food items or home grown items into your budget, but do include seeds and plants which produce food for the household to eat. Make sure you include all the food costs from eating out, trips to coffee shops, etc.
These are fairly loose rules, but the goal is to buy sustainably grown food:
1. If not LOCALLY PRODUCED, then Organic.
2. If not ORGANIC, then Family farm.
3. If not FAMILY FARM, then Local business.
4. If not a LOCAL BUSINESS, then Terroir: purchase foods famous for the region they are grown in.
5. Hit the farmers market before the supermarket.
Household Maximum Monthly Allotment Chart:
1 person – $176
2 people – $323
3 people – $463
4 people – $588
5 people – $698
6 people – $838
7 people – $926
8 people – $1,058
Each additional person – $132
Here is the break down of where Rick and I are starting from, as well as a receipt info from today’s shopping trip on April 1st.
Today I spent $84.51 at Sunflower Farmers Market (a local grocery chain) for food items for the week. We plan on having Buttermilk Baked Chicken, Mediterranean Salad, Homemade pizzas, Elk chili, Chicken Satay, Mediterranean Chicken Packets, and Broccoli Tomato Stromboli’s this week. The chicken I bought at the store was not organic or local (normally I buy organic chicken only once a month from Costco, where it is cheaper), but I refuse to pay $16.00 for one Rosie chicken (read the Omnivore’s Dilemma by Pollan and you will too!). I bought salami from who-knows-where, and I’m certain it’s not organic either, but it was the only kind they had. Nearly all the produce I bought, as well as the beans and flour were organic, though not local. But the eggs and milk were Colorado proud, and hormone free. The bread was both local and organic.
The pizzas will have pork sausage, the cost of which is approx. $1.97. We bought a whole local 4-H hog last fall for less than two bucks a pound. The elk meat for the chili was given to us by a relative, harvested in Kremmling, CO. Rick has not gotten an elk yet, but he’s applied for many a license, so the cost of that, to be fair would have been… well, whatever the heck $39 for a license plus the fuel cost to get to Kremmling, and the cost of one .306 bullet; divided by how ever many hundred pounds of meat an elk gives us… for one pound. I’ll be extra generous and say it was a $1.00. Rick’s family processes their own meat, so that would have been free (just costs time, anyway). We will also be using some frozen tomatoes left over from the farm last summer. I am not going to figure out the cost of two or three tomatoes, but if we weren’t using those I would have bought a big can of Muier Glen Organic tomatoes for about $2.29, those in the freezer probably didn’t cost half that, but to be generous and fair again, we’ll say they were half: $1.15.
So, for this week:
-Grocery Store – mixed: $84.51
-Pork – local and sustainable: $1.97
-Elk – local and sustainable: $1.00
-Tomatoes – local and sustainable: $1.15
If we keep on track with this amount for the month, we’ll spend about $356 on groceries. This is below the amount allotted for a family of three, and WAY below the amount allotted for a family of four (which we qualify as, since I’m pregnant) for Food Stamps. Not too bad. Let’s see if we can pull it off!
This month will bring a couple of exciting opportunities for us though as well. Like the pick your own asparagus at the farm in a couple of weeks. I can’t wait. Look for more info on CSA’s in tomorrow’s Thrifty Thursday tip. A lot of the produce we use (though, none planned for this week, besides those tomatoes) comes from there, and I will have cost breakdowns for that.
My goal for the challenge is to see just HOW sustainbly we can eat, for the least amount possible. I have a feeling Rick will like this challenge. He’s always complaining about the grocery bill!
What about you? Do you think you can do the challenge? And if you’re already eating well on a budget, do you think you can stretch it further? Will you join us??? Leave me a comment below with thoughts, questions, ideas, etc.!
I can clean almost everything in my home with baking soda, vinegar or lemon juice. Baking soda is a great thing to add to laundry, clean the oven or scrub the sink with. Here are a few of the many uses:
Other cleaning tasks:
Baking soda can be bought in bulk at a store like Costco or Sam’s. It’s so inexpensive! Just don’t use it to with vinegar at the same time or they will cancel each other out. The exception to this is to clean your kitchen sink drain: put baking soda down the drain, followed by some white vinegar. Quickly plug the sink and let sit. This is like the volcano you made in grade school science class. :) It will help remove any built up gunk in there.
Another handy kitchen staple to have on hand is that mild dish washing liquid. It can be used in a variety of ways as well, and combined with other things to make effective cleaners. Eliminating the need for all the chemicals.
A great book on how to clean anything and every thing in your home is Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook. She has lots of green and mild alternatives and always recommends starting witht the mildest before moving on to the harsher methods of cleaning.
What are some of your favorite ways to clean green? Do you love a specific brand or tool? Is there a kitchen staple that you use to clean with?
Yesterday was Rick and my sixth anniversary! Wow, how time flies! We can’t believe it’s been six years already… that we have a two year old and another on the way, all the things that have happened over the last six years! Wowie!
We decided to celebrate by taking the weekend in up in Kremmling, CO at Rick’s uncle’s cabin where we spent our honeymoon. Our plan was to relax, get in a little snowshoeing, and play in the powder with H.
Unfortunately, H had other plans. Sick again. We still got in plenty of relaxation, but we stayed inside the cabin by the fire. Poor kiddo was burning up the whole weekend.
I feel like we’ve lived in a sick house for the last month or so. H’s been sick and well three times now I think. Rick’s still not over whatever’s been plaguing him for the last two weeks, and I even took a turn (something I hope I don’t repeat!).
Through all that I’ve made several pots of soup, including a few new recipes that I wanted to share. These first two are both from this month’s issue of Everyday Food magazine:
Tortilla Soup with Black Beans (this is a great way to use up items in your pantry).
1. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium. Cook garlic and chili powder until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes (with juice), beans, broth, corn, and 1 cup water; season with salt and pepper.
2. Bring soup to a boil; reduce to a simmer. Add tortilla chips; cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in lime juice, and season with salt and pepper. Serve soup with lime wedges and, if desired, more chips.
Serves 4. Total time to table: 15 minutes. (And for my readers counting protein, 12.8 grams per serving).
That’s it! It was so simple and tasty, we ate the leftovers for three days in a row, with no complaints! And it was just as good the third day as the first, making it great if you want to cook once and eat for a few days!
The next soup incorporates escarole… a leafy green, and since I’ve been really trying to get more greens in my diet, this soup get bonus points! Also, as a side note, this month’s magazine had several escarole recipes. We’ve tried a couple of them, and all have been wonderful! It’s my new favorite leafy green… move over kale and spinach!
Light Italian Wedding Soup
1. In a bowl, combine turkey, garlic, egg, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, 1 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper. Using 1 TBS for each, roll mixture into balls.
2. In a large pot, heat oil over medium. Cook onion, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add broth and tomatoes (with juice); bring to a simmer. Add meatballs; cook without stirring, until meatballs float to surface, about 5 minutes.
3. Add as much escarole to pot as will fit. Cook, gradually adding remaining escarole, until wilted and meatballs are cooked through, about 5 minutes. Thin soup with water if desired; season with salt and pepper. Serve soup sprinkled with more Parmesan.
Serves 6. Total time: 25 minutes. Protein: 23.6 grams per serving.
This was also so easy and good. Next time I will brown the meatballs before adding to the soup, just because I didn’t like the pale look of them. Also, Rick and I agreed that one tablespoon per meatball was too big, and next time we will roll them smaller. But it was still delicious!
The last recipe I wanted to share, we made last night (it’s not a soup). It uses eggplant. I’m not a huge eggplant fan, and this summer we got quite a few from the CSA. I didn’t want to waste them and I didn’t know what to do with them, so we sliced and froze them, hoping I’d come up with something before next summer. I didn’t, but my Great Food Fast cookbook did:
Whole-Wheat Pasta with Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes
1. Preheat the oven to 450. In a medium (11×15 inch) roasting pan, combine the eggplant, onion, tomatoes, 1.5 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, and oil; toss well to coat. Roast until tender, tossing mixture halfway through, about 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente according to the package instructions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water; drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
3. Add the roasted eggplant mixture, olives, and Parmesan. toss to coat, adding 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water, if desired. Serve immediately, sprinkled with more cheese.
Serves 6. Total time: 45 minutes.
We easily halved this recipe for last night. And the eggplant was better than any I’ve ever had. It was de-lish! Rick said to add it to the regular menu, and to make it again. So yay! A success! And a tasty way to make eggplant, finally!
So after all that home cooking, the perfect way to top it all off… Baskin Robbins’ February flavor of the month: Love Potion #31. My favorite! And my gift from Rick for Valentine’s Day!
Yesterday, I joined the Freeze Yer Buns challenge put out by Crunchy Chicken.
This challenge is to lower the thermostat, don your socks and sweaters and save a little energy (and money!). Read all about the challenge by clicking on the graphic in this post or following this link: Freeze Yer Buns!
For us, we normally have the thermostat set at 65 during the day and 60 at night. But I’m kind of a wimp, and here all day in this drafty old house, so I usually crank it up to 67 or 68 during the day. After reading some of the responses of the people already doing the challenge, I realized what a wimp I’ve been (I’m mean, I AM a Colorado native after all… suck it up, girl!). So I dropped it down to 64 yesterday. My goal is to get it a little lower over the next few weeks and see what kind of money it saves us!
Crunchy Chicken shared this quote by one of our presidents. Does anyone know who said it? What were the circumstances? Why would he issue such a challenge, and did we the people listen?
“I again ask every American to lower the thermostat settings in all homes and buildings to no more than 65 degrees during the daytime and to a much lower setting at night. This single step, if carried out by all our people, can eliminate half the current shortage of natural gas and put thousands of Americans back to work.
I have turned the thermostat down in the White House and have ordered it reduced in all Government buildings. And I ask everyone in the country to cooperate so that no one will have to go without crucial heat.
Finally, I must say to you quite frankly that this is not a temporary request for conservation. Our energy problems will not be over next year or the year after. Further sacrifices in addition to lowering thermostats may well be necessary. But I believe this country is tough enough and strong enough to meet that challenge. And I ask all Americans to cooperate in minimizing the adverse effect on the lives of our people.”
So… can you take the challenge? Feel free to join here or on the Crunchy Chicken blog. Just post a comment with your guess about the presidential quote (no cheating!!) and where you are going to set the thermostat in your home. I plan to check up with all of you, and to share our progress in the next few months since the challenge goes until April.
And, for a little more incentive, posters on my blog to guess that quote correctly (and commit to the challenge) will get entered into a drawing for some winter woolies in the mail from me!
*Oops! I forgot to set a deadline for entering the drawing! The drawing will end at 10am MST on Wednesday, February 18th! See, I told you all that I was new at this give-away thing! *