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.

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