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Old 05-30-2009, 02:59 AM
 
Location: Florida
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One important factor....make a list and stick to it.
Impluse buys can throw you all off.
Obviously, if there is some great unadvertised special, that would be an exception.
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Old 06-07-2009, 12:07 AM
 
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There are so many great suggestions here. I wanted to thank everyone for sharing - I've learned a few things!

We are trying to reduce what we spend on food. It's really hard for us, because not only are we a family of four with two boys who constantly want to eat (and they are big meat eaters, to boot!) but we also prefer to eat organic foods. I worked at Whole Foods Market for years and years, beginning when I was 15, and have just grown up eating organic, ate organic throughout both pregnancies, and have raised my kids on organics and natural foods, and my husband and I just can't bring ourselves to change that even if it were to mean saving a few bucks a month.

However, we do most of the great tips listed here, and that does help! I also wanted to share something we've begun doing that I don't think I've seen mentioned here yet: using our slow cooker.

It's hard sometimes with busy families to cook a nice healthy wholesome and inexpensive dinner when you've got so much going on with kids and crazy schedules and stuff... but if you load up your slow cooker in the morning with good stuff, it's ready for you when dinner rolls around.

Also - a nice thing I recently learned is that you don't have to defrost your meat before putting it into your slow cooker. I put a whole frozen chicken with some homemade stock and a few carrots, potatoes, onion... and by dinner it's ready to eat.

We also have a rice cooker, which helps us. Ours came with a steam rack that we use to steam veggies or meat while we also cook the rice. Even fish works well with this. It's a quick and easy meal. Brown rice takes a long time, so we do white when we forget to start the brown early enough.

Also - instead of buying spaghetti/pasta sauce already in a can or jar, it's cheaper to buy tomato paste and use your own herbs and spices and fresh garlic to make your own sauce. It tastes better, too, and you also avoid the weird stuff some pasta sauce has in it (like HFC or preservatives and stuff...) I like to cook my meatballs or ground meat ahead of time, then throw all the ingredients for the pasta sauce with the meat into the slow cooker, then around dinner time just cook some pasta very quickly and there's dinner. I make big batches of it, and freeze the extra to use later. If I have time, I might make some garlic bread with saved bread ends, too. I melt butter in a pan, and with my fingers I smear the butter, garlic powder and herbs into the bread, sometimes I'll sprinkle a bit of parmesan cheese, then put under the broiler for a bit to toast it. It's really delicious on a cold rainy night. (We have a lot of those in Oregon!)

Organic popcorn bought in bulk and popped over the stove is also a good money-saver and much better tasting than that awful microwave popcorn. We don't even own a microwave because the food never tastes good and it's such a money-waster anyway. I think a slow cooker and rice maker is a much better investment not only money-wise but also for our health.

I think it's totally possible for a single person to eat on $150/month. We spend about that much per person for our family, and as I said we eat organic foods. I use the food envelope system, too, to budget what we spend. I put $200/week in my envelope and we usually have $20 left at the end of the week that I usually put into our Christmas envelope unless we need to use it for an unexpected expense like a sudden birthday party that's come up or something. (We put $50 a month into our Christmas envelope... I've got all kinds of envelopes! lol) If it were just me and my husband we could eat for a lot less than that even, because honestly I feel that adults can get by without milk or much dairy and we would definitely reduce our meat and snack food purchases. With children, though, I feel their growing brains and bodies need the extra fat and protein that milk and dairy and meat provides them.
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Old 06-07-2009, 03:55 PM
 
1,116 posts, read 2,540,981 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by haggardhouseelf View Post
There are so many great suggestions here. I wanted to thank everyone for sharing - I've learned a few things!

We are trying to reduce what we spend on food. It's really hard for us, because not only are we a family of four with two boys who constantly want to eat (and they are big meat eaters, to boot!) but we also prefer to eat organic foods.
I've got a few tips for eating organic that really help cut down the bills more than you'd think. First off, don't pay for organic! A lot of times smaller producers won't have the money to pay for the organic certification, and at our local grocery store the organic milk and the regular milk are both from cows not treated with hormones and fed a vegetarian diet. The organic tastes a bit richer, but my conscience and health can get by on the regular milk. Read the ingredients and do research, rather than relying on a symbol. Also a lot of poultry now is being produced in a natural way, without antibiotics or additives. Anything at Earthfare is made to organic standards, without necessarily having certification. That can save you literally half the price of the meat.

Also for things like root vegetables, organic really means very little. You're going to peel off the outer coating anyways, so it's not like you'll have pesticide exposure. I always buy organic veggies when I'm going to eat the skin, but things like watermelon I never bother with.

Just my two cents..but we're two starving foodie college kids who eat organic, so that's saying something!
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Old 06-07-2009, 05:03 PM
 
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Originally Posted by spiderbear View Post
I've got a few tips for eating organic that really help cut down the bills more than you'd think. First off, don't pay for organic! A lot of times smaller producers won't have the money to pay for the organic certification, and at our local grocery store the organic milk and the regular milk are both from cows not treated with hormones and fed a vegetarian diet. The organic tastes a bit richer, but my conscience and health can get by on the regular milk. Read the ingredients and do research, rather than relying on a symbol. Also a lot of poultry now is being produced in a natural way, without antibiotics or additives. Anything at Earthfare is made to organic standards, without necessarily having certification. That can save you literally half the price of the meat.

Also for things like root vegetables, organic really means very little. You're going to peel off the outer coating anyways, so it's not like you'll have pesticide exposure. I always buy organic veggies when I'm going to eat the skin, but things like watermelon I never bother with.

Just my two cents..but we're two starving foodie college kids who eat organic, so that's saying something!
You are so right about this... we shop at a local food coop... a lot of our stuff is produced locally and by small family farms who don't have the money to pay for the big expensive certifications. You can absolutely taste the difference in quality, though. And with meat, you can SEE the difference in quality even. At the coop and the FM we get to know the producer's directly. We know how committed they are. We like supporting our local community that way, and helping them to stay afloat and pursue their dreams despite the big corporate entities trying to take over. It's a good feeling.

As far as the organic produce, though... I have heard some people say that... about the pesticides only being on the outside of the item... I don't buy that. The chemicals leach into the soil and the plant soaks up the water and nutrients from the soil... the pesticides are in the product. Not to mention... the run-off into streams and rivers from the application of the pesticides to begin with, and how that affects wildlife and our water systems... I do feel that organic means a lot, even with produce. Especially with produce. And especially for things like berries and grapes and greens. There are lists you can find online which tell you which items are more heavily sprayed. Some might be OK to buy conventional, some are not. I can never remember everything on the list so we just always shoot for organic.
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Old 06-08-2009, 11:58 AM
 
1,116 posts, read 2,540,981 times
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Originally Posted by haggardhouseelf View Post
You are so right about this... we shop at a local food coop... a lot of our stuff is produced locally and by small family farms who don't have the money to pay for the big expensive certifications. You can absolutely taste the difference in quality, though. And with meat, you can SEE the difference in quality even. At the coop and the FM we get to know the producer's directly. We know how committed they are. We like supporting our local community that way, and helping them to stay afloat and pursue their dreams despite the big corporate entities trying to take over. It's a good feeling.

As far as the organic produce, though... I have heard some people say that... about the pesticides only being on the outside of the item... I don't buy that. The chemicals leach into the soil and the plant soaks up the water and nutrients from the soil... the pesticides are in the product. Not to mention... the run-off into streams and rivers from the application of the pesticides to begin with, and how that affects wildlife and our water systems... I do feel that organic means a lot, even with produce. Especially with produce. And especially for things like berries and grapes and greens. There are lists you can find online which tell you which items are more heavily sprayed. Some might be OK to buy conventional, some are not. I can never remember everything on the list so we just always shoot for organic.
I wish the local co-ops here were worth anything. They're horribly expensive (about $500 a month for 15lb of produce a week), and most use tons of pesticides anyways. People will buy produce from a farmer's market stand, even when you can clearly see the Sysco boxes stacked behind them. There is really no standard, unfortunately.

I wonder how much organic actually does, because at some point, at some time, there were most likely chemicals that got into the field, even if they use good practices now. And in farming country, you can get run-off from someone else's pesticide-laden field really easily in a sudden rain. I think the only way to be truly safe from it is organic hydroponic (which I buy whenever I can). I was reading a study just the other day about how organic corn in Mexico has such high levels of a certain teratogen (chemical that causes birth defects) that spinal cord defects such as spina bifida and hydroencaphaly are 15x higher than in places where they don't eat the organically grown corn. And it was grown for export to the US!

It's a sad fact that you practically need a degree to know whether or not your food is safe. I definitely agree that when in doubt, organic is the way to go..but with Wal-Mart claiming to have organic produce, I wonder how much weight that carries.
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Old 06-08-2009, 07:46 PM
 
Location: Forests of Maine
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I was a vendor at our local Organic Farmer's Market. I needed to back out of it for a while to get our production up higher. At our FM every vendor there invites customers to go out and see their farm.

It seems to me, at least in this area, that nearly every organic farm and CSA encourages folks to come out and tour the farm.

If you ever thought that there might be pesticides, or petro-chems, or GMO in their produce; you should really go and see for yourself.
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Old 06-08-2009, 11:21 PM
 
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Originally Posted by forest beekeeper View Post
I was a vendor at our local Organic Farmer's Market. I needed to back out of it for a while to get our production up higher. At our FM every vendor there invites customers to go out and see their farm.

It seems to me, at least in this area, that nearly every organic farm and CSA encourages folks to come out and tour the farm.

If you ever thought that there might be pesticides, or petro-chems, or GMO in their produce; you should really go and see for yourself.
I agree! It's also just a really fun way to spend an afternoon, aside from the knowledge you'll gain. This is a great site to find farms near you: Local Harvest / Farmers Markets / Family Farms / CSA / Organic Food

And even if they have only recently begun transitioning towards going organic... that's still a good thing and better than buying conventional. You're still supporting a good cause. You're letting them know they have their heads pointed in the right place, and you support that.
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Old 06-09-2009, 06:48 AM
 
Location: Forests of Maine
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Also our FM has a 'no buy' rule.

Vendors are not allowed to bring anything that was not produced on their farm. An annual farm tour is done by the FM manager to ensure that your farm has the capability of producing what you sell.

There are other FMs in the area that allow some 'buy', usually a 20% buy. But their rules vary. Some say that 20% of your table-stall space can be products that you bought. Other say that no more than 20% of your receipts can be from products that you bought.

Some FMs are groups of farm-vendors who formed and got permits from the town to operate a market.

Other FMs are organized by the town 'chamber of commerce'.

It is a huge difference between these two types of FMs.

A 'chamber of Commerce' only wants to draw people downtown, so the FM is an 'attraction'. In these FMs the rules are usually very lax, and sometimes they turn into flea markets. We have one FM in our area that was started like this. They had much arguing and fighting, so a line was drawn on the parking lot pavement. On one side is the FM and on the other side is the flea market. The Farm-vendors try very hard to shoo away vendors who are only retailers, or junk dealers.

We also have FMs in the area that are purely organizations of farm-vendors, and who have 'no buy' rules, and organic rules.



It is difficult to produce organic produce without it costing more.

Right now our local grocery stores have eggs that sell for: 99cents/dozen up to $2.50/dozen.

My chickens are not fed organic feed, I can not afford it. Organic feed is very pricey.

My chickens are fed local harvested corn, barley and oats, and they spend a lot of time in the summer free-ranging in our forest. So they do get a lot of bugs, frogs and salamanders in their diet. When they are free-feeding their production of eggs goes down, but with so much fresh protein their yolks turn a dark orange. [which is a good indication of how much a chicken is allowed to freerange].

To house them, to incubate and brood fresh chickens each year, and to feed them grain through the winter; I need to make a bare minimum to break even.

At $2/dozen I am only breaking even. My time and effort would not be paid at all, if I sell my eggs at $2.

So you can buy cheaper eggs than mine. You can save money and buy at the grocery store, for half my price. This is simply how it works.

We have tried buying commercial chicken-layer feed, it has soybean as it's protein source. Soy-bean is loaded with phytoestrogen [which is why menopausal women eat lots of soy, it is an estrogen source]. On the commercial chicken feed [with it's estrogen] my chickens do produce more eggs. The feed costs more, but the chickens will produce so many more eggs, that the cost per egg is lower than otherwise.

So I could produce eggs and sell them for less. If I wanted to use commercial feed with soybean in it.

Is that what the consumer wants?
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Old 06-09-2009, 10:58 AM
 
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No! Not us, anyway.

If soy is not organic, isn't it almost always GMO? Same with corn, right? Things are so screwed up. No thanks to Monsanto. (Bastards.)
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Old 06-09-2009, 01:58 PM
 
Location: Forests of Maine
29,722 posts, read 47,472,880 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by haggardhouseelf
No! Not us, anyway.

If soy is not organic, isn't it almost always GMO? Same with corn, right? Things are so screwed up. No thanks to Monsanto. (Bastards.)
You are so right.

Much of the corn and soy is already GMO.

I have gotten into a few arguments about the usage of soy in livestock feed. Folks insist that it is a 'natural' ingredient, and that we should ignore the estrogen. Since estrogen is not being added to the feed as a separate ingredient it is okay and nature in this manner.

The label of the feed counts the soy for it's protein and fiber, but gimme a break. Everyone knows that soy is loaded with estrogen too.

And we have been seeing a huge change in our chickens' egg production when they have commercial feed, egg production goes way up.



We can produce eggs for much cheaper through the summers, simply by free-ranging the chickens and not giving them feed at all. Chickens running loose in the forest will feed themselves. But they will lay few eggs, and you spend a lot of time hunting for their clutches. We have done this in the past, and a high percentage of the eggs end up being rotten. They sit in a nest under a rotted log for a week before we find them, so as we candle the eggs as many as half of them will be bad.

Come winter you have to provide feed, and the chickens will stop laying. So for four months, you feed them and get no eggs at all.

No matter how we do it, we have found that it is very hard to produce eggs for less than $1/dozen.
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