It ain't no secret, guys. And gals.
Groceries are expensive.
We've been able to buffer the cost of groceries by making most all of our food from scratch. Now, I realize not every one has the time, patience, or desire to do this – and that's fine. Lucky for me, I enjoy doing it. Even if I didn't enjoy it, I'd still have to because there is no way we could bear the cost of prepackaged food.
Part of the reason we are able to afford to buy high-quality food is because:
a) We're willing to take the time and effort to research for local places and
b) We're willing to sacrifice convenience foods
Part of being able to afford high-quality food is making an effort to cut out the middle-man. Middle-man, consider yourself cut out of the equation. I've done this in a variety of ways, such as calling local farmers and ranchers to see if they will sell to me directly. For the most part, they are happy to. Because it usually means more money for them, it's a win-win.
When I saw a Craigslist ad for local peanuts and organic compost, I immediately called to schedule a pickup. The kids and I cruised in the mini-van to the farm where we were greeted by a few workers and engaged in small talk while we awaited the farmer. After greeting him with a handshake, we loaded back into the van to follow him out to the barn and garden.
I love barns. And I love gardens. Just for the record.
Though I had originally just planned on picking up some compost and peanuts, I was intrigued by what else he had growing. I asked if he would sell me some of the produce directly, to which he smiled. “That's exactly the kind of business I like to do”, he replied.
Georgia and I tromped around the garden, dancing to keep warm in the brisk breeze, while Chip harvested us some broccoli, carrots, collards, and kale. Literally, the produce was pulled or chopped from the ground and went straight into my bag. No washing. No processing. No wax sprays. No preservatives.
“By the way”, he commented, “we also have a lot of citrus if you're interested.”
Chip, my friend. Umm, hello. Like, of course I'm interested! Don't you read my blog?! I live for this kind of stuff!
Another quick drive in the van to the back of the property, past the pecan harvesters in their tractors who honked and waved while we drove past, and we arrived at the citrus grove. Sweet, sweet citrus grove. How I love thee. Having not grown up in a climate that citrus could tolerate, it's been one of the biggest bonuses of living in the deep south. There is no comparing fresh citrus to store-bought. Its out of this world. Which is exactly why I ate about five satsumas before even getting any loaded into my basket. Whoops.
Chip happily harvested me fresh satsumas, grapefruit, and lemons. Right from the tree.
Though I don't have a scale to accurately calculate the exact cost per pound of produce, I can guarantee you that there is nooooo way I could have purchased this all from the grocery store for less. In fact, I just payed $3 for 2 large grapefruit a few weeks ago and for the entire bucket of fresh grapefruits from the farm I payed $4. Booya!
I left with a happy heart. Not only was I able to talk about gardening, soil, and cattle, and not only did I leave with a trunk full of fresh goodness, but he also offered to let me come and pick up produce each week. Eggs, too. And if I called him with what I'd like ahead of time, he would be happy to have it waiting at the office for me. Sweet music to my ears! I'll take this over gold!
All in all, I left with a giant bunch of collards, a giant bunch of kale, broccoli, carrots, lemons, grapefruit, satsumas, and fifteen pounds of raw peanuts. For $25. It doesn't get much fresher than that, does it? I also purchased a $15 large bag of organic compost so that I can plant a few pots of herbs and such, just for fun.
I'm not naive enough to think everyone who reads this will all of a sudden grow a deep desire to know their farmer or their food source, but I have to tell you, there is something so special about building those relationships. The desire and know-how that God has given man to grow and harvest food from His creation is just incredible. Watching that creation at work in the soil is so…grounding. It speaks to my soul.
It also makes me weep for my gardens back in Washington. But that is a tear for another day. For today is a day of joy!
There are creamed collards to be made, after all!