Frugal and Healthy Meal Planning, Part 4
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.
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)