Day 363–Our Year In Review

budget

What is going on with the time? It seems like the months are moving in warp speed. It is hard to believe our year experiment is almost up! I’ll be reworking the blog a bit (and hopefully not crashing everything!) and returning on January 1 to start again, this time with a new challenge and a slightly different twist.

This is the time of year when everyone is doing some kind of retrospective on the past 12 months and since we started out with a year challenge, it seems fitting that we will do this, too.

The goals of our family challenge were threefold:

  • Eat at least 75% of our food from local and/or sustainable sources
  • Spend no more than $100 per week on groceries
  • Increase our walking destinations.

How did we do?

Well, we did pretty well for our first time out! Overall, we kept our average spending to just under $100, but missed our mark of 75%. Here’s how the numbers break down for the 43 weeks that I recorded our budget and menu (I’m missing 9 weeks due to schedule craziness, vacations, and whatever else was going on, but I believe those weeks would probably even out to about the same numbers).

  • Total amount spent on groceries:          $4,199.51
  • Grocery $$ spent on local food:             $2,684.91
  • Percent of food budget that was local:  64%
  • Average spent per week:                            $97.66

That averages included our Christmas and Christmas Eve feasts, which were way over budget (but also supremely awesome). I did not include trips to Whole Foods as local, although they were organic and sustainable, because they did not reflect a direct payment to farmers. So for the year, almost $2,700 of our food budget stayed within our community. I’m pretty proud of that!

Where we have not done so well is increasing our walking to local destinations. That is definitely going to be on the agenda for next year.

I personally had some good health outcomes this year. I dropped 15 pounds, lowered my overall cholesterol by 17 points and raised my good cholesterol by several points.

More importantly, I have met some wonderful new people, reconnected to eating seasonal foods, reignited a love of cooking, learned how to can my own food and all around, just had a great time!

What’s next?

Here are some goals for next year:

  • Work on my food photography skills
  • Incorporate more plant-based dishes into our diet
  • Visit our local farms and include our experiences outside the farmer’s market

What would you like to see in this blog for next year? More recipes? Fewer recipes? More research-based information?

I’ll see you back here in 2013–just a few short days away. Have a happy and safe New Year!

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Day 106–Starting Week 15–Budget and Menu

I absolutely love this time of year. Our farmers markets are full of fresh, spring produce, strawberries are ripe and we don’t have scorching temperatures yet. In some ways, shopping at the markets was easier in the winter–now I find myself completely smitten by all kinds of beautiful produce NOT on my shopping list. A good excercise in self-control. And–TA DA!–this is the first week for our Produce Box deliveries! My box of lettuce, greens, strawberries and hothouse cucumbers should be delivered Wednesday afternoon. We’ve planned a Saladpalooza night to celebrate!

This week’s budget is pretty good! I spent $94.40on our groceries for this week. I spent an additional $18.00 on strawberries that have become jam and frozen berries for later (recipes to come this week). Since we are getting more in our Produce Box, I went ahead and put almost all of the strawberries up for later. So, technically, I went over budget at $112.40, but the six half pints of jam and quarts of frozen berries will be used throughout the year. That should save us over the course of the year. We have a busy week ahead, so no super involved dinners. Hopefully we will get some rain this week–we sure do need it.

  • Water Oaks Farm (eggs): $4.00
  • Produce Box (lettuce, greens, strawberries, cucumbers and more): $23.00
  • Farmer’s Market, various vendors (bok choi, potatoes, onion): $13.00
  • Farmhand Foods (skirt steak from Meatbox): $15.00
  • Trader Joes (broccoli, chicken thighs, frozen fruit, soy milk, Ezekiel bread): $39.40

What’s on the menu for this week? Well, here it is–pretty simple, but good!

  • Sunday–grilled skirt steak, sugar snap peas, potatoes, salad; carryover frozen lemon blueberry pound cake and strawberries for dessert
  • Monday–chicken and veggie stir fry with spicy peanut sauce
  • Tuesday–grilled cheese with leftover Hillsborough Cheese Co cheese and frozen chicken soup [What’s On Your Plate? screening]
  • Wednesday–egg salad sandwiches, carrots and strawberries for dessert
  • Thursday–saladpalooza!
  • Friday–leftover cleanup night
  • Saturday–family pizza night, salad

A great moment for me this week was completing my first 5K road race in a long time. I have never been able to finish a race running the entire distance (I usually have to do a run/walk thing toward the end). But I ran the entire way and felt absolutely great! I am owing a good part of this to our better eating and more conscious exercising. We’re looking for the next race to run!

Have a wonderful week and enjoy the beautiful spring weather wherever you are!

Day 99–Starting Week 14–Budget and Menu

What a week this has been! And the week to come looks just as slam packed as last week. My local ham is almost ready and we can’t wait to try it along with our fresh, local asparagus! In the coming week, we are veering slightly from our 70-80% local foods. Mainly because I am camping with my girl Ellie and her BFF for an all girls campout. We’ll be gone two days and two nights and should have great weather. So, our menu reflects more prepared foods than usual–I have yet to find a local source for s’more ingredients 🙂 We came in just under budget at $97.92!

Here is how our budget worked out for this week:

  • Mae Farm (ham): $15.00
  • Coon Rock Farm (sausage): $6.00
  • Ball Produce (strawberries and asparagus): $10.00
  • Trader Joes (ground turkey, turkey dogs, rolls, pineapple, blackberries, mango, bananas,oatmeal): 45.60
  • Lowes Foods (chocolate bars, graham crackers, marshmallows, pectin, lemon juice, etc): $21.32

What are we having this week? Here is our menu:

  • Sunday–Easter supper–honey mustard glazed ham, roasted asparagus, broccoli salad, biscuits, pie
  • Sunday–Campout dinner–turkey dogs w/vegetarian chili, fruit salad
  • Monday–breakfast at camp–Dutch oven breakfast–eggs, hashbrowns, sausage, cheese
  • Monday–lunch–sandwiches and fruit salad
  • Monday–dinner–turkey tacos, vegetables, fruit salad
  • Tuesday–breakfast–pancakes and bacon
  •  Tuesday–lunch–sandwiches and whatever is left!
  •  Tuesday–dinner–ham omelets (back home again)
  • Wednesday–oatmeal
  • Thursday–out with my BFF
  • Friday–tuna salad sandwiches

Now, off to pack the car, the girls and the dog for a couple of days at the lake! Have a wonderful week!

Day 92–Starting Week 14–Budget and Menu

After last week’s budget buster, we are back on track with plenty of fresh vegetables and good things to eat. We were glad to find fresh spinach fettucine by Melina’s Pasta at the Western Wake Farmer’s Market. We can’t wait to try it! This weekend was spent at the market and getting our own garden ready for action. We’ve planted a salad garden of tomatoes, cucumber, bell peppers and some Japanese eggplant. I love eggplant, but a large, full-sized eggplant is a lot for us to eat. The Japanese variety are the perfect size for us (and they ripen quickly!).

Here is how our budget played out this week, with a total of $95.62:

  • Local’s Seafood (summer flounder): $18.00
  • Hillsborough Cheese Company (fresh mozzarella): $6.00
  • Coon Rock Farm (chicken and fresh eggs): $21.00
  • Farmers Market–misc (asparagus, swiss chard, broccoli): $10.00
  • Melina’s Pasta (spinach fettucine): $6.00
  • Trader Joes (organic garlic, ground turkey, tortillas, frozen fruit, soy milk, cous cous, onions): $34.62

And here’s the scoop on this week’s menu!

  • Sunday–cornmeal dusted flounder, sautéed kale (the end of our garden kale), homemade cornbread w/NC cornmeal
  • Monday–Chicken curry cous cous w/chopped veggies, salad
  • Tuesday–Turkey taco night w/quinoa
  • Wednesday–Eggs nested in swiss chard and mushrooms
  • Thursday–Pasta w/ham and spring asparagus, salad
  • Friday–Leftover pasta, salad
  • Saturday–BLT sandwiches with carryover Mae Farm bacon

Not bad for $95! Looks like we are back on track again! Thanks to everyone who read Ellie’s guest blog post and commented. It was a real boost to her (and a boost to her chicken advocacy efforts!).

Day 78–Starting Week 12–Budget and Menu

I can’t believe we are beginning the third month of our family locavore challenge! This year seems to be speeding by–this is probably helped by our exceptionally warm weather. We were fortunate to start our journey during what we we call “The Year Without a Winter.” Our farmers have had an extended growing season, and I haven’t had a week yet, when I left the market empty-handed or disappointed (well, except for the “Broccoli Incident”).

So, what have we learned in 3 months? Here is a sample:

  1. Eating locally in NC is not difficult, but it does require an adjustment of behaviors.
  2. I like having a social friendship with our farmers and meat producers.
  3. Local, organic produce tastes so much better, we feel like we are being spoiled.
  4. We have been on budget–or close–for most weeks in our challenge so far.
  5. We will never go back to buying store eggs.
  6. Fresh food, cooked creatively is so good that we have dramatically cut down the number of times we go out to eat. Our food tastes better, so why look elsewhere?

Depsite not finding broccoli this week, I did find some beautiful swiss chard at the Western Wake Farmer’s Market. I love chard–it has such a fresh, light flavor that is a welcome respite from our kale and collard diet over the last few months. Lettuce and spring onions are out and other spring veggies are right around the corner! We are very excited that all of our area farmer’s markets crank up In 2 weeks and our Produce Box delivery starts soon as well!

How did we do on spending this week? Our budget this week looks like this:

  • Rainbow Farm (organic, ground lamb): $10.00
  • Farmhand Foods meatbox (pork chops): $12.00
  • Rare Earth Farm (Maple View fresh buttermilk): $2.50
  • State Farmer’s Market (onions, carrots): $3.50
  • Locals Seafood (rockfish, flounder): $32.00
  • Ben’s Produce (organic lettuce, organic swiss chard): $6.00
  • Hillsborough Cheese Company (Greek yogurt, baby brie): $7.00
  • Trader Joes (frozen fruit, soy milk, mushrooms, shallots, pita, tortillas, organic mayonaise): $25.39

Our total spent is $98.39! Just a hair under our budget of $100. I actually feel pretty good about this because we are eating a lot of fresh seafood and salads, which fit in perfectly with our 85 degree days! The only red meat we are eating this week are grilled lamb burgers, so that should shake things up a bit!

Menu for the Week

  • Sunday–Spicy marinated rockfish tacos with chipotle slaw, quinoa
  • Monday–Cornmeal dusted summer flounder, collard greens, quinoa
  • Tuesday–Eggs nested in sauteed swiss chard and mushrooms
  • Wednesday–Salad-pa-looza!!
  • Thursday–Grilled lamb burgers in pita with cucumber yogurt sauce, kale, rice
  • Friday–Out for grandmommy’s birthday
  • Saturday–Grilled pork chops, kale from the garden, beans

Thank you for reading our blog and for being a part of our journey. We have learned a lot about our community and ourselves and it just gets better as we go along!

Day 71–Starting Week 11–Budget and Menu

This has been a roller coaster week, full of highs and lows, bottoming out with the temporary “loss” or our cat, but ending on a super high note with an award from Sugar Dish Me and a fun, family learning event.

Our family trek to the Dig In! community gardening conference was fun, informative and inspiring. Tom and Ellie are working on their guest blog posts for this week and we have made contact with a couple of community gardens in our area. And Ellie wants chickens, which she will share with you later. And we’ll be sharing with you some of what we learned about canning, worms and herb spirals. Not necessarily in that order.

All this excitement has re-energized us and given us some great ideas for spring. Which means we have a lot of work to do!!

Somewhere in the chaos of this week, I made it to the State Farmers Market for our weekly shopping. We had our most efficient shopping week yet, spending just $88.95. This was in part due to our cat escaping and subsequently one dinner being carried over. We’re also making recipes from two fellow bloggers! 

Shopping List for the Week:

Rainbow Farm (chicken breasts): $12.00
Mae Farm (eggs): $4.00
Farmer’s market (broccoli, collards, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onion): $13.00
Farmhand Foods (skirt steak): $15.00
Trader Joes (frozen fruit, lime, soy milk, Greek yogurt, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil): $28.02
Lowes Foods (chipotle sauce, sriracha sauce, ginger, black beans): $16.93

Total $88.95–$11.05 under our weekly goal!

What are we having? Here’s the menu:

Eats for the Week

Sunday–Chicken pot pie, sautéed greens, triple chocolate raspberry “cheesecake” squares from The Scrumptious Pumpkin
Monday–Leftover pot pie, salad
Tuesday–Stuffed sweet potatoes, salad
Wednesday–Grilled cheese and homemade chicken soup
Thursday–Asian spicy chicken salad from Creative Noshing
Friday–Chicken soup and buttermilk biscuits
Saturday–Grilled skirt steak and red pepper fajitas, black beans, quinoa

Whew! Well, that’s a wrap. Have a great week–may all your vegetables be organic and may all your kittens be safely corralled inside 🙂

Day 64–Starting Week 10–Budget and Menu

Well, we are beginning week 10 of our journey with lots of good eats and with an eye toward spring and all the delicious fruits and vegetables that will be coming our way in another 4-6 weeks! So rather than look at sweet potatoes as “sweet potatoes…again??” we’re looking at them a bit nostalgically, knowing that it may be another 5-6 months before we see them again. Here is how we did at the market–a pretty typical week by this point. We went $4.00 over, but I splurged on two fresh, pasture-raised chickens, which just seemed too tempting to let go!

  • Heaven on Earth Organics (sweet potato, tomatoes, broccoli, onion, greens): $16.00
  • Mae Farm (chorizo): $8.00
  • Rare Earth Farm (local buttermilk): $4.00
  • Rainbow Farm (fresh chickens-2): $28.00
  • Lowes Food (pastry): $5.00
  • Trader Joes (frozen fruit, limes, grated cheese, organic sugar, peppers, lettuce, etc.): $35.00
  • Earps Seafood (NC shrimp): $8.00

Our total for the week: $104.00

So what’s to eat this week? We have a mix of hearty home cooking and fresh spring dishes–that seems to match our weather as well! In honor of National Pound Cake Day, I’ll be making a lemon pound cake–yum!

This week’s menu

  • Sunday–Roast, fresh chickens, sweet potatoes, sautéed kale, whole wheat buttermilk biscuits
  • Monday–Chicken and chorizo taquitos, multigrain mix, salad
  • Tuesday–Leftover taquitos
  • Wednesday–Roasted broccoli and shrimp over brown rice
  • Thursday–Chicken pot pie, salad
  • Friday–Leftover pot pie and greens
  • Saturday–Chicken noodle soup and biscuits

 Have a wonderful, healthy and delicious week!

Day 58–Small Shrimp, Big Footprint

Shrimp Boat

I love good shrimp, especially over grits or in pasta. Living in a state that produces shrimp for the rest of the country, I used to think that most of my shrimp was caught within a two-hour drive from my home. Checking grocery store sourcing, though, I found that most of it is imported. Imported!! Shrimp comes from 120 miles away, but it’s imported from Asia??? Now we get all our seafood local, thanks to Locals Seafood and Earp’s Seafood Market. I recently read a report that has me even more convinced that local shrimp is the way to go.

The article is from Mother Jones Online and it proclaims that “Shrimp’s Carbon Footprint is 10 Times Greater Than Beef’s”. Say what??? I thought grain fed South American beef was the worst food in regards to carbon footprints, but apparently not. Highlighting Taco Bell’s $2.79 shrimp taco and Red Lobster’s “Endless Shrimp” feasts, the article focuses on America’s love of cheap, plentiful food and the practice of farm raising shrimp in Asia. Twenty years ago, 80% of the shrimp Americans consumed came from wild domestic fisheries, with an additional 20% imported. Today those percentages are flipped, with more than 90% of the shrimp we consume coming from outside the U.S. and mostly from shrimp farms throughout Asia.

Why is that bad? Well, to read about it, apparently these foreign shrimp farms are increasingly built on former mangrove forests across Asia. The devastation of the mangroves is huge. Mangrove forests are biodiverse fisheries, where many species lay their eggs and where young fish can develop in clean waters. The cutting down of these mangrove forests results in “fetid dead zones” that are devoid of life except for what is farmed there. Mangroves are also rich in carbon. When the mangroves are destroyed, that carbon is released into the atmosphere as global warming gas. And since the farms can only be used for about 5 years until the water is too toxic and laden with pesticides, viruses and antibiotics, these shrimp factories are not at all sustainable.

So, what is a shrimp lover to do? Well, first, back away from the shrimp taco and all-you-can-eat shrimp buffet, because the odds are good that those shrimp came from someplace pretty gross. And then buy U.S. shrimp, which are plentiful and which will support jobs in fisheries here. Domestic shrimp may be more expensive when measuring by the dollar, but they are less costly in terms of the environment and your own health. Now I just need to find a good recipe for shrimp tacos!

Day 57–Starting Week 9–Budget and Menu

English: Romaine lettuce (Lactuca sativa var. ...

We had settled into a good routine for market shopping and ordering from local farmers. Until this week. With a sick child and busy work week, it was difficult to make time for the farmer’s market and I was tempted to just bag it and do my shopping at the grocery store. But, I didn’t. Can’t say I shopped with a glad heart this weekend, but I know I’ll be glad once we start cooking. We have lots of great eats this week. Our NC fishermen were catching a lot of swordfish, so we’re trying that along with NC scallops. Lettuce is making a strong comeback, so we will also be having more green salads with fresh lettuce and cucumbers. As for our budget we hit right at the mark this week, just four dollars over our $100 goal. Some items like flour will cover us for several weeks, so that’s good. Here’s how it broke out:

  • Farmhand food (meatbox pork tenderloin): $15
  • Locals Seafood (swordfish steaks and scallops): $40
  • Hillsborough Cheese Company (Greek yogurt, pimento chevre): $8.00
  • Coon Rock Farm (egg): $4.00
  • Misc. farmers market (lettuce, tomato, cucumber): $8.00
  • Trader Joes (frozen fruit, organic whole wheat flour, organic buttermilk, butter, lemons, white wine): 29.19
  • Great Harvest Bread Company (honey whole wheat): free with coupon

Total budget for week 9: $104.19

So, what are we having for all this? Here is our menu for the week:

  • Sunday: grilled swordfish with rosemary/white wine sauce, risotto, sautéed kale from garden
  • Monday: Cheese quiche with garden salad [Meatless Monday]
  • Tuesday: Grilled pimento cheese and Mae Farm bacon sandwiches, salad
  • Wednesday: Whole wheat pasta with scallops and lemon
  • Thursday: Soyaki pork tenderloin with stir fried greens and leftover veggies
  • Friday: Leftovers
  • Saturday: Out–dinner and symphony date night

I am seriously looking forward to the grilled pimento cheese and bacon sandwiches this week. That may be a blog post in itself! Here is to wishing you a happy and healthy week ahead!

Day 50–Starting Week 8–Budget and Menu

The Earth flag is not an official flag, since ...

It’s hard to believe we’re at Day 50 of our sustainability challenge already. Starting our eighth week of sustainable eating and healthier living, many of our changes like shopping at the farmer’s market, carefully reading the labels of those things we buy from the store, and cooking meals at home have become part of our regular habit. We have detoxed our cleaning supplies and replaced our plastic food storage with glass. And we have changed some of our health and beauty products to kinder versions without phthalates and parabens. What we need to work on is walking more, but I think that will improve when the weather is consistently warm.

This week, we did well on eating what we purchased. We have some beets that might not make it, but that’s it. I’m getting better (I think) at anticipating how much food we will eat. That was a bigger problem before we had a budget. I was so tempted by all the beautiful vegetables at the farmer’s market that I would over buy and then feel frustrated that we were basically composting money! In truth, we eat a lot less than I would have thought and it has taken me a while to adjust my buying to what we will really eat, not to what looks appealing. Knowing I am accountable to my budget each week has definitely made me a more careful shopper!

Here is how our shopping budge worked this week:

  • Coon Rock Farm (carrots, sweet turnips): $6.00
  • Locals Seafood (fresh monkfish): $17.00
  • Farmhand Foods meat box (beef braising ribs): $15.00
  • Hillsborough Cheese Company (fresh Greek yogurt): $4.00
  • Whole Foods (ground bison): $12.97
  • Trader Joes (Ezekiel bread, zinfandel, burger buns, soy milk, frozen fruit, broth, harvest grains, etc): $39.97

The total for this week is $94.94! A tad under budget this week! And what are we eating for $94.94? Here is the menu for this week:

Sunday–Zinfandel braised beef ribs with rosemary, garlic mashed potatoes, sautéed kale with pine nuts

Monday–Pan seared monkfish with lemon, risotto with leftover butternut squash, sweet turnips

Tuesday–Carryover ribs and potatoes, broccoli

Wednesday–Scrambled egg tortillas, leftover risotto, leftovers

Thursday–Bison burgers, harvest grain cous cous

Friday–Broccoli pesto pasta with pine nuts

Saturday–Homemade pizza night, salad

Here’s to another great week!