How We Plan to Feed Our Family of 5 Healthy, Organic Food on a Budget

You may have noticed lately that much of our recent budget shortfall comes from food purchases, specifically locally grown and organic food.  Here is what we have paid upfront for food in the last two months:

-$538 for a vegetable and fruit CSA.  This CSA will begin in early June and will run through late October.  We will get fresh, organic, locally grown produce every week for 20 weeks.  We also ordered the farm’s storage share which means in late October we will get 5 milk crates full of root vegetables including potatoes, winter squash, beets, carrots, onions and more.

-$524 for ½ side of ground beef from my cousin’s farm.  We order a ½ side of beef every year, but this year, we didn’t inquire about ordering until February, so we missed the opportunity to get a ½ side complete with ground beef and steak, roast and stew cuts.  Because my cousin lives 3 hours from us, it is simply not possible to transport all of that meat in the heat of June when he will next process his steers.  Instead, he processed one smaller steer, so we will get ½ side of almost all ground beef.  This will tide us over nicely until next December, though we will miss all those other good cuts of meat.

-$262 for the first of three payments for a 6 month meat CSA.  I have been gradually making the switch to meat from animals that come from farms where they are allowed to graze naturally and aren’t pumped up on grains to grow big quickly.  Mostly, we eat the cuts of meat from my cousin’s beef, but that isn’t possible this year, so we have decided to purchase a 6 month meat CSA.  We purchased the large size and will be getting a grocery bag and a half of meat every month.  A sample month includes: two chickens, a pound of bacon, pork chops, pork shoulder roast, ribs, lamb roast, ground lamb, shanks, beef roast, ground beef, and stew meat.

$20 for a community garden plot.  I have not gardened in nearly 10 years, but we decided this year we will try again.  I am using this garden to supplement our CSA share.  I’ll be planting produce that I hope to freeze so I don’t have to buy these items much in the winter.  I plan to plant green peppers, red peppers, cucumber, zucchini, summer squash, and tomatoes.

How We Will Put This All Together to Save Money

We are lucky to have lots of freezer space.  Our apartment has two refrigerators, one upstairs and one downstairs, so we can use both of those freezers.  We also have a deep freezer that is looking a bit bare and is just waiting to be filled.  The freezer will be instrumental to our savings plan.

Here is our plan to stretch the grocery budget and eat mainly organic foods:

-Make the meat CSA last for 12 months.  We (especially my husband) like to eat meat, but we are also conscious of the expense and have a few vegetarian meals a week to offset the cost of the meat meals.  By doing this, I am hoping to stretch the number of months the CSA will last us.  It costs $785 for 6 months, so that breaks down to $130.83 a month.  By stretching it to last 12 months, we will reduce our meat CSA cost to $65.41 a month for locally-grown, humanely-raised meat.

-Freeze meal components.  We frequently makes soups and stews during the winter, so I plan to freeze those vegetables that freeze well such as peppers and zucchinis so I can add them to soups, stews and muffins I may make in the winter.

-Make freezer meals.  For other vegetables that don’t freeze well by themselves, I plan to make many make ahead meals during the summer.  We love Jamie Oliver’s Best Pasta Sauce so much that we no longer eat tomato based pasta sauce.  I will be making many batches of this to last us through the winter and freezing them.

-Explore making and canning homemade salsa.  Salsa is the condiment we use most often.  I tried my hand at canning years ago and can’t say that I really enjoyed the process, but if I just focus on canning salsa, I don’t think it will be that bad.  Considering most salsa runs at least $2 to $2.50 a jar, our savings could be significant.

While we are pinching pennies to pay for all of this healthy food upfront, I think the investment will pay off this summer and fall when we start to see the fruits of our efforts.

What do you think?  Does this sound like a workable plan? 

Any other suggestions to further stretch our grocery budget and CSA purchases? 

How do you stretch your grocery budget?

I shared this post at Homemaking Hints.

Comments

  1. I think it sounds wonderful! We joined a CSA last year and now can’t wait for this year to start. I’ve never heard of a meat CSA before.

  2. Meat is definitely getting more and more expensive. I would like to add a few vegetarian meals each week. I hope you will share some of your recipes!

    Two more ways to stretch the food budget: I keep a container in the freezer for leftover veggies. Even if I just have a spoonful left in the pot after dinner, I add it to the freezer container. When the container is full, I use it to make a big pot of veggie soup. Also, I keep divided plastic plates with lids and fill those with leftovers from dinner. They become homemade frozen dinners to use when I don’t feel like cooking or we need a quick meal.

    • Melissa says:

      Thanks for the tips. I shredded some zucchini tonight and diced the ends I couldn’t use to be used in soup. Great idea.

      I have shared several of our frugal, meatless recipes under cooking–feed a family of 4 for $4. I’ll continue to share more as we make more. 🙂

  3. I have frozen a salsa verde (but that used tomatillos, not tomatoes) as well as guac with tomatoes – and both tasted fine when defrosted. Maybe try freezing a salsa? This would save you from canning.

  4. Just read up on it and others say that it is fine for freezing if you plan on adding it to soups or bakes, but it doesn’t taste as good for just chips or using fresh.

  5. I haven’t canned salsa before, but I have a recipe that I use to make it fresh whenever we want some (which is often – we’re salsa lovers too!).

    (2) 14.5oz cans diced tomatoes [1]
    1/2 fist full cilantro [.40]
    3 whole pickled jalepenos (can add another if you want it spicier, but taste first) [.38]
    1/2 white onion [.50]
    1/2 lime, squeezed for juice [.10]
    3 tsp sugar [.10]
    1/2 tsp garlic powder [.05]
    1/2 tsp cumin [.10]
    1/2 tsp salt [.05]
    1 tsp pepper [.10]

    Add it all to a blender and enjoy!

    I put approximate prices next to the ingredients. Each batch costs about $1.80 (less if you’ve already paid for the ingredients or home-grown them) and will make about 4 cups. If you pay $2 per 16oz jar, you’ve saved $1.10 PER JAR!

    AND, this salsa beats ANY salsa we’ve ever had – and we’ve tried them all!

    • Melissa says:

      That sounds so easy! I will have to try it. One question–we only do mild salsa around here because the kids can’t tolerate spicy. Would you recommend leaving the jalepenos out?

      • Oh goodness, beyond easy! We never fret if we run out, because it’s SO easy to make.

        For a milder flavor, maybe start with half of one? I’ve never made it without, but 3 is good for a “hot-now” version, especially since it gets hotter the longer it sits. You could even do 1/4 of one, but I do have a fear that if you left it out altogether, you’d be missing some good flavor. Maybe just add a little bit of the pickled juice? Or make it without, taste, then add as necessary?

  6. Heather says:

    I love the ideas to feed the family so well for the year. We are also canning alot this year. We love to can because even if the freezer breaks we still have food. We are lucky to live in Colorado and have a farm we visit when they have the pick your own weekends. I think in the fall fall we got about 250lbs of produce for $60.00. We are still enjoying the onions and tomatoes we canned and there are carrots and green beans in the freezer. Next time we will leave the boys with grandparents. My 4 yr old was more intrested in digging the dirt than the veggies. lol

    • Melissa says:

      250 lbs of produce for $60? I can’t even imagine. How fabulous. That could stretch your money a long way!

      • They charge by the person not by the pound. Also brought grandma and grandpa and they shared some of theirs with us. My dad got so excited that he picked 25 lbs of cabbage. MMMM homemade saurkraut. It was a fun day out too.

  7. You have a pretty good plan for feeding your family healthy food but I’m sure having to spend so much upfront puts a strain on the budget. We have just started buying all natural meat from a local farm and would like to buy more local food but it can be expensive.

    • Melissa says:

      It definitely has put a strain on our budget, but it should be much better in the summer and fall when all of the food we are paying for now comes in.

  8. Wow, I need to start looking into some of these! I would love to be able to find farms with pick your own stuff weekends or meat I can “subscribe” to like this. Time to start looking…

  9. I would love to set up this kind of system for our household! Unfortunately we live in an apartment with only a fridge-top freezer. Once we have a house I’ll definitely get a deep freezer so we can buy grass-fed meat in bulk. Sounds awesome!

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