Day 113–Starting Week 16–Budget and Menu

This week, the farmer’s markets were just teeming with people and chock full of wonderful strawberries and spring vegetables. I didn’t buy as much at the market as last week because we now have our weekly Produce Box delivery. Still, it was great to be out seeing the farmers so busy after a quiet winter. Our total for the week was $101.65–just $1.65 over our weekly goal. Not too bad!!

  • The Produce Box (sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, lettuce, strawberries, cucumbers): $22.00
  • Rainbow Farms (roasting chicken): $13.00
  • Farmhand Foods (kabob beef): $15.00
  • Farmer’s Market–various (onions, sugar snap peas, asparagus, cucumbers, tomatoes): $18.00
  • Trader Joes (organic soy milk, rice, frozen fruit, bananas, mushrooms, Ezekiel bread, cous cous): $33.65

What are we having this week for $101.65? Here is our weekly menu:

  • Sunday–Roast fresh chicken, sweet potato wedges, roasted asparagus spears, buttermilk biscuits, strawberry cobbler
  • Monday–Curry chicken and spinach over whole wheat cous cous
  • Tuesday–Pasta salad with roasted vegetables
  • Wednesday–Sandwiches with leftover pasta salad
  • Thursday–Veggie stir fry over rice
  • Friday–Leftover cleanup night
  • Saturday–Grilled beef and vegetable kabob with whole wheat cous cous

Have a terrific and delicious week!

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Day 15–Starting Week 3–Budget and Menu

Pizza with corn and za'atar at Pizza B'Riboa i...

As we end week 2 of our family challenge, I think we did really well. We met our 75% locally produced/sustainable meal challenge! Some things worked better than others. We made good use of the food we had purchased and had much less food waste than usual. The bison chili with lentils and pumpkin was great to us adults (really more like a stew than a chili), but a flop for our pre-teen, who likes mom’s regular chili. The recipe made a HUGE batch, so we had lots of bison chili lunches to pack last week. We are anxiously awaiting the reopening of Earp’s Seafood Market in downtown Raleigh so we can get some locally caught seafood (Earps was destroyed in the tornado last April). That is one part of our diet we are missing, but hope to get it back in swing in the next couple of weeks.

My recent lack of success with using a pre-established grocery list at the farmer’s market prompted some interesting suggestions on how to use the ingredients I brought home. One, from our pre-teen, is a pizza Iron Chef competition for our family using ingredients from the farmer’s market (well, mostly). We will make our own pizza dough and that should be fun, interesting, and maybe hilarious. Family members are already working on their ideas! Another idea was having breakfast for dinner. We recently won some TN country ham at a family Christmas party, so we will share some and eat some for dinner/breakfast.

So, how did we do on this week’s budget? Here is a breakdown:

  • Lowe’s Food (yeast, a pizza’s worth of artisan pepperoni): $1.83
  • Farmer’s Market (bok choi, greenhouse strawberries, kale, local apples, onions, carrots): $20.00
  • Mae Farm Meats (pork chops, ground pork, Maple View Farm milk, farm eggs): $39.95
  • Trader Joes (frozen organic fruit, peppers, rice, cheese, organic chicken, organic butter): $51.96

Our total this week is: $113.74 Over a bit, but we should have some carryover into next week (esp. pizza cheese!). I splurged on a couple of impulse items (like greenhouse strawberries and bell peppers) and we replaced grocery store milk with milk produced in Chapel Hill by Maple View Farms, but we will use them all in the mix.

What is the menu this week? Here it goes:

  • Sunday–organic chicken, bok choi and pepper stir fry w/organic brown rice
  • Monday–pizza Iron Chef competition w/homemade pizza dough and local veggies
  • Tuesday–Tortiere (French Canadian meat pie w/Mae Farm pork), sautéed greens and sweet potatoes
  • Wednesday–leftovers
  • Thursday–Breakfast for dinner (farm eggs, country ham we won at family Christmas party, homemade biscuits)
  • Friday–date night 🙂
  • Saturday–Mae Farm pork chops, sautéed apples, sweet potatoes, greens

We’re heavy on the pork this week (see my post about grocery shopping with a specific list from Friday), so that isn’t good, although no one in my house is complaining. Will definitely need to do better next week and have more meatless or chicken options. And a better shopping strategy 🙂

So, here we go with week 3!

Day 12–The Produce Box

A single week's fruits and vegetables from com...

I love the idea of a traditional CSA, where you arrive at a meeting place, wait with other earnest, veggie loving people, and leave feeling virtuous with a box of farm fresh produce. The trouble is, I am a terrible CSA participant. Terrible. Pickup day arrives and I invariably have a late meeting scheduled or I get stuck in the carpool line (it’s not a social gathering, Mrs. Volvo Station Wagon!) or…I forget. Most often, it’s the latter. I’m half way to the gym and realize…*@&!$%…veggies! And “resentful” isn’t the way we should pick up our fresh veggies. That just seems so wrong.

So, a friend and neighbor introduced me to The Produce Box. I love those people, I tell you. Rather than waiting with a tapping foot for me to come screeching around the corner, they patiently pack up my order and deliver the veggies to ME! I didn’t realize anyone did that anymore. According to their website, they are “a network of families, farmers, neighborhood moms, and others who all share a common vision–growing and eating food that’s good for you and the planet, from people you know.” I think of them as the “veggie fairies,” but whatevs.

Here is how it works:

  • You pay an annual membership fee of $18. (This fee covers boxes and containers and provides funds for small, board-sponsored grants to local farmers to buy seed, equipment, and make their farms more sustainable.)
  • Each week on Friday, you receive an email detailing the standard (default) box of veggies as well as several alternatives, including an organic box, a fruit box and so on. Each box is about $23.00 and you pick whatever you want or bypass that week altogether and pay nothing.
  • By Sunday night, you go into your account, pick your box for the week, plus any additional add-ons. If you’re like me and you forget, you automatically get the standard box (it’s like they know me). This fall, add-ons included local bread, honey, preserves, apple butter and cheese. Your account is charged when your order is filled.
  • Wed or Thursday, a box of your beautiful, locally grown vegetables and other items arrives on your doorstep.

Voila! No forgetting! No speeding down the highway after a long meeting to get to a pickup location!

I say, “voila!” like this is an easy feat. Really, the entire production depends on a LOT of very dedicated farmers, volunteers and part time employees. I don’t know them, but I love every single one of them. The vegetables we have received have been unbelievably wonderful, very fresh and of excellent quality. The board surveys members in the fall and works with local farmers to plant crops that members have interest in. Pretty cool!

The Produce Box is not operating now, but they will be starting up again in April. Here is a sampling of what they hope to offer in April:

  • asparagus (yes!)
  • cauliflower
  • broccoli
  • green beans
  • onions
  • berries
  • cherries

Interested? The website is www.theproducebox.com

It may be cold and rainy outside, but I’m thinking spring!