Weekly CSA, start ups and budget

At the end of last summer, we bought a half of a cow from our local organic farm (the genuine food company, Steve Belkoff). We have been very satisfied with the quality of the meat, but shelling out $960 every year on red meat is a LOT (almost $20/week of our grocery budget)

In an effort to live as sustainably as possible, we have gone through a lot of changes in the last few years… it really is a lifestyle. We started with making our own body products, soaps, shampoo bars, lotions, laundry detergents, all purpose cleaning sprays, disinfectants etc. Then moved pst the rat race that is “eating out” in our society today… We really cut down a LOT. The statistics out there state that Americans eat an average of 5 meals a week out… out of 21, 5 are eaten out. Really makes you wonder… we cut down to one, and now we are shooting for once a month, and special occasions if it is desired.

Making meals from scratch is a way of life… finding time to make food and incorporating that into your life and schedule is hard… if you’ve managed to do this, pat yourself on the back!

Next comes cutting down on what you buy that is processed/prepackaged. I’m talking here about the chips, cookies, baking mixes, frozen dinners, and the like. It takes guts, tears, and a LOT of motivation to get used to this step… but it also cuts down your grocery bill.

I am trying my best to keep my monthly food budget (including household items and pet care) to $800.00/month to feed a family of 6 and 3 big dogs.

We shall see.

Once you are making .. oh let’s just say 90% of your foods by yourself, you automatically know what you have been spending on various ingredients.. flour, sugar, yeast, baking soda, baking powder, honey, molasses, oatmeal, fruits and veggies, meat, dairy, eggs…….

Then you can get fun and creative with trying to get as high quality food as you can, for as low prices as possible.

Enter the CSA:

Our CSA is a little different than a traditional CSA, in that it runs year-round. It is a network of farms that are all connected and partner up to bring us delicious food straight to our pick up location every week. Our CSA provides us with milk, yogurt, cheeses, beans, fruits, veggies, meats, grains, bread, butter, eggs, and some other items that you can order as well.. basically farm to table delivery service. We pick up on Thursday afternoons in White Marsh.

There are three ways to pay, weekly, monthly, or quarterly… I think I will do quarterly after a couple months because it will save me a small amount, but weekly it is 85$ for a large basket of food, if you pay monthly, it is $83/week, and quarterly, it works out to $81/week. We are currently doing monthly.

I am notified a week in advance of what is going to be in the basket, so I currently know what is in next weeks basket as well.

This week, I got the following:

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7 lbs 3 oz Apples
4 heads of Lettuce (3 green leaf, 1 Romaine)
1 dozen eggs
4 Medium Beets (1 bunch)
3 Green Peppers
3 Large Turnips
1 Butternut Squash
2 Pints Grape Tomatoes
2 lbs 11 oz Country Ribs
2 lbs Roma Tomatoes
2 lbs White Beans
2 lbs Yellow Onions
1 LARGE bag of Spinach
4 lbs Butter Potatoes
1 Qt Strawberry Yogurt
24 Oz Jar tomato puree
1 lb sausage links
5 lbs pork hock
3 lbs split chicken breast
1 lb Lamb cubes
2 Large Heads Red Cabbage

My total for this week was actually 99.00, I added in an additional 16$ worth of produce. I opted for extra produce instead of bread, and yogurt instead of milk as I am still deciding whether to stop using our current dairy delivery.

These same exact groceries according to Wegmans app, generic versions add up to 114.90, and Organic/Free Range add up to 189.90.

WOW. I wanted it to make sense to do this, but this shows it in black and white. Farm to table is THE CHEAPEST way to eat healthy.

Organic does not have to be more expensive… sure my milk is 6.50/gallon, and I can get it for 5.87 at Wegmans for organic, and less than 3.50 for generic… but I am a huge believer that big corporations will cut corners wherever they can and still get away with the “organic” certification. I will take grass fed, pastured milk EVERY day of the week.

*off soap box*

AHEM. Back to reality…

So, um, what am I going to do with all of this you ask? Why thank you 🙂

Our menu plan for the next week is here:

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I have made a pact with myself to only purchase items that I need to purchase, when I need to do so.

Last week, I spent $65 at BJs on food, $25 at Wegmans, $46 at Aldi, $50 at Costco. This covered most of my basics I needed for the month.

We bake our bread every other day, and it works for us. We either eat it with dinner that night, or as Sandwich Bread through the week.

I order Organic flours on amazon.com from the great river grain company, and keep 25lb bags of flour in my basement freezer and bring up only what I need, so my monthly subscribe and save order has to factor in to my budget as well.

Budget – $800/monthly
CSA Share- $332/monthly ($468)
Amazon -$100/monthly ($368)
Dog Care – $60/monthly ($308)
CSA Extra – $80/monthly ($228)
Wegmans – $100/monthly ($128) (additional ingredients .. COUPONS USED)
Aldi – $60/monthly ($68) (lunchmeat, salsa, organic staples)
BJs/Costco – $68/monthly (organic staples, grains, off season produce, butter)

Every single cent of my budget is accounted for. Its actually kid of scary for me every month to make sure I don’t go over.

Wegmans sends me coupons every 6 weeks for the next 6 weeks with $5 off a $25 purchase, and two $1 off coupons (for specific departments, meat, cheese, pharmacy ..) which can all be combined if you buy $26 or more and make sure that $5 are from each of the specified categories. I have managed to use all three coupons and still gotten out the door weekly for only $20 out of pocket. So the total at Wegmans, if I’m REALLY good can be $80. The CSA is a set price, the Dog Care is set, the things I purchase at Aldi are pretty consistent, and I probably always screw my budget up at the big warehouse stores, because there are always good deals I just “cant pass up”… 😦

Lets See how I do this week, I will post photos of this weeks new recipes, along with most of the dinners in a post at the end of next week, along with the menu plan coming up! I’m really looking forward to this. I would really like to see if there is a way for me to get ALL household expenses down $50 this coming month, and once that is done, move down another $50 without compromising quality or quantity.

That is the challenge. I’m not willing to give up food that my children need, or a lifestyle eating the foods that I love (both to eat and to make).

Thanks for sticking around ~ keep smiling!

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