As part of the Eating Healthy on a Budget Series I’m running this month, I wanted to share some real-life stories of people that eat well for less. I hope that these stories will encourage and inspire you in your own journey! If you missed the previous posts in this series, you can find them at the Eating Healthy on a Budget page.
Today and tomorrow I want to share Jessica’s unique story. What Jessica has done is unconventional, to say the least, but I found it completely inspiring and wanted to offer up a different perspective and challenge your thinking on how eating well for less might look. As her story is a bit longer, I have decided to break it up in two parts. Look for the second part tomorrow.
Introduction to Living off the Land
First of all I am going to say, my way is my way and I know it is not for everyone. I did not jump into my way of doing things over night. It was a gradual transition that we just kept adding to. We do what we can for ourselves and whatever we cannot hunt or harvest in some way, then we buy. But I do hope you all will consider what you can do when you decide to live off the land to meet your needs.
I live in a suburban area of South Carolina with a median range gross income of about $60,000 for a family give or take. We are a family of four and both work full time as well. I have a budget of $300 for the month, I can spend on groceries and I meet that amount or am under every month. My family eats tries to eat mostly unprocessed. I guess you would say we eat clean but we do use some seasonings that are store bought. We eat all organic meat, some organic veggies and fruits and all organic grains. I usually make most of our snacks from scratch which sounds difficult but it really isn’t. We do have a cheat day once a week because every now and then we all want something that isn’t at all healthy.
I meal plan through that awesome site Pinterest, I simply pin recipes that look good and then move them to a making/doing this week board, when I am making my list of what I am going to buy. I go to each recipe and figure out what I have or will need for that recipe. Usually I have about three quarters of what is listed. I care so much about our nutrition because I used to weigh 200 pounds (well when I stopped weighing, I did.) and I am 5’4”. I had always struggled with weight and had pretty much given up on ever being thin. Being southern is about a lot of things but in the south it is a lot about food and butter we must not forget about the butter. When I went to the doctor when I was 24 of all ages and he discussed cholesterol lowering meds and blood pressure meds, I woke up and smelled the coffee real fast. Now I am 33 and weigh 145 pounds and my doctor has never once brought up any suggestion of medication again. So here is my story on how we made our income and our resources available work in our favor. If you decide to live like we do, it takes planning ahead, figuring out your needs and some preparation. I promise it may sound like it but I in no way spend all my time in the kitchen. I plan around what I have to do and what I want to do and then I get to work.
That’s right we hunt for our own organic meat so I do not buy meat, EVER. Let me just tell you nothing is free and I mean nothing. Most land used to harvest animals has a fee associated with the use of that land in the form of a hunting lease. We do not pay for the use of land. We use game management land or pay a per day rate on using a hunting club that is maintained. Game Management is just what it sounds like. It is land owned by the state and managed by the state in the form of rangers. You can usually just Google Game Management land for your state and area and you will be provided a list. Hunting Clubs are a bit different, some are online and some are not. Basically you would just look around and call and ask if they have a per day rate. Our rate is $20 for the entire day.
Also we do not use property that allows baiting, which is basically putting out feed to lure the animals in. We do not know what is in that feed and it may not be natural. So we hunt only on land where the animals eat what is from the land. Venison is very lean and packed with protein like all meat. It can be used just like ground beef and if killed and processed correctly will taste just like lean ground beef. There is also a turkey season just like everywhere else I assume. So during that season we get our poultry. You can keep them whole or cut them up and use them the same as a chicken and turkey is super lean as well and we use the same practices with the land we use for harvesting turkey has well. We like to know exactly what happens to our meat plus most processing cost for each animal can be $50 at the low end and around $110 for the high end. That is money out of my pocket, so no thanks.
So here is where it gets kind of gross but it’s okay. Any meat you buy in the store has had this done to it. Plus a lot of other stuff that really is gross like nitrates and nitrites added plus a lot of preservatives. Yes we process! My husband and I while the little ones usually watch a movie. Since at the time the animal is killed you would clean it, which means to skin and remove organs and such. Processing is the time you process the meat from the deer or turkey. We usually allow it the bleed out for two days which removes “wild” taste from it. Then we cut all the meat off the bone. I cut large pieces into roasts, then I move on to stew meat. The stew meat can even be used as steak tips, which are so good. Then I move on to my ground meat. You DO NOT have to have a meat grinder. My little $25 food processer with the double blade works just fine. So we grind that meat up. Some is used for ground meat, some bulk breakfast sausage and the rest Italian sausage. You can also take some and use a meat mallet and make cubed steak. The turkey however is super easy, as described above. Also my meat has virtually no fat because I do not add it in the processing. You can make your own seasoning or you can buy seasoning to make your sausages with. If for some reason we aren’t lucky enough to get enough venison or turkey. Then family and friends who hunt and have a surplus kills for us and we process. We are the same as well. We help others who need to get the meat but may not have been able to. We also fish but you can even find fishermen at the farmers market you can buy from that is not farmed it is indeed wild caught which is what you want to eat. I do buy shrimp occasionally.
I have a ton of go to recipes but my number one tip is to add one cut up apple to the crock pot or roaster when cooking a roast. We have never done the whole use buttermilk to moisten your meat and take the wild taste out. We have never had to. An apple will make the meat fall apart and you can even make BBQ out of it. After everything is said and done, I do not have to buy ground meat, stew meat, roasts, steak tips, bulk sausage, Italian sausage, cubed steak, whole chickens or any other pieces, lunch meat and some fish products.
Jessica’s Hibachi Recipe
I absolutely LOVE hibachi food. So my favorite thing to do is to try to recreate it home. Here is what I do. You will need:
- 1 cup dry quinoa
- 2 cups water
- 2 zucchini’s
- 1 onion white or sweet yellow
- .5 pound venison stew meat or you can use steak cut into steak tips.
- Salt and pepper to taste (optional)
- 2 to 3 tbsp. of some sort of hibachi sauce. I use Kona Coast teriyaki with sesame seeds.
- 1 tsp. coconut oil or some other sort of natural good for you oil. I don’t use quite a tsp. but just enough to coat and keep the veggies from sticking.
In a medium sauce pan get your 2 cups of water boiling. Once it is boiling add your 1 cup of quinoa, stir, cover and reduce heat to simmer. In a small sauté pan get your meat going with the hibachi sauce added straight to it. After that in another sauté pan add your oil and veggies and sauté all on medium heat until meat is done and veggies are tender. If you are going to salt and pepper then go ahead and salt and pepper your meat and veggies to your liking now. When meat and veggies are done combine them both in the sauté pan you used for the veggies. Your quinoa should be done shortly after this. Once it is done measure out ½ a cup of quinoa and then top with your meat and veggie mixture.
To me it is very close to hibachi and the ideas of what you can add are endless. Sometimes I will add carrots, snow peas or even cabbage. I always like to play around with the veggies when thinking of add in’s because the veggies are giving you more of a punch without the added calories and all the added nutrients and fiber. My family even the little ones love this meal and they love the quinoa just as much as white sticky rice. Which we never eat anymore.
I’d be very curious to know if anyone else out there hunts for their own food? What tips do you have to keeping costs down? What advice would you give to someone starting out?
Please join me here tomorrow for more of how Jessica lives off the land. You can also read other posts in the Eating Healthy on a Budget series if you missed them.