A little ways back I talked about my decision to stop eating an exclusively vegetarian diet. This wasn't an easy choice for me, and I've spent a lot of time struggling with how I felt about making that change. One thing that helped me feel better about it was making the decision to stop buying factory-farmed meat. If I was going to continue being carnivorous, I wanted to do so in a way that I felt was still somewhat environmentally and ethically conscious.
The trouble is that buying ethically raised meat can get expensive - really expensive. Just take a look at the price tag on an organic grass-fed steak next time you visit the grocery store. Scott is in retail and I'm a writer. While we're far from paupers, we're not super wealthy either, which makes eating well within a reasonable budget kind of tricky. I shopped around, and considered a few different options before making a plan.
Wheatsville, a local food co-op here in Austin offers surprisingly reasonable prices on ethically raised meat and poultry. Becoming a co-op member can save you even more. Another option I entertained was going in on a cow-share. If you've got the capital (and the freezer space) you can purchase an entire grass-fed cow from a local organic farm. That is a whole lot of meat, so foodies have taken to splitting these bounties with one to four other families.
Then I looked into Farmhouse Delivery's meat options. The delivery service offers several kinds of meat bundles in addition to their produce CSA program. Every two weeks I receive about 9-11 pounds of meat and poultry from local farms. It's actually a little too much for us, but everything freezes well, and when I find ourselves suffering from surplus I can pause the subscription to help us catch up.
The cost is $79.99 per delivery, which works out to around $7 per pound, and $40 per week. It's certainly not cheap, but I feel good about what I'm eating, and I know that I'm helping to vote with my dollars toward a food system that treats its animals with more respect and humanity. Mushy feelings and liberal dreams aside, farm-raised meat also tastes much better, and is healthier, being grown (and often processed) in smaller, better managed facilities.
I also want to say it's been really great to have the main ingredients for our meals stocked in the house. In addition to the meat and poultry delivery, we're also subscribed to a bi-weekly share of produce. (Though I am thinking of bumping it up to a weekly share now that I've gotten the hang of using a CSA again.) We also keep a bulk stock of organic grains and canned goods from Costco in our pantry.
Aside from a few snacks and staples (almond milk, Scott's yogurt and mozzarella sticks, extra fresh fruit, extra greens, garlic and ginger, Nadamoo, etc.) we can now almost avoid the grocery store all together which helps keep us from splurging on too many foods that aren't great for our health or our pocketbook. With the cost of our main ingredients being so high, we need to be extra careful with the remainder of our grocery budget. That means less snacks, treats, and convenience foods. It also means more work in the kitchen - preparing and planning our meals from scratch. It's a good thing I like to cook!
Have any tips for eating well on a budget? I'd love to hear your ideas!
P.S. In case you were wondering, I was not paid (or even asked) to write this post. I simply wanted to share a little part of my food life with you. Based on my brief experience with Farmhouse Delivery so far, I would certainly recommend the service, though I also really loved my Johnson's Backyard Garden CSA which I had for years.