With rising food costs, it is so important to make the most of every food dollar you spend. Fortunately, this is where zero waste living excels. By prioritizing simple, unprocessed ingredients and intentionally minimizing food waste, you’ll put more money back in your pocket.
- General money-saving tips
- Calculating unit price
- Affording organics
- Affording local produce
- Minimizing food waste
- Investing in local meats
This episode is a synthesis of several previous posts as I’ve written often about sourcing high-quality foods, cooking from scratch, and saving money. Keep scrolling for links to the resources mentioned in the episode!
Listen to Episode 3 – Stretch Your Food Dollars
Jump ahead to read the episode transcript
Episode 3 show notes:
0:44 Episode intro & overview
5:17 When zero waste really shines
7:08 My food standards
11:20 Hitting the bulk bins
12:40 Calculating unit price
13:43 Switching to organics
16:44 Organic pantry staples
22:24 Affording local produce on a budget
30:58 Rethinking food waste
39:04 Affording local or grass-fed beef
46:17 Wrap up
I mentioned so many posts, tips, and resources in this episode! I’ve linked to the references in order of appearance. If I missed anything you were looking for, let me know!
Zero Waste Whole Home Guide
Make going zero waste stress-free! It’s way easier than you’d think, especially with these helpful checklists & tools. You’ll learn about natural cleaning, shopping tips, zero waste meal planning, laundry, bathroom swaps, and more!
- Setting Up a Zero Waste Kitchen (Includes issues with food waste)
- Dirty Dozen Clean 15 – Which crops to always buy organic
- My posts about affording food on a budget
- Working with bulk produce
- Azure Standard – Shop now
- Meal planning
- Get a free meal planner in my resource library
- Get my zero waste meal planner on Etsy
- Simply Meal Planning
- Learn about freestyle cooking
- Start cooking without recipes
- Reusing food scraps
- Where to Buy Grass-Fed Beef
I am so happy that I found Anchor FM at the very beginning of my podcast journey! It is just as robust and way easier to use than some of the paid programs I considered at first.
Plus, it’s from Spotify, so it’s fully integrated with one of the biggest podcasting platforms out there! I was able to start my podcast and integrate with Apple, Amazon, Stitcher, and more within about an hour.
If you want to start a podcast yourself, start with Anchor FM!
Sign up for our newsletter & get access to our free resource library
Simplify going zero waste
Don’t let zero waste intimidate you! Here are some simple posts to get you going.
Welcome to Simple Sustainable Home. I’m Rachel, the blogger behind Milk Glass Home. My focus is all about making sustainable living easy and beautiful. We’re going to slow down and learn about cooking from scratch, gardening and preserving the harvest, setting up a low waste lifestyle, and keeping a nontoxic home. We have new episodes every Saturday to help you find new tips and strategies to make simple living easy. Let’s get started.
Welcome to episode three of Simple Sustainable Home. I am so glad you are here with me today for so many reasons. One because I’m just happy to have you with me, but also because we are talking about one of my favorite topics. And I know that this is not a cool thing to talk about. I don’t care. It is important for pretty much everybody. And the topic today is food cost. And chances are, unless you are independently wealthy, you have noticed that the price of food has been going up significantly. So since last year. These are the April numbers from the Consumer Price Index.
The cost of food at home, meaning we’re talking about all of the ingredients and groceries that you buy to Cook at home. Those prices have gone up 9.4%. So you’re looking at a lot of the basic things that you use every day, costing 10%, close to 10% more. And this is it depends on the category, right? Some categories are higher than that. Some are a little bit lower. And I know that groceries seem like something that’s not super expensive, like it’s just a box of rice or whatever, but $0.10 here and $0.10 there. If everything costs more and it’s not just the groceries, everything costs more. Utilities, fuel, clothing, everything has gone up. So then it starts to feel like, oh my gosh, I’m just spending so much more money. How can I get this under control?
There is so much to say about trying to maximize your grocery budget that this is a long podcast. It’s my longest one yet, and I wanted to give you a heads up of what we’re going to talk about so that if there is a topic that’s really important for you, you can buzz ahead to that. Or if there’s a topic that’s not relevant to your lifestyle at all, you’ll know when to stop listening. I mean, I hope that you listen to every minute of this whole thing, but I understand that everybody is different and there are things that I buy or eat that you might not buy or eat.
Okay, so we will start by sharing some basic shopping tips to help you save money. If you aren’t familiar with how to calculate a price per ounce or per unit, I’m even going to give you a teeny tiny, very tiny math lesson like 1 minute. We are going to discuss bulk buying versus buying prepackaged items. I’m going to talk to you about how we buy organic pantry staples in bulk for less. We’ll go over some tips about finding that line between conventional and organic. So especially if the budget thing and you’re trying to start eating more organic food, what are things you can look for? Where should you prioritize spending on Organics versus sticking with conventional? I’m going to spend some time discussing local produce because that’s a passion for me. So we’ll talk about how can you find and afford local produce even if money is a little bit tight? We’re going to spend quite a bit talking about rethinking food waste. So how can you make the most of the food you already have by minimizing what goes bad, what’s sent to the compost? We’re going to rethink what is waste. And then at the very end, I’m saving this for the end, because I know that if I have vegans or vegetarians listening, if you don’t eat meat, there’s no point in listening to me talk about that. But at the very end, we’re going to spend some time talking about affording local or grass fed meat. We’re going to figure out how could you add that into your budget and things like that. So there’s a lot to cover. We’re going to go ahead and dive in.
If there are things that are not addressed in this podcast that you are curious about, please head to my podcast page. You can just type in simplesustainablehome.com, and that’s going to take you directly to my podcast page where you can leave me a message about what you want to know about. So if you’re like, Rachael, you forgot to talk about this. Tell me, tell me. All right. So we’re going to dive in, and I hope that you find some tips to help you save some money today. This is where things like zero waste and low waste living are so helpful and something that I want other people to learn about because they’re just particularly well suited to focusing on how to get food in an affordable way, how to use it, make the most of it, and rethinking food waste.
And I am not 100% zero waste. I think 100% zero waste might not even really exist or be possible. We do have trash that goes in the trash can that we throw out every week. We are not living with all of our trash in one little glass jar. And I don’t want you to aim for that either. We’re just trying to make the most of what we have and reduce the packaging that comes into our home. And especially as somebody with a real food lens, I’m always trying to focus on buying high-quality nourishing ingredients, not foods, but ingredients, because those can be transformed into anything.
This topic is an absolute passion for me, so I promise not to rattle on for too long. But my goal is to share some of the things that I know from living a sustainable lifestyle, from cooking from scratch, from having to really invest in higher quality proteins and produce and dairy. I know that those things can be expensive. And so to try to do that on a budget, I’ve had to learn some ways to stretch things and take really good care of my food. So I really hope that the things that I have learned in my experience will be helpful to you so that you can save a little bit of money while you’re feeding yourself and your family.
So I know that I probably spend more on groceries than other people do, simply because I’m a little extra about the quality of the food that we will bring into our home. We have pretty high food standards and we will compromise on our spending elsewhere to be able to support this way of living and eating. So we really try to buy local whenever possible. We really try to eat in season. It’s pretty uncommon for us to buy fruits or produce out of season unless they are a good storage crop and they were an item that was harvested maybe the fall before and then kept cold. We really try to aim for organic, not just for our produce, but also for our oils and grains and nuts and seeds. I try to focus on only pasteurized proteins, grass fed beef. And then of course, we also like to grow our own produce. So I have to add some homegrown produce to this list.
In fact, I love to buy bulk produce to turn into jams, jellies, pickles, all ferment, sauerkraut, things like that. In fact, one of my goals this summer is to learn how to pressure can I get an old canner for about a dollar. 50 a few years ago, but honestly, it just freaks me out. So check back in with me later to see if I actually do use that canner. It is a goal. I’m going to do it. I’m going to do it. But I want to share some food tips that are going to help anywhere with any budget. So these are things that you could use if you’re shopping exclusively for Organics. If you are just trying to make ends meet and you’re looking for a little bit of saving, here are some tips for you.
So again, focus on buying simple ingredients, not pre made foods. You can get a pound or 5 lbs of flour for just a few dollars and use that to make crackers and cookies and breads and all kinds of things. So those things aren’t totally essential. You can make them on your own. I know that time and convenience is a big part of this, so there are times where you have to balance that out. But there’s a lot of overnight recipes, quick recipes and I don’t know, sometimes we choose to just do without things if we know that it would help us save a little bit of money in our budget.
An important tenant of zero waste like one of the places where Zero Waste Really Shines is talking about shopping in the bulk section to avoid packaging waste. So you can take your old glass jars, Mason jars, leftover pasta jars, plastic tubs, take them to the bulk section to fill with flour and rice and sugar and chocolate chips and all kinds of things, and you’re going to have absolutely no packaging waste. This is one of the things that Zero Waste really recommends, and it can be a little bit tricky. So I want you to use this next tip if you do that.
My next tip is to check the price per unit or ounce. All right? So if you are a math person, you’re comfortable calculating unit prices and things like that. Just tune me out for a second. And I know that a lot of stores will have a unit price written on the label on the shelf. But I have noticed that sometimes the pricing that they use is not consistent. So one item will be price per ounce, and then the next one will be like price per unit. And you can’t really compare because they’re not measuring the same thing.
So if you’re not comfortable calculating unit price, all you’re going to need to do is open up your calculator type in the total price of the item first, then push the division symbol or the slash, and then put in the number of ounces or items in that package to figure out what it costs for just one. When you know how much 1oz or one unit costs, you can compare with other products to see which one is really going to be the best value.
Sometimes I will recommend to people that especially if you’re buying something off of the shelf and it’s in plastic and you want to minimize plastic waste, you can often buy a larger size item, it’s going to have a lower price per ounce, and you’ll get a type of plastic that might even be more easily recyclable, like type one or type two. So really check those unit prices, especially when you are trying to eliminate plastics or reduce your packaging waste. It’s also a good tip just to save some money.
Okay. Now if you’re like, oh my gosh, this moved into a math lesson. She’s going to make me do some calculations. She’s going to give me homework. I promise I’m not going to tell you how to do any more math, although I don’t have a problem with math, and hopefully you don’t either. But use that price per ounce, use the unit price. That can be a really helpful strategy.
Another thing is to think about stretching meats, which are definitely going to be more expensive. Stretch those with beans or lentils or vegetables to make them go as far as possible. You can also try to do things like Meatless Mondays, where switch to using beans and rice. Sometimes to save a little bit of money. We’re still getting a nice filling meal, but we always like to add things to our meat to stretch it out so that we get extra nutrition and we can make the cost of that meat a little bit lower per serving.
And if you are trying to shop organically but you’re not really sure where to prioritize, I really recommend checking out the EWG that’s the Environmental Working Group. They put out a list every year called The Clean 15 and the Dirty Dozen. And they will tell you which products you can buy conventionally grown with fewer pesticides. So if you buy it conventionally grown, you’re not going to take in as many pesticides versus the Dirty Dozen, which are ones that have a lot of pesticides on them that you would really want to try to buy organically if possible. And as a rule of thumb, usually if the item doesn’t have appeal or rind or shell on it and it’s being sprayed directly, it’s going to have more pesticide residue. So things like berries, if the berries are going to have pesticides on them, then that would be one to try to purchase organically.
If you have been trying to live more sustainably but you feel like you could use a little help, I really want to recommend my email newsletter. You’ll get access immediately to my free resource library and you’ll also get my regular updates with all of my recipes, tips and guides. In my free resource library, you’ll first find my printable ebook A Wellstocked Pantry and that’s where I break down how I shop for food, keep it fresh and Cook from scratch with ease. This also includes my super popular Free Pantry Staples list and Weekly Meal Planner. In addition to that, you’ll get my 30 day sustainability challenge. This is a great way to push yourself out of your comfort zone and try a new strategy each day. You can see all of these free resources and more in just moments. When you subscribe, click the link in the show Notes to get started today
Let’s take a little bit of time talking about bulk buying today because I am a bulk buyer, but I don’t recommend it for everyone. I really only recommend buying in bulk what you know you can use before it goes bad. And that’s common practice, right? A lot of people who eat and Cook this way will say just only buy what you can use before it goes bad. But the other part of bulk buying is that the more I have of something, sometimes it seems like I go through it faster. It’s like, oh my gosh, I have this huge bag of chips from Costco and I suddenly ate more chips this week than I’ve ever eaten before. The more you have of something, the more you seem to use it up.
So depending on your budget and your personality, sometimes you have to be cautious about buying in bulk. But we do one of the things we always look for is that unit price like we talked about. So usually in bulk, you’re not looking at ounce prices, you’re looking at prices per pound. And I’m talking about doing this for things like oatmeal, flour, sugar. We really want to understand how can we get things that we use a lot of for less?
And because we buy organic products a lot of the time, the Organics at the grocery store are just not that great of a price. And honestly, I’ve looked at Organics at my local co op and local stores and I can’t really sustain paying $2 a pound for organic flour or organic oats, like $10 for five pound bag. That for me is just not a great price. And maybe one day I will switch to buying my bulk grains at local stores.
But for me, I actually like to order mine online from a company called Azure Standard. So I’ve written several post about Azure Standard. I’m a big fan of them. They are a company out of Oregon and they sell a lot of organic products, including pasture raised dairy, plant starts. I’ve purchased fertilizer for my garden from there. Like they sell food, cleaning supplies, all kinds of stuff. And what they do is they ship it out to you on a truck at a drop site near you.
So for us, because we’re so close to Oregon, we are very lucky that we can usually get about two deliveries from them per month. And I don’t shop from them every month because these are bulk items. These are things that should last for a long time. So usually I’ll just place one big order from them every few months or so to restock some basics. They have some of the best prices on organic items in these large sizes. So we love to get their popcorn, their oatmeal, their flour. We also love this butter that they sell. It’s a grass fed, pasture raised butter, I believe from Northern California. And it has the butteriest butter I’ve ever had. Like when it’s melting, it just smells almost like artificial butter because it has that much of a scent to it, which is, I don’t know. My husband and I love that.
We also get oils from them, vinegar, molasses. We love to get spices from them. And although as your standard is not zero waste, a lot of their grains and other dry goods come in paper packages which are super easy to compost or to repurpose. In the garden. You can almost always opt for glass packaging over plastic and they ship your products in repurposed cardboard boxes from all of the deliveries that they receive. So if you really like to Cook from scratch and go through products in a timely fashion, then Azure Standard can be a great way to get a whole bunch of organic or high quality food for less money.
And I will say with some of their products they do ship them in plastic film containers which we’ve talked about before in episode one. The reason why I will sometimes do those is because the price just completely outweighs what I can buy locally. So I’ve gone. In the age of COVID, I can see the prices per item from my local co op and from local stores before I leave to go pick up anything. And it will be like $18 a pound for organic, whatever, like organic cumin or something where I can get a 1 lb package of organic spices from Azure Standard for like six or $7. The price difference for me is just very big. So we like to get the largest containers that we can and just use the things that we have. We use a lot of the same things over and over again. So if you have basic spices that you always come back to, we’ll get those in bulk and then we’ll try to fill in the gaps with the things we use less frequently buying those locally.
So you can always buy less expensive and smaller packages at the store if you don’t want things in this large of a quantity. And as your standard is not necessarily cheaper for conventional products. So if you’re not looking for organic, always double check those prices. But for us, it really turns out to be a good value. And we love that they have super high standards about their products and the companies that they work with. Plus, since they’re out of Oregon, I think of them as a local or regional company to us. And because we can get those orders so frequently, it’s just awesome. We just go to this Church on a Wednesday evening, pick up our order, and there we go.
All right, so that’s the grocery store. You’re trying to find the best value at the grocery store to save a little bit of money.
But some of you are kind of like me and you would really prefer to eat locally grown. And you’re like, I don’t know how to do this on a budget because I’ve heard people tell me for years, well, locally grown produce is way cheaper, but a lot of those people tend to live in rural areas. But I live outside of Seattle and where I am, the cost of land is so high that when we try to shop at a local farm, the price is definitely going to be higher than at a grocery store. Most of the time.
If you’re pricing it out compared to Organics in the grocery store, sometimes it breaks even or can be a little bit less at the farmer’s market or with the farm. But in general it’s more so then how on Earth can you try to eat that way on a budget? And I actually just published a post about this yesterday morning because I have so many people ask me this question and if you don’t know my story, I actually worked at a farmer’s market for four years. So two of the years I was the market assistant and two of the years I was the manager. And this totally opened my eyes to local food systems and sustainable agriculture. And as somebody on a budget, it also taught me a lot about how to get really good produce for less money.
And so this isn’t to say that I don’t think you should pay your farmer like pay your farmer. They are feeding you three meals a day. They are out there all year long trying to grow food. They just need you to come and buy it. You should absolutely pay your farmer. But if you’re on a really tight budget and the produce feels inaccessible to you financially, then there are ways to maximize your budget and help your farmer out at the same time.
So one of my favorite strategies is to do a workshare or to actually work on a farm. As a teacher, I have my summers off, right? And I will typically harvest on a friend’s farm one to two days per week, depending on the year. Sometimes I’m just helping during Berry season. But the farmer benefits because they have labor and I benefit because they will send me home with produce. If you do a workshare, you’ll get paid in produce. I typically work on a farm where I’ll actually get paid and then I can take home seconds or we call it farmer food. It’s like when you’re clearing a bed and there’s way too many carrots and there’s like lumpy, weird ones or ones you accidentally stabbed with the Pitchfork. Then those go into the farmer food pile and we take those home. So for me, I’m able to help the farmer out by offering labor. I’m making a little bit of money. I’m taking home some food, but I don’t want to have to go to the compost heap. And this is a great strategy for me. And I try to save all of the money that I make on the farms to try to spend farmers markets or supporting that farm or other farms. So then you’re kind of spreading that wealth even more.
A lot of people aren’t really familiar with this, but there is something called gleaming and it can be a really nice way to get a little bit of food for yourself really cheap while also collecting food that would otherwise be wasted to share with local food banks. So gleaming is when you go to a field or go to an Orchard and you’re going to harvest excess produce after the farmer is done. So sometimes this happens more at really big farms where maybe they’ll do the potato harvest for the year and then a gleaning group is going to go through when they’re going to look for the potatoes that were missed, maybe potatoes that were a little bit funny shape that weren’t ideal to send to market. And in that process. Usually you get to take home a bag of whatever you were gleaning. And some of it also goes to food banks. And there is something called National Gleaning Project where you can find organizations that do this all over the country.
Another great tip is to look for you pick farms. And these are farms that grow the produce for you, but you harvest them so you get a lower price because you’re not paying for the farmers labor and harvesting, you’re just paying for the growing. So I have seen people tell me about crazy prices shopping at you picks. Like they’ll go places and fill a five gallon bucket with beans or something for $5, which is just not common in my area. That’s just not really how that’s not the price that we see. Those are some really low prices.
But you pick farm is a great way to get a lot of produce really quickly for not that much money, but you’ve got to have a plan for it. Like, I went blueberry picking with my sister and my niece last summer and I came home with, I think, 11 lbs of blueberries. So my whole kitchen became a blueberry processing station where I washed them all. I let them dry out on my kitchen towels and then I froze them on my baking sheets and put them into bags for the freezer. So I was able to use those blueberries and so many recipes. There’s definitely some blueberry recipes on my blog, but this is just a great way to get produce, especially things that are more expensive, like berries for less money.
The last tip here, just for the podcast, there’s plenty more tips on that post. So if you’re really interested in shopping for local produce and you want to know how do I maximize my budget, how do I get the most out of my dollars? Then please read that post. It’s going to be in the show notes. But you can also arrange a bulk order with your farmer. So especially if you know that you want to be processing jam and it’s almost strawberry season, talk to your farmer about buying a flat or a half flat. And there’s usually a discount for purchasing in bulk. So even if it’d be more expensive to buy a pint of those berries, you’re not going to be paying for the price per pint times the amount of containers in the flat or the half flat. They’re usually going to give you one overall price.
And sometimes if it’s something like berries, there might even be seconds where these were imperfect berries. They’re not going to last as long. They need to be processed. They don’t want them to be wasted. You might be able to kind of arrange a cheaper price for that. So those are some tips. But again, if you really want to know about buying local produce on a budget, please check out the show notes and head to my blog, Milk Glass Home to see my tips.
Are you trying to switch to a sustainable or zero waste lifestyle but you’re really not sure where to start? I hear you. It’s like sustainable living. It seems like you have to do everything in a way that’s different than how you were raised or what you’ve been doing your whole life. It can feel overwhelming and confusing, but I want to make it super simple and stress free for you. On my Etsy page, I have created a set of checklists to help guide you through switching to zero waste or low waste replacements in your home. So I’ve covered all of the key places we’re talking about your kitchen. You’re going to learn how to shop with reusable. We’re going to talk about food storage food waste. I’ve got my meal planner in there so that you can really see what you have that needs to get used before you plan your meals for the week. I’m going to break down your bathroom, the laundry and cleaning routines. There’s even a daily and weekly cleaning checklist to help you stay organized. So this is me turning everything I know about this into the quickest, easiest bite of information to help you get started. This is on my Etsy page. It is called the Zero Waste Whole Home Guide, and I hope that it is a wonderful resource for you and helps you make this transition to a sustainable lifestyle the easy way. If you head to the show Notes, you’ll have a direct link to my Etsy site, so you can find this printable and you’ll have it in just minutes.
Let’s focus a little bit on one area where zero waste living truly shines, and this is in tackling food waste. Food waste is a huge issue. When food goes into the landfill, it’s going to release methane, which is a greenhouse gas that is much denser than carbon dioxide. So it is a really pervasive greenhouse gas that makes global warming worse. And food waste is just a huge issue. It’s, I believe, the third largest contributor of greenhouse gases. And from a financial standpoint, the average American family typically throws away about $1,500 per year in food. So that really adds up. If we can minimize that food waste and maximize what we’re actually buying, then it becomes easier to afford things like buying meat in bulk or purchasing Greens in bulk.
So food waste is a huge topic in the eco friendly world. We’re really trying to minimize that. And from a financial standpoint, this is a great place to learn some tips. So one common thing is to save veggie scraps and stems for stock. I have a bag in my freezer. Anytime I’m cooking, I just put it on the counter. And so the onion peels, the little stem with the roots from the onion, like the dried tops of celery. The celery, the base of the celery plant, all of those things. Carrot peels. All of those things go straight into this bag, and then I just close it up and put it back in the freezer. And when it’s full, I’m going to use it for making veggie stock or adding to chicken stock.
I also recommend saving things like the broccoli stems or, you know, those thick white bases of cauliflower. If you have a food processor, you can just blitz that stuff up for rice, like a veggie rice. Or I will often just blitz up the whole cauliflower and throw it into some sort of dish with meat. Like, you can use almost all of those parts. Some leaves can be eaten that we would normally dispose of. So carrot tops are edible. People make carrot top pesto. The tops of strawberries are edible, so you can eat that. If you’re into it, you can throw it into a smoothie. When you’re making a strawberry smoothie, you won’t even notice it’s there. Broccoli Greens, celery leaves, all of those things can just go straight into your dish. You don’t need to remove those. Think of that as free food.
Okay. You can save fruit peels, so you can soak banana peels and water overnight to make a potassium water to feed to your house plants. You can turn Apple peels and cores into Apple cider vinegar. You can make flavored or scented vinegar with citrus peels. I am actually experimenting with this right now. So in my pantry, I have a jar with strawberry tops in white vinegar and then some mango peels in white vinegar. And my hope is that those are going to be really nice to use in vinaigrette so we can get that fruity flavor.
I also really recommend meal planning, but before you do go through your fridge to see what you have left over to use up first. So before you’re like, I want to have tacos on Tuesday and I want to have lasagna on Thursday. Stop. Actually take a quick inventory of your fridge. So write down what you have that’s starting to get a little bit old. That’s starting to wither and figure out how are you going to use that in your meals for the week?
I actually just created a meal planner yesterday to help you not only outline your meals and snacks for the week, but to go through your food to see what needs to be used and to track your grocery list on the same page. This is part of the Zero Waste Whole Home Guide that I created and put on Etsy. Basically, I have checklists to walk you through transitioning to a zero waste lifestyle in your kitchen with your cleaning routine, with your bathroom and your laundry routine. And it does include that meal planner. So that can be a really handy way to just see how can I make these transitions in my life in a really easy way? You’re just basically checking things off on a list.
Another tip for food waste is to save the bones from roast or from like. If you get a chicken or you roast the chicken, save all of those bones, put them back in the freezer. Use them to make stock.
I recommend storing breads in the fridge to minimize molding and repurpose old, non moldy breads into croutons. French toast penzella. That’s a bread salad. You can make breadcrumbs. You can even make new bread with old bread. Yes, you can turn breadcrumbs into new bread. That’s the same.
And one of my favorite tips is to get really comfy with the sniff test. You need to learn how to tell if something is fresh or safe to eat without relying on the packaging dates. And I’m not interested in getting sued. If you eat something that’s past it’s freshness level. But there are things you can do to tell when food is fresh or when it’s starting to turn. So, for example, if you notice your milk is starting to have that slightly sour smell, you can use it to make ricotta. And I do it a really lazy, easy way. I’ll just heat up the milk, not quite to a boil. Take it off the heat. I pour in some white vinegar. I let that sit stir. You’re going to have some curds, add salt, strain. And now you can use this as ricotta. You can melt it on top of things. You don’t have to dump that milk. You can heat it up and turn it into something else.
If you buy yogurt, yogurt can last a long time, like a month or more. I only avoid yogurt or I throw it away if there’s visible mold on the yogurt. So if you see mold, don’t eat it. But on cheese, you can cut the mold off of the cheese. That’s totally fine, but donate moldy bread. So the mold on cheese and the mold on bread spread differently. By the time you see the mold on bread, it’s already spread throughout that whole item. Where on cheese, it’s just growing on the surface. So please don’t eat bread that has mold on it.
But with produce, you can cut off the little funky bits that are getting softer. Turning eggs can usually last about a month or more, and you can even do the float test. So if you put an egg in a container of water, it should sink to the bottom and lay on its side. If it floats to the middle or to the top, then it is going bad and it is rotting.
You can check to see the freshness of an egg just by putting it in water and doing the float test.
Learning how to store produce is helpful too. You’ve got to try to keep stuff fresh as long as possible. Typically we will store most of our produce and reuse plastic gallon bags, but there’s so many different things out there. You can use beeswax wraps to wrap things like celery or to wrap cheese. People have been telling me that you can store carrots and water to keep them really crisp. I tried the Berry trick recently where you put strawberries in a Mason jar and seal it to see how long they last. And I did notice that my berries were lasting longer. But there’s so many cool videos on YouTube and Instagram about how to store your produce to keep it lasting as long as possible. So spend some time. Spend five minutes watching those videos, figure out how can I make the most of the stuff that I have that I have spent so much money on.
All right, I know that talking about meat is a touchy subject when we come to the environment, when we talk about ethics, because there are people who see different sides of things here. And I do eat meat, but I try to only purchase meat that I believe has grown or raised in a sustainable way. And we can disagree on this, but for my own health, for my own lifestyle, this is the choice that I’ve made. And my husband and I will save our money to invest in the most sustainable meat that we can find, because it’s really important to us that we do that. So we’re looking at regeneratively grown, pasture raised meats. If it’s something like beef, it’s going to be grass fed. And we believe that this is a more nutritious, more environmentally friendly and more ethical choice than factory farmed meats to each their own. This is not a hate on each other podcasts. I simply want to help people who are also looking for this type of protein to find out how to do that in an affordable way.
My husband and I just split half of a cow with our in laws. Locally grown, it lived about seven minutes down the road. I think I’ve probably driven by it a bunch of times without knowing the furthest trip it ever took away from the farm was to go to the Butcher, who we met when we picked it up on the farm. So for us, this grassfed beef came from a local farm, from a woman who uses she really tries to take good care of her animals. She’s been farming and growing in our county for decades. We felt very comfortable supporting her and we tried her food before and it was all excellent. After everything was done, the price per pound came out to six point. For all of the beef that we got, we got about 95 lbs of beef, which is a lot, but it definitely fit into our chest freezer. So if you’re wondering about size, our quarter of the cow portion basically just filled the bottom of our chest freezer with some extra space. It was Angus beef and it included all the steaks, the roast. We paid extra to be able to get the organ meat, so we got the heart, the tongue, the liver. We got suit trying to think if there’s anything else I’m forgetting from that.
But what I really liked about this was not only did I support a local farmer, but I also supported the Butcher because it was a local Butcher and the food miles here were so minimal because the cow was not raised very far away and the Butcher was not very far away either. It’s not certified organic, but in my post about buying grass fed beef I explained that I don’t worry about that label with local meat because the organic certification process is really cost prohibitive for small farmers. So it’s much better to just talk to your farmer, ask them questions. And in that post about buying grass fed beef, I’ve actually included questions. You can ask them to make sure you are okay with the quality of the beef or the meat that they are selling.
I price checked to see if I got a good deal on 674 /lb for local grass fed beef, which for me I could tell was a good price. But at Safeway I could get a pound of grass fed, not certified organic beef from Australia between 749 and 799 a pound. I do not support buying meat that is shipped in internationally. That’s another thing I’ve talked about, but that was just for ground beef, which is usually one of the cheapest cuts out there. So for us we paid 6.74 per pound for steaks and roasts and all kinds of different cuts. So I feel like we got a very good value.
But I know that investing in a lot of meat at once can feel really intimidating and it was expensive. Like my inlaws and I, we split it, but it came out to about $1,300. To be able to buy this much meat, that’s a lot of money, especially if things feel tight that does not feel accessible to people.
But I’m a big fan of budgeting and I would recommend that if this is something you’re trying to do, if you can set to the side $50 -100 per month to save up for your portion of to get a quarter cow. Or you can even split a quarter. Like you can get an 8th of a cow, you would end up with about 45-50 pounds and your family member would get that and then you’re looking at maybe spending three to 350. So you can always keep splitting. You don’t have to have half a cow or a quarter of a cow.
If you don’t eat meat, you don’t have to have a cow at all. But you can definitely break those prices down. And if you’re able to set money to the side, if you can find a way, $50 a month is like $12 a week. If you could send $12 a week to an extra account to save up for this, you’ll be able to get a bunch of meat at once and then in the future you’re not going to have the same grocery bills because you’re not going to be buying meat at the store. So you save up ahead of time and then on a monthly basis your grocery spending is going to be less to make it easier to afford. So it’s just harder to buy the first time.
If you’re really not at the point of being able to buy that much meat at once. You can still talk to your farmer or your Butcher about a bulk buy. So they’ll often have packages where you can buy 5 lbs of ground beef for one lump sum or 10 lbs of assorted cuts for some amount. But it’s best to just talk to the farmer or the Butcher, see what they have, see if there’s some off cuts that other people might not be interested in that you could use. We often will buy things like chicken backs, chicken necks, chicken feet. These are things that we can use to make stock that’s going to be really nourishing, but they’re not going to cost a lot per pound. Same goes with beef bones. Buying the fat is a great way to get sustainable, locally grown fast that you can use to replace things like coconut oil. So there are so many ways to stretch out this local meat to make it more affordable. But you don’t have to buy a half a cow, a quarter cow, an 8th of a cow. You can just talk to the farmer about getting 5 lbs here or there and start with the cheapest cut.
If there’s something like ground beef, if you can swap that out, that’s the cut that we use the most of because it’s the most versatile and it’s the most affordable. So you don’t have to go buy organic pasturized, grass fed prime rib. Start by seeing if you can get some ground beef. It’s a really simple way in.
If you are still with me at this point, I am so glad to have you. I know that we’ve covered a lot of ground here and I’ve tried to offer resources and tips that are going to help you wherever you are. So depending on where you live or your budget or your eating lifestyle, hopefully you have found a tip to help you save some money or stretch the food that you have. And if you’ve been kind of tempted to shop locally for me or for produce, I really hope that I’ve helped you see that those things can be accessible. There are ways to shop that way and try to fit it into a budget and there are really things that you can do to help the farmer and also get some local food yourself.
So I would love to know which of these tips was the most helpful. If you can head to simple, sustainablehome.com, you will see not only the show notes, but you will also be able to leave me a comment. Let me know which of these tips was helpful. Was there something here that you did not know before that is really useful.
I’m also going to link to all of my posts about I have a whole post with like 80 plus zero waste and low waste frugal food hacks. I have a whole guide on how to buy grass fed meat no matter where you live. I have several reviews about Azure standard to explain how that works and the products that we recommend and I have posts talking about how to afford local produce on a budget. So I’m going to make sure you have access to all of those resources. You can find exactly what you are looking for. We’re going to wrap this up now. I’ve really enjoyed covering this. I really hope that this is something useful for you and I’ll see you next week. Have an amazing week. Take care.