This is my rather belated first post for this project, so I’ll quickly fill you in on the beginning of our challenge: eating local, sustainable and delicious food on an average household budget ($213 per week).
I started keeping careful track of budget and origins of our food in the middle of January after returning from holidays in the Bellarine Peninsula where we enjoyed fresh vegies direct from the farm gate, as well as a feast of blueberries we picked ourselves. So far, the budget hasnt been too challenging except for one week where we had a bit of a blowout, by including quite a few treats & ready made foods (chocolate from Cocoa Rhapsody and Pork Pies from Pacdon Park, a large pack of cream from Schulz Organic Dairy from the Slow Food Farmers’ Market). Plenty of ice cream making has ensured our freezer is well stocked with lots of delicous flavours including strawberry, honey and lemon verbena from the garden – and none of the cream has gone to waste….. and there is still some chocolate left too.
At the markets I have noticed that by sticking to buying fruit and vegies first, then adding in carefully chosen cheese and meat, it really is good value. I am generally not one for meal planning at the start of the week as I like to work with what comes from the garden and what is good value at the market. At this stage, I just make sure I use everything I get and make it last. The freshness of the fruit and veg at the farmers’ market means that we dont need to use everything within the week – vegies are often still very edible a couple of weeks later, and some things even longer. This week from our garden I have zucchini, squash, cucumber, beans, silverbeet, cherry tomatoes of all colours, silverbeet, rocket – as well as a plentiful supply of herbs. It sounds like a lot, but there aren’t many of each of these vegies coming from the garden, so I still need to buy some.
We went to Collingwood Childrens Farm Farmers’ Market this weekend and bought heaps of fruit – we are just going through so much with both kids being at school now, not to mention the huge range of what’s in season making it completely irresistable. I spent $55 on fruit this week and I laid out the fruit we bought at Collingwood (although you will notice that half a cantaloupe and quite a few blueberrries didnt make the photo shoot!)
I think its pretty good value to spend just under a quarter of our budget on amazing quality fruit. At a guess, that is probably at least 4 serves of fruit per person per day in our house and if we dont eat it all in a week, much of it will still be delicious into next week as I will keep plenty in the fridge, taking some out each day.
I also made very good use of the offers in the Little Brown Book I bought a few weeks ago – it includes deals & discounts at farmers’ markets. From Green Gully Organics, I bought some tomatoes (only $3 per kilo!) and got a free bunch of basil. I also bought two plaits of garlic to last until the next harvest from Garlic n Moore, plus a few other vegies, which gave me a 10% discount. Putting these together, we made some pesto when we got home. We also stocked up on dried pistachios from Go Just Nuts and received a jar of punchy citrus powder – could be good with some of those ice cream flavours! Having redeemed the Locheilan Cheese voucher two weeks ago and getting great value on three soft cheeses, we still didn’t need much cheese.
We bought one small whole chicken for $12.50 from Milawa Free Range Poultry, which will do for one roast chicken meal plus a few sandwiches, and stock for soup or a pie at some stage. The roast chicken was a very big hit – especially with 5 year old Jay, who went back for seconds. I think next time I will go & see Russell a bit earlier and get a bigger chook that will probably make an extra meal for the meat eaters in our house.
One other strategy I have introduced at the markets is giving my kids $5 each for them to make a choice of what they eat while we are there. That keeps a lid on the things that really add up – both in terms of budget, but also their sugar intake! And it provides a great little maths exercise for them too. This week they both chose chocolate Gundowring Ice Cream……did I mention they both have good tase?