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.
Yesterday, I shared the first part of Jessica’s amazing story. Her family “lives off the land” and yesterday she shared how they hunt and process all their own meat. Today I would like to share more of what Jessica does.
I Can & Freeze Whenever I Can
I can or freeze in the summer and early fall. Whatever I can get my hands on really. First I go to my free resources. I contact those I know who own fig trees, apple trees, pear trees or a garden full of veggies that is producing too much. I of course make sure to go to those I know who do not use chemicals. I ask first and then we go as a family to go pick. My kids ages 7 and 3 love it! Also canning and freezing resources are abundant online.
Next, I move onto local organic farmers. We have this great Blueberry farm that only charges $1.50 per pound for organic blueberries. I usually go at the beginning of the season before the South Carolina heat begins or I might melt. I try to get as many pounds as I have a budget for in groceries that month. It’s also possible to not have to work for it. You can just buy it already picked for you at the local farmers market. You just have to make sure you ask questions on their farming practices and smell what you buy. If it is the real deal, it should not smell like pesticides.
After all this I focus on my grocery store and what produce they have that is organic that might be on sale. Then I move onto the items that you do not have to buy organic due to the chemicals not being able to penetrate the skin of the fruit or veggie. Whatever I do not freeze or can, I make into jams and jellies. You can also mix and match to get different flavors. Most recipes for jams and jellies will call for sugar. I do not use sugar in any of my concoctions. I use pure, raw honey. So it’s a good thing we have an abundance of bee farmers here in South Carolina. I am a member of a co-op but really if you have enough people interested you can still get great prices since you order by the case. I pay roughly $2.50 for a small 6 oz. squeezable honey bear and roughly $6.00 for a quart. When I buy, I usually buy enough to last six months. Pure, raw honey should not be clear. It should have a milky appearance and may crystallize When it crystallizes you just pop that bad boy in the microwave for a few seconds and it’s as good as new. Some people will say sugar is sugar no matter how you slice it. This is true it is but mine is not refined, it is all natural.
I also get free range eggs from a local farmer I know for F-R-E-E, it’s all about making friends. I also have a juicer, so I do make my own fresh juice with some of the produce I buy. Then lastly I buy coconut oil by the quart through my co-op and a jar will last me up to a year for $12. So from all of this hard work (it’s not really, it just sounds like it). These are some of the items I never have to buy again (I just make more when I run out or buy the items needed to make them): Sugar, jams, jellies, salsa, spaghetti sauce, canned tomatoes, frozen fruit or veggies, smoothie mixes, juice, popsicles and a few snacks here and there, fries, dried fruit, prepackaged breakfast sandwiches, eggs, egg substitute, oil, applesauce if I decide to make my own, canned soups and a few others I have probably missed.
I Go to the Bulk Bins for Grains
For my grains such as oatmeal, some flours, quinoa and rice. We like complex carbs and do not go for any simple carbs. I go to a very small local whole foods store. This store is not Whole Foods the retail chain but I do have one up the road as well as a Fresh Market. I usually buy for a month when I go. Roughly five pounds of quinoa, two pounds of steel cut oatmeal and I would maybe buy two pounds of flour if needed and usually a pound or two of a wild or brown rice and we love black rice too, I am not really an oatmeal girl and do not eat a lot of it but I do make a batch of oatmeal for a quick breakfast for husband and kids weekly.
I flavor it naturally with honey, cinnamon and dried fruit as it’s cooking then pop it in the fridge. Sometimes my local grocery store has King Arthur organic whole wheat flour on sale during the summer and around the holidays. Most of the time it is marked as 2 for $6 or B1G1. Either way, I stock up on about four of those. We do not eat a lot of flour unless I am baking. We do not bread meat or anything so there is no reason to have a surplus in the house unless I am baking bread (which I have my handy dandy bread machine for.) I would say when I go to buy my grains, I normally would spend roughly $15 or so. We try to limit grains due to my husband being a diabetic and carbs can cause his blood sugar to rise especially simple carbs like white flour. So things I never have to buy again here would be instant oatmeal packets, cookies, cakes and rice or flavored rice products, frozen pancakes and waffles.
(Note from Angela: make sure to check out my post from Monday on buying food in bulk if you’re interested to learn more on this topic.)
What we Do Buy at the Grocery Store
I do get a few fruit, veggie and grain items. I love hummus, love, love, love it. I buy the Pita Pal brand because it really is organic and natural and I buy when it is B1G1. It has a good shelf life in the fridge too. You can dip it with veggies or use instead of mayo on a sandwich.
Almond Milk because I am not about to go to the bulk bins and spend $11.00 a pound on almonds and then soak overnight to make my own and my daughter is lactose intolerant. (Not to mention I have a life.) So I buy when it is on sale and usually try to use a coupon too. Greek Yogurt and I go for the Fage brand that is 0% which is the lowest fat. You can buy a big container of plain as I do and add your pure, raw honey and/or frozen fruits to flavor it. Instead of buying the already flavored because we really do not know what is in that. You can make your own Greek yogurt but nah, I’ll just buy it. A few other things I use my Greek yogurt for. You can use it just like sour cream, if a recipe calls for heavy cream like a sauce recipe would, use your Greek yogurt. I also add mine to some of my baked goods as well.
I also buy canned Chick Peas. I could make my own hummus with them but nah, its okay I’ll buy that even though I have in the past. I actually roast the Chick Peas and then flavor them with a few spice blends I make up. I do buy other items as well like bread because I do not always make our own because we don’t eat a lot of it. Plus it is so much easier to make homemade uncrustables for the kids with the store bought version. Then you just bag those babies up and put them in the freezer. I do buy an all-natural peanut butter or other sort of nut butter that is all natural. I try to find one of them on sale because they can be very expensive. Read your labels, if it says natural and it has partially hydrogenated ANYTHING it is far from natural. I do buy cheeses but am in the process of looking into local farmers for that since a lot of cheeses I have noticed contain vegetable coloring which I am kind of weirded out by and anti-caking agents and stabilizers. I go to the baking aisle to get whatever nuts I may want and buy by the bag. Walnuts and almonds is what we love and I make sure they are not salted. If you stop eating the salt your taste buds will never be able to handle the amount of sodium you might take in now ever again. I go for the organic cereal on sale of course and I do splurge on popcorn sometimes. Spices, laundry and dishwasher liquids (because I am too lazy to make my own.) and paper items we might need. I am sure I have missed an item or two but usually on my biweekly trip these are the items that are normally on my list.
I find that it is very easy for me to go to the grocery store. Then I come home put away what will be used later and put everything I need to make for the upcoming week, things to be frozen or made into snacks on the counter and ready to go. I start my homemade snacks first. I prep them and get them going in the oven or whatever needs to be done. Then I move onto whatever I might freeze or have to slice and dice. While my snacks are going, I work on all of those items. Then when my snacks are all done, all I have to do is bag it all up and put it in the snack cabinet. It all usually takes me about an hour. Every now and then if it is close to dinner, I will go ahead and start getting my dinner going too. If I happen to make some sort of soup. I always make sure I make a huge pot and freeze the rest for later meals.
I sure hope you have enjoyed reading on how our family lives and eats! You are not going to transition into this lifestyle overnight. We used to eat all processed food, all store bought meat, sodas and tons of junk food. When I started trying to live and eat better, I would simply remove one bad habit or item and replace it with a good, natural, better for us choice. I had no idea how to process meat, can anything, make jams or jellies or freeze anything. I googled a lot and read a ton of articles online about the process. Now I feel like I actually kind of know what I am doing. So if I can do it, I know you can do it too.
Thank you so much for sharing your story, Jessica! I love how honest and open you are about what you do and I found it very inspiring.
I’d love to hear from you today. Do you do any of the things Jessica’s family does? Have you made even small efforts to grow your own/make your own? Please share. You are also certainly welcome to share any related links to blog posts you might have written on this topic.