Monday, March 26, 2012

You Don't Have to Go to the Store

Unless you live in some town with a truly great natural food co-op that really benefits the community (Olympia Food Co-op, I'm talking about you) there is really no virtue in going to the grocery store. For most of us, our food buying options include a selection of major chain stores, most of which now host a small section of natural foods... but the money you spend there doesn't stay within your community. A tiny portion of their income is used to pay the employees, sure, but the vast majority is siphoned right out of your world and into the pockets of CEO's who certainly don't need your money. 

groceries from our produce CSA

So, what other options are there? You know about farmers' markets. In some communities, they are available year round, daily or several times a week, which is wonderful! With our local farmers' market only open once a week during certain months of the year, we don't find that to be a convenient option most of the time, so for the last year we've shopped from a local Tacoma-based company, Terra Organics, that delivers a fully customizable CSA (Community Supported Agriculture- we essentially buy a share of a farm's production each year). Along with the CSA, this distributor will deliver any fresh fruits and veggies that we'd like, chosen from their website each week. They are all organic, and the website tells us the state or country of origin so if we only want locally grown, or only US grown foods, it's easy to do. At a brick & mortar store it's discouraging trying to check everything for it's source. Also, their website has more varieties of organic produce than I've been able to get anywhere else. 

produce from our CSA

There are tons of CSAs available, and I'm sure many of them are fully customizable like ours. With the first two CSAs that we tried though, it was "you get what you get" each week, and even though we only had a half-share, we were getting more of certain veggies than we knew what to do with (this was before I knew how to turn an armful of greens into a delicious smoothie!) When you grow some of your own food, a customizable CSA is even more important, since you don't want a weekly delivery of a bunch of stuff you're already growing in quantity. Besides not getting a bunch of stuff you don't know how to, or even want to, use, the other advantage of a customizable order is that your trips to the grocery store will become very reduced, since you can usually get all the produce you need this way.

organic produce from our CSA

We literally get all our fruits and veggies (besides the few that we manage to grow-- still working on developing our urban farm) from Terra Organics each week (tell 'em Mellow sent you and we'll both get a discount when you sign up!) They have several types of boxes available, but all of them are customizable. We get the "Pacificic NW" box, so we can at least start out local (I still order mangoes, avocados, and bananas each week, and I probably will as long as they keep trucking them in!) 

Most of the rest of our foods come from Azure Standard, an Oregon based supplier of natural foods. For a minimum monthly purchase, they deliver to our local drop location with no handling fee. Our pantry has been completely transformed through shopping at Azure; while they do sell things in small amounts, it's cheaper per pound to buy in bulk, so we end up buying grains, seeds, beans, as well as salt, sugar, and baking soda, and food for our chickens & bunnies, in huge 20, 30, or 50 lb sacks. My pantry used to be stocked with tons of packaged food, cans and boxes of things from the grocery aisles; now I've got these simple white buckets stacked and labeled, full of the pure whole foods that I prefer to be eating.

pantry with bucket storage
Nik just built these great shelves for our pantry, which is really just a cool, dark corner of our garage.

We are saving a great deal of money, and eating far healthier than we did when going to the grocery store was a weekly occurrence for us. We make everything from scratch rather than being tempted by packaged convenience foods. If we want something, we figure out how to make it rather than driving over to the store to pick up some overpackaged, overpriced, factory produced food product. They're only trying to replicate homemade; we can make the real thing. In addition, we produce almost no garbage now that we're not shopping at a grocery store, which is good because we ditched our garbage service!

Every two or three months we still head to Trader Joe's for a ridiculous amount of cheese and butter, a whole chicken for our cat, and a tiny cup of free coffee. We haven't eliminated the grocery trip altogether, but it sure beats the weekly trip to the store we used to make for fresh produce and everything else. 

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March 27, 2012 at 6:11 AM

great tips!! I have been debating Azure Standard for a while now and think I might have been convinced :) Thanks!! (saying hi from Fat Tuesday)
www.citycorporatetosuburbmama.com

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March 28, 2012 at 5:50 PM

Love, love, love this post! I love my CSA and don't know what I'd do without it! I have to share this :) Thank you for linking up to Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways.

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March 28, 2012 at 8:51 PM

Stopping by from the Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways Wednesday Blog Hop! http://queenofsavings.com

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May 21, 2012 at 3:40 PM

I am totally inspired by this....

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May 21, 2012 at 3:56 PM

Nice to hear, thank you!

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May 24, 2012 at 11:23 AM

How nice to hear. I am just starting on this journey myself. I shop at the farmer's market twice a week (we are lucky enough to have an all-year market on Wednesdays and Saturdays) and I try to shop at our bulk store for the rest. I am down to one small trip every 3rd week or so because I still haven't found a dairy anywhere near us. Thank you for the picture of your bulk food storage...it gives me ideas to store my own bulk items.

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May 30, 2012 at 11:31 AM

This is such a cool post! Great information. I wrote about CSA's also, but I hadn't really heard of buying supplies in bulk like this, except from Cosco or BJs or something. Thanks so much for sharing! I'm doing a free button swap ad on my website, and your website would be a good fit for my readers as I write a lot about green living, too. http://www.mymerrymessylife.com/p/advertise-here.html

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May 31, 2012 at 5:21 AM This comment has been removed by the author.
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May 31, 2012 at 5:23 AM

One more thing...Do you have a cookbook to recommend to be able to cook from scratch like this? How do you do it? How much does it cost up front to buy in bulk? We can't join a CSA this year because we're moving out of state this summer :(

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May 31, 2012 at 9:47 AM

I guess it depends on what kind of foods you are comfortable with. I often find recipes on Pinterest lately (http://pinterest.com/emilymellow/) where I basically ignore any recipes that aren't from "scratch" ingredients. I also don't like to make things that require a lot of fuss. It's got to be kind of straightforward and simple, or I don't feel like it's sustainable for my lifestyle. My most recent favorite cookbooks are Nourishing Traditions & Wild Fermentation. They both focus on whole foods and traditional preparation techniques. I learned so much from them! I actually read them both cover to cover, because they had so much new info for me. An old classic whole foods cookbook is the Moosewood Cookbook. There are also several great, simple & delicious recipes on my blog ;)
Also, I don't know if where you're moving to would have this kind of thing, but our produce comes from Terra Organics, which delivers organic fruits & veggies year-round, so you can sign up at any time. They distribute a local CSA, which is only available during the warm months, but they sell stuff for other farms the rest of the year. You might be able to find something like that after your move...

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June 13, 2012 at 10:53 AM

I despise grocery shopping - thanks for the tips! We use Azure, but have gotten out of the habit...time to get back to it. Love your food storage - where'd you get the food-grade buckets?

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June 13, 2012 at 3:04 PM

The buckets are from Azure! They have great, screw top lids that are way easier to use than normal bucket lids. They also have one gallon jars that I use for food storage in the kitchen.

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Anonymous
June 17, 2012 at 12:12 PM

I tried to find the buckets on Azure and couldn't. Did you have to call them directly? Is there an item number? Love your site. We have been buying in bulk for years even though we live in the city. So much healthier and cheaper then store bought. Thank you!

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June 17, 2012 at 2:34 PM

http://www.azurestandard.com/shop/product/2638/
http://www.azurestandard.com/shop/product/9972/
The links are for the 5 and 2 gallon sizes, respectively. They both have handy gamma seal lids that must be purchased separately.

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Anonymous
June 17, 2012 at 3:14 PM

Thank you! I was wondering how much a 5 gallon bucket will hold? Or how many 5 gallon buckets I need for 50 lbs of flour, etc. 25 lbs. of bean. Thanks again!

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June 17, 2012 at 5:45 PM

It really varies. I just get both sizes of buckets, and store any leftovers that won't fit, rolled up in their bags. You could ask customer service at Azure if they have suggestions.

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June 19, 2012 at 8:54 AM

That is so great and really inspiring. We're getting close to ditching the store...almost! Thanks for sharing it with us at Whole Food Wednesdays. http://www.beyondthepeel.net/2012/06/mostimportanttoremember.html

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June 21, 2012 at 6:01 PM

I don't get as much at grocery stores as I used to, that's for sure. Unfortunately for me, the CSAs around here are extremely expensive and not worth it for my family, and Azure doesn't deliver here, either. Besides which, I have found that the 2 local health food stores in my town and Trader Joe's have prices very similar to Azure's (usually cheaper), so I'm not sure that I would completely ever go with Azure even if they did deliver.

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June 21, 2012 at 6:44 PM

We have found that many of the nuts are cheaper at Trader Joe's, so nuts are one of the things we really stock up on during our rare trips there.

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July 4, 2012 at 6:12 AM

I just discovered your blog and I'm loving your articles. I've recently just signed up for a veg box for the first time and I'm loving it so far. I used to prefer planning all my meals in advance so I struggled with not knowing with what I was getting but now I make a stew, casserole, pasta sauce, curry and a chili each week by following a slow cooker recipe and I chuck in whatever vegetables need to be eaten the quickest. You can find my post here: http://www.greenthickies.com/apricot-mango-spinach-smoothie-signed-organic-veg-box Many thanks

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July 24, 2012 at 7:43 AM

Love your pantry shelves for your buckets! You hit the nail on the head with this post for sure; home-made, from scratch is the way to go for sure, and the occasional visit to TJ's doesn't hurt. :)

Blessings,

Lisa

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July 24, 2012 at 9:39 AM

Thanks! Sounds like we're kindred spirits ;)

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July 24, 2012 at 10:33 AM

Your pantry is AWESOME! Congrats on totally changing the way you shop for food.

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July 24, 2012 at 1:47 PM

I wish we could do that... but we're not quite there yet. We've simplified a lot though, and I htink it has made us healthier and happier.

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July 24, 2012 at 6:20 PM

You don't have to do it all at once! We've been heading this way for a long time, and everything's just kind of worked out so that we don't have to shop in stores anymore, for the most part.

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July 24, 2012 at 6:22 PM

Loving your blog -- such good content! We have a quarter share in a CSA, which compliments our own garden perfectly. Helps insure against crop failure with tomatoes, cukes and such (which happens more frequently than I like to admit!).

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Glo
July 24, 2012 at 7:14 PM

Love your blog! Following along now! I would love for you to share this as well as other posts on my new blog hop Frugal "I Did It" Tuesday. http://offthegridat-30.blogspot.ca/2012/07/frugal-i-did-it-tuesday-2.html

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July 24, 2012 at 8:26 PM

Thank you, I definitely will!

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July 25, 2012 at 11:05 AM

Thanks for the great tips! And I love your simple white buckets!! :)

Thanks for linking up with Tiny Tip Tuesday!

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July 30, 2012 at 11:00 PM

Hey Mellow, this post is being featured tomorrow on Tiny Tip Tuesday! Come check it out :)

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August 9, 2012 at 9:17 AM

Still amazed by this! I'm trying to do less grocery shopping. You do inspire me!

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August 9, 2012 at 9:51 AM

Thank you! That's so nice to hear. It sure saves time, not having to go to the store all the time ;) You can do it.

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August 9, 2012 at 1:07 PM

In love with your pantry design -- I just need to find some space to do this! You guys rock. xo

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Liz
September 8, 2012 at 8:35 AM

Thanks for your inspiration. At the beginning of this week I signed up for two things: The Compact and Zero Waste Week. I've vowed not to buy anything new for a full-year (used, upscaled, recycled, etc only) and vowed to create zero landfill this week. I'm determined to make both of these changes permanent though. My initial motivation to move in this direction was unemployment but now I have a new job and even though I can afford new things and store-bought meals, I don't want them anymore. I, too, despise the grocery store - its a stressful, stressed-out place filled with plastic, artificial ingredients, and unhappy workers. I'm much happier spending time elsewhere. I'm off to the farmer's market on my bike now! All the best:)

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September 10, 2012 at 3:13 PM

That's inspiring, Liz! Will you make an exception, like we do, for the occasional technological upgrade? We buy new computer parts, and my partner, a motorcycle mechanic, buys occasional new motorcycle parts as needed. I love buying everything else used though! There are a world of treasures out there. And I LOVE not having to go to the big groceries anymore. Whew!

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Jen
September 14, 2012 at 6:39 AM

Love this! I get so many comments on our blog by agitated people that say they can't get good food local without going to the store but there are things most people can do. It just takes a little effort and creativity. Thanks for the reminder.

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September 21, 2012 at 2:40 PM

Great post! Every time I manage to avoid going to the store and using a farmer's market, organic vegetable box scheme or other alternative, I feel happy that I am helping my budget and the environment.

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September 25, 2012 at 12:44 AM

Great post! I enjoy finding ways to avoid the grocery store. I love your pantry set up!

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September 28, 2012 at 9:23 PM

Wonderful post! I love CSAs for so many reasons. Great, healthy, and local food is such a plus!

http://www.beingathomebynature.com/

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November 18, 2012 at 5:17 AM

I was all excited about Terra Organics from this post, went there via your link and found that they don't deliver to my area. Does anyone know of another grower that does something like this for the us folks in the northeast?

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November 18, 2012 at 6:05 AM

I found Terra Organics just by an internet search for "CSA". There are probably a huge variety to choose from if you live in an urban area, maybe less in rural places. Good luck!

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February 6, 2013 at 4:14 AM

wow! I'm super impressed! Your pantry is amazing!!! I live in a sub-tropic climate, so things go bad here super fast.... I wish I could stock up like you have :o) Thanks for sharing at Tasteful Tuesdays this week! Do you sew or know someone who does? I have a fabulous pattern sale (18 patterns for under $25) and giveaway going on right now.http://www.nap-timecreations.com/2013/02/sew-fab-e-pattern-sale-and-giveaway.html

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March 4, 2013 at 9:06 AM

Thank you for the links and ideas. I try to buy local whenever I can - I loathe the grocery store! In the Summer it is easier, here in NH there are so many wonderful local farms! In the Winter, it is truly a challange and because we are on a tight budget, it makes it very difficult. I get dried beans, oats and grains from the coop on online. I'll have to check out your links to see if there are options in my area. New follower of your blog, would love if you come visit mine too!
Jessica
www.barefootbysea.blogspot.com

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March 4, 2013 at 1:50 PM

Thank you Jessica! Yes, it would be nice to live someplace where there was not such limited local foods in the winter months... but I do like how trying to eat seasonally makes me really appreciate when each new fruit comes into season!

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March 4, 2013 at 4:24 PM

Thank you for sharing with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop this week; I hope you’ll join us again!


Cheers,
Kathy Shea Mormino

The Chicken Chick

http://www.The-Chicken-Chick.com

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March 4, 2013 at 5:46 PM

This is awesome, Mellow! We do much of the same, but not quite to the awesome degree you guys have got going on!

Question: where did you find your plastic buckets? Were they spendy? Right now a lot of our bulk lives in rubbermaid containers in our basement, but I kind of feel like we're begging for moths or some other disaster...

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March 4, 2013 at 6:49 PM

Hi! Found your site through the clever chicks blog hop. Great blog! Look forward to following along!
Angela
http://lemoinefamilykitchen.blogspot.com

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March 4, 2013 at 10:38 PM

The buckets were only a couple dollars each, the lids are a fancy kind that keeps out moisture & moths, and screws on and off easily, and they were about $6 each. They were all ordered through azurestandard.com

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March 11, 2013 at 6:54 PM

I love your blog, I think it's a great idea to be teaching people how to sustain themselves with nature instead of with man's processed chemicals and foods. Your boys are adorable!! :) I have a blog of my own if anyone's interested, with great cooking ideas with reducing white refined sugar and instead using pinapple, apple, dates and other natural sweeteners from our good mother earth.
http://chloeflanagan.blogspot.ca/

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March 13, 2013 at 10:43 AM

Thank you so much for linking up with Kids in the Kitchen - I'd love to have you do a guest post for Adventurez in ChildRearing - I'm going to google our local farmers markets now to see what I can find out

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March 13, 2013 at 10:43 AM

Oh, and I pinned and shared your post! :)

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April 17, 2013 at 9:43 AM

Great ideas! My family has almost ditched all of our convenience "packaged" foods as well. Trader Joes is less than a block away so they still see us a ton! Way to take it to the next level! I am your newest follower!

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April 17, 2013 at 10:08 AM

Congrats on your feature on Wildcrafting Wednesday! I hope you will join us again today!
http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2013/04/wildcrafting-wednesday-16.html

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April 27, 2013 at 8:03 PM

Love your post!!!!I found you on Small Footprint Fridays. You have my dream pantry. Thank you for the great resources. I hope they are available in my area DFW, Tx.

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May 14, 2013 at 9:45 AM

I love it!!!! With our last CSA it made grocery store runs almost unnecessary, and everything came from one farm, local, and certified organic...then we moved. ;) Still trying to source local food, but we do have a great co-op.
~Katie
www.simplefoody.org

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May 16, 2013 at 6:02 PM

I have used a food co-op in years. We recently moved and I guess I need to check it out in this area. Thank you for sharing this on Fluster's Creative Muster Party!

Robin
Fluster Buster

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June 5, 2013 at 8:39 AM

Mmm, everything looks so great! I love your pantry, too! We don't have CSAs where I am at unforunately, but they do have Bountiful Baskets food co-op, and I have been participating in that for almost a year now. I love the variety we get, and it is sometimes challenging coming up with new recipes when we get produce we've never cooked with before. The produce is always much better than the big-chain grocers.

Thanks for sharing on Natural Living Monday!

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June 21, 2013 at 3:15 PM

Super idea! I live on the east coast and JUST discovered (thanks to your post) that we have CSA's as well! WOOHOO!! I am signing up for shares.
Thanks a bunch.

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June 21, 2013 at 3:16 PM

Thanks for sharing this. I just did a search and discovered we have a CSA right here in the Boston area! So cool! I'm joining up.

Thanks a bunch

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July 26, 2013 at 5:11 PM

I wish we had Azure Standard out east. Thanks for sharing your tips on Tuesday Greens!

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September 8, 2015 at 10:50 PM

By shopping online you can save an hour or more of your valuable time.

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