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Frugal and Healthy Meal Planning, Part 4

October 31, 2012
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In the spirit of Waste Not, Want Not, I thought I’d start this post telling you of my (seemingly) never ending chicken.  This past week I was blessed to have Kristina’s children staying with me while her husband spoke at a conference out of state.  That brought our family count to 11.  I stuck with my meal plan trying to add just a bit to the serving sizes.  And it has worked so well.  Let me tell you about that chicken, though:  On Sunday, for our Sabbath Meal, I roasted two whole chickens with herbs and vegetables.  We all got full, but there was enough chicken still on the bones for another meal.  So, I stripped the bones clean, placed the bones in the crock pot with water to make broth and the meat in the refrigerator.  On Monday we had Chicken ‘n’ Biscuits which used both the meat and the stock I’d prepared.  But, I refilled the crock pot with water and more garlic and onions and ran it again.  On Tuesday we all drank a big cup of broth with our lunch (especially helpful because several had scratchy throats).  I added more water to the crock pot and kept it running.  Tuesday for dinner I used the broth to flavor and thin the beans we had with our rice.  And guess what is still running on the counter.  Those bones!!!  They are still not quite completely brittle and so on we cook!  Today we’ll drink some more broth!  Hurray!!!!  I think I definitely got my money’s worth from those two chickens!  They have served us nobly!

Now on to today’s post!  In Part 1, we addressed priorities when it comes to menu planning and budgeting.  In Part 2, we talked about how to get the best deals on your pantry staples.  In Part 3, it was Meal Planning 101 (which I will be working on today, being that tomorrow starts a new month!).  In this final installment, we want to address eating seasonally and locally.

“Eating Locally” is sort of a buzzword these days in the food movement, giving us such terms as “locavore”–someone who eats only what is produced locally.  Truth be told we are not nearly as “locavore” as we’d like to be, but we are always striving to do better.  It just makes good sense–for our health, for our wallets, and for the earth.

Food eaten locally is better for our health in a number of ways.  If you can eat it sooner to the time it is picked it will have more of its nutrients in tact.  Food that has to travel farther has to be picked when it’s pre-ripe.  That doesn’t lend to taste or nutrition.  Also, food that is eaten closer to where it is produced needs less preservatives to keep it safe and pretty.  Then there’s things like honey that when eaten locally can boost your immune system!

Food eaten locally is also better for your wallet.  If your food doesn’t have to be shipped from the other side of the globe there is a lower food cost.  This can be seen at the Farmer’s Market.  This past week at the market I got our fruit for the week at $1 a pound!  WHAT?!  It was local and fresh and was much cheaper then what I could have picked up at the grocery store that was likely grown in South America or Asia.

And finally, of course, it’s better for the earth.  The globalization of the food supply adds to air pollution, the ecological costs of a food monoculture, and the loss of family farms.

Owing to this industrialized global food production system, over the last 100 years, 75 percent of plant genetic diversity has been lost and 30 percent of livestock breeds are at risk of extinction. 75 percent of the world’s food comes from 12 plants and only 5 animal species, making our global food supply highly vulnerable to disease and famine.  (Shannon Hayes in Radical Homemakers)

The most local you can eat, of course, is what you produce from your own backyard!  In Genesis 1:22 and again in verse 28 God said, “Be fruitful and multiply.”  Again the charge was given to Noah in Genesis 8, “Be fruitful and multiply.”  But that’s not all.  It is reinforced in Genesis 9, Genesis 35, and Jeremiah 23.  In a dozen other places the Scripture uses the concept of “being fruitful” as a blessing.  Of course, we usually hear this verse in relation to having children, but the concept is not JUST about children.  It’s also about the land and about the production of food.  “Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. “Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so.”  

The abiding principle here is that we have the right and responsibility to make our spaces fruitful.  If you have a window box in your kitchen, make it fruitful.  If you have a ten foot patch in your backyard, make it fruitful.  If you have 10 acres, make it fruitful.  God has not only given you that space for your provision, it will also bring a blessing to your home and land if you plant things for consumption.  “Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God.” Hebrews 6:7

Hand-in-hand with eating local is to eat seasonal.  As a culture we’ve really become accustomed to getting what we want when we want it.  We can get tomatoes in January while there are piles of snow on the ground!  We can get cabbage dead in the middle of summer when it’s too hot to grow it!  We get lamb when it’s not lambing season and salmon when they can’t possibly be enough to produce meat that time of year.  This adds to our food costs!  And substantially!   There’s a price to pay for convenience.  If we begin, however, to watch the seasons and eat what is naturally and more easily grown in the season we are in, we can save quite a bit of money.  Save those fresh tomato and cucumber salads for July when tomatoes and cucumbers easily multiply.  Eat what is IN SEASON.

Not many of us, however, will be able to produce ALL our own food.  At the best, at this point, it’s only supplemental for our family.  (But, we are increasing it little-by-little each season!)

So, we have a couple suggestions:

1. Food Swaps.  Find others who produce things you cannot and trade for things you can produce.  The long lost art of the barter!  This can work with produce from your garden or orchard.  But this can also work with canned good or frozen meals.  It could work with garden space as well.  Perhaps you want to garden but don’t have the space.  Your friend has the space, but no time or skill to garden.  Trade!  You tend the garden on her patch of land and in exchange you can share the produce!  Get creative.

Likewise, so many people have produce that they don’t use.  All the time I see fruit trees in front yards that are laden with fruit and that is literally falling to the ground because no one has the time or inclination to collect it.  Arrange a day where people in your church, community or neighborhood can bring their excess food and trade with one another so that none of the harvest is wasted.

“Much food is in the fallow ground of the poor, And for lack of justice there is waste.” (Proverbs 13:23)

2. Preserve all you possibly can!  This doesn’t just apply to food from your garden.  This applies to food from the farmers market and grocery stores, too.  If something your family enjoys is on a super sale or is in high season, buy a bunch!  Learn to can it or chop it up and freeze it or dehydrate it.  Don’t let the harvest go to waste!  By preserving all you can you can enjoy strawberry smoothies in February.

Image by Nina Lee, 1952, Courtesy of LIFE Magazine

We will leave you with this inspiration from one of our favorite people, Vicki West of Homestead Blessings:

What’s growing in season and local where you live this November?

(Linked to Frugally Sustainable)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Elizabeth F permalink
    November 5, 2012 2:48 pm

    November nothing is in season here, really, and nothing is really actively growing. There still may be harvests going on…onions, carrot, rutabaga that kind of root thing. Or if someone has a green house. Farmer’s market ended a month ago. There are still a few roadside stands but they are just squash, pumpkins, gourds etc.

    We are pretty well stocked up. We don’t grow a wide variety of things in our garden. Just tomatoes, peppers, green beans, peas, zucchini and cucumber. The easy stuff, I guess as I have to depend on my husband to harvest, plant, weed, water. I personally don’t eat raw tomatoes as I am allergic to them. All my tomatoes go into canning for the year. Peppers get stuffed and frozen or dried or sliced and frozen depending on the variety. Peas are eaten fresh…never freeze or can. They are too good, and for us not a high yielding crop. Green beans are eaten in large amounts, given away and some are frozen for soups and green bean casseroles only. I don’t like frozen or canned green beans. Zucchini appears in every meal in season, a lot is grated drained and packed for the freezer for soups, chili and bread in the off season. I only grow slicing cucumbers for eating. Overgrown cucumbers are used for pickle relish.

    As you say if you can’t grow it buy when a good deal. I do that with corn for freezing whole kernel and making corn relish. I buy my little pickling cucumbers. I have no luck growing beets but we love beets so I buy those for pickling and to have in freezer. I get all these either at farmer’s market or from nearby farm stands. My husband travels a bit and also just likes to wander. He knows where to get the 50 pound bags of onions and potatoes and where the apple orchards are and where to get sour cherries, and maple syrup and honey, red cabbages and green. So my onions and potatoes are in storage . The apples are frozen and canned. The cabbages are krauted and pickled. The jugs of honey and syrup look so pretty in the pantry and I know they are pure and real and not sent over from China.

    Over the years I “get people”, like the guy at the market that sells raspberries calls me direct when he has picked so I can pick up my whole batch of berries fresh and ready to go for jam and freezing. A church friend gives me enough grapes that I can do enough jelly for us for the year. Or the neighbor that gets to pick all the fruit from another neighbors pear tree and then use it , share it, and the pear tree lady fruit doesn’t go to waste and she gets back fresh fruit, pear sauce, dried pears even from the different families she shares with. I gave her a jar of “carrot cake jam” that was on a blog. Turned out very good.

    Well, such a long post. During the off season we try to eat local but of course we don’t grow citrus here so we need to buy oranges, grapefruits, lemons limes. I buy carrots as my garden is a little too rocky and clayish to grow happy carrots. I also will buy lettuce all winter as we like green salads . I avoid fruits and vegetables that have to be flown in for example from New Zealand or Chile…never buy produce from Mexico. Well to end, I am looking forward to receiving my bag of cranberries soon, not some whimpy little bag from the grocer but 5 pound bags that I will sauce and can and freeze and dry. That will probably be one of the last things I process this year, except until citrus is in season and I do the marmalades.

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  1. Frugal and Healthy Meal Planning, Part 3 | The Provision Room

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