Grocery costs are one of the largest expenses my family faces, especially nowadays, with prices spiraling upward. My husband and I finally put our respective feet down and began working steadily to eliminate the "middle man," the retail grocery store.
We contacted a local farmer and, using some windfall money, we ordered a side of grass-fed quality beef. My grown daughter went in with us on this to make it more affordable for both households, but quarter sides are also available if you don't have anyone to go in with. It worked out to just under $600 for each family. The per pound cost came out to about $4 a pound - that's for all cuts. The meat we got completely filled my standard-sized freezer before I took my daughter's portion to her. They were going to dispose of the fat only I requested all of it and the suet because I will use it to make soap and/or tallow candles. We requested the soup bones as well. A good place to look for a farm near you is http://www.localharvest.org/. I highly recommend grass-fed beef as it is high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which most people don't get enough of.
We are already scheduling to purchase a half pig from a nearby meat cutting company. They quoted $1.79 a pound for fresh meat, with 50 cents a pound additionally for any smoking we want to have done. They told me that an average half is about 200 pounds, so we are going to split again with my daughter, but the meat company would have sold us a quarter as well. We plan to get as much bacon and ham as we can. I asked about nitrites and they don't use them. They use Vitamin C instead, which is a natural nitrate. So, for about $2.29 a pound, we will be getting all natural bacon without the harmful preservatives.
I am just starting to look into finding a direct source for free-range chickens and other poultry and farm fresh eggs.
We started a garden as well, to provide fruits and vegetables for our family. Yes, I purchased seeds, but I was also able to use seeds remaining from previous years in some cases. Seeds last a while. Don't assume they aren't good because they are a couple of years old. Check before you discard. To test for fertility, put seeds inside a folded paper towel and keep damp. If they sprout, you know they are still good.
Also, I do an easy method of composting that works for me. Basically, I dig a shallow hole and pile vegetable kitchen waste, non-seeded weeds, leaves and the like into it. Every once in a while I throw some dirt over it. Every once in a while I water the pile (almost never). :o) And in 6 months to a year, it still makes itself into compost without my fussing.
We are still in process of clearing for the vegetable garden we'd like to have and still planting various edible fruit-bearing plants, so we are supplementing this year by going u-picking for berries, cherries, apples, etc. I've already put up sliced strawberries and strawberry freezer jam. My goal is to have enough jam to last through the winter, which I was able to do last winter. We took the grandkids and made an outing of our strawberry u-picking. We paid $1.50 a pound for the strawberries and had a great time.
To further supplement our fruits and vegetables, we joined a nearby Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm as work share members. Basically, that means for four hours a week for twenty weeks I go to the farm and work. I chose morning shift, 8-12 on Saturday. My husband stays home with our youngest and they have fun together while Mom gets a break and some exercise. Oh, and free fruits and vegetables in abundant quantities, valued at about $600. We are not having to purchase these in the retail grocery at all. With both a CSA share and a vegetable garden, I'm able to freeze some of the bounty for the winter.
I located a milkman service at a dairy in our area. Now, once a week, we get whatever dairy products we want delivered directly to our door for less than we would pay in the retail grocery store. I'm usually home, but you don't have to be there to get deliveries as they have an insulated box they put things in. The milkman bills once a month.
We go to Costco once a month for things like coffee, artisan breads, dishwasher detergent, and oatmeal. (We make it a special treat to pick up lunch there, and it usually costs under $10 for all three of us.) I'm also considering finding out how I can order grains and other items in bulk, in order to get as close to the farmer as I can. Because that's where the savings usually is.
By Janalyn from Snohomish, WA
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That is a wonderful article. I know it will give a lot of us good ideas. Thanks for sharing.
I've split the price of a Costco membership with another family.
While we DO still go to the grocery store, there are still many things you can do to save.
If you can find one of those electric Vacuum Sealers on sale, it is really worth it !
When chicken is on sale, purchase $50 or $60 dollars worth. Then Re-package it at home, according to your recipes, or menus, or family size.
Use a Sharpie Marker to put the date, how many pieces, and what the pieces are.
Usually there are a few "odd" pieces that won't fit into a bag after things are portioned out. So cut these in pieces for either Nuggets, or for a casserole, and so on. And mark as such.
You can even make your own chicken broth from the carcasses/bones. Store it in Ziplock bags, or freezer containers. Package it in the same amounts as the store-bought broth. Your recipes won't suffer!
We do the same thing with ground beef when it is on sale. This is made into individually wrapped burgers. Or individually ziplocked portions for casseroles. And meatloaf ! We make several of these a freeze them too.
Pork shoulders are great for barbecue. They cook all day in the crockpot. So we purchase several, especially if the cost is under 99 a pound.
Chuck roasts, country-style ribs, cubed steak, meat for fajitas, sausages to grill, and even some smoked sausage links to cook with white beans.
Bacon is purchased the same way......when its on sale, and kept in the freezer. Hams and turkey give lots of meat for their weight. And it doesn't need to be Thankgiving to eat turkey !! And some is always packaged to use in casseroles. The ham bone is good to cook with beans. ( can you tell we live in the south?)
This way we have the cuts of meat my family likes to eat, but purchased when it was on sale.
We also purchase venison from a friend who always has more than their family can eat. It is a very lean meat, and good for you.
I go to farmers markets, and purchase green beans by the bushel basket. These are canned and set aside for the winter. I know that there are store canned green beans that are very inexpensive, but we Really enjoy these home-canned beans.
There are many things available at the Pick-it-yourself farms. Strawberries, blueberries, peaches,apples, as well as Sweet Corn, tomatoes, yellow squash,zucchini, cucumbers, even grapes,and bell peppers of all colors. They can be frozen. Or made into jelly, or even pickles, or pie fillings. Once again, the trick is to freeze them in the correct amount for your recipe.
And I discovered that staples like Flour, Cornmeal can be placed in a vacuum-sealed bag, and kept in the freezer too. This keeps out those pesky little critters too.
I'd love to be able to eliminate the grocery store !
But this system has worked for us for over 30 years.
YES! Absolutely wonderful article on how to wave big $$$ on groceries. My boyfriend and I recently aquired a house and we know of several different people who own a freezer and do buy grass fed beef.It will probably take a while but I do want to eliminate the grocery store as much as I can. Thank you for the tips!
There are people that can't even afford to do these things. I am one of them. When I was married, many years ago, we would buy a half a beef, but we really felt the part we had made into ground beef was horribly expensive. We also started out having milk, etc. delivered, but decided that was just one extra bill to pay, when we could buy it with the rest of our groceries. I do buy large quantities of hamburger and divide it up and freeze it. I have found the few times that I have purchased organic fruits they don't last as long.
I am 69 years old and by the time I get done shopping I am too tired and in too much pain to take care of the produce right away. It's a good thing I have never been that much into organic stuff. As far as the price of dairy products, etc. goes, it depends a lot on the brand. I noticed today the store brand milk was about 50/75 cents less than a name brand. The same with store brand hamburger buns and a name brand. The store brand was about $1.00 less.
There are some things I buy the name brands and some things that I can't tell the difference. It depends on the product and even the store. I do the majority of my shopping at WalMart because it costs less to take a cab from my apartment to there than to other grocery stores. However about a week ago I had the opportunity to shop in another store, and I noticed that their name brand which was the same one I was looking at WalMart this morning was considerably higher than at WalMart.
Good idea. As a farmer (we sell and butcher our own meat), I find it interesting to see the difference in prices across the country. We can sell a whole cow, grass fed for $800-$1000. Always check different sources as prices vary a lot. As a rule, you will pay a lot more for anything labeled organic. For chickens, it is very simple to raise your own--easier than most people think.
When my girls were little, I was very poor, and I often took them strawberry picking at U-picks for a Saturday outing! Kids love doing things like that!
This guy is one of my favorite affordable gardening instructors, and he's on YouTube. He also sells organic seeds.. MI Gardener: www.youtube.com/
I also love P. Allen Smith, and he is on YouTube also.
Also, don't forget that you can buy your vegetable seeds with food stamps if you get them.
Many thanks for this article!
Here is another hint on saving on vegetables. My dad leases his farm to a farming group that raises green beans on the farm (my dad is not 91 so doesn't farm himself). When they harvest the green beans, people wait for them to leave and pick up the residue left behind when they dump the beans from the picker to the trucks. This summer a friend of the family got 3 bushels of free beans this way. I am sure it would work with other vegetables being harvested also. You might want to check first with the farmer to make sure it's ok to be on their land, but most won't mind.
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