Sunday, December 5, 2010

Eating well for $190/month: An update (And why we have to boycott The Upper Crust)

About a month ago I wrote this post on how we keep our food healthy and cheap by being part of a fruit and vegetable CSA, having a menu, and not shopping too often. I wanted to give you an update on our thoughts and progress since then.

Total cost for November
Despite Thanksgiving food costs, our food spending was about $123, plus the approximate $50 monthly cost of our pre-paid CSA share, coming to a total of $173. This included:

Home Made Whole Wheat Bread
Inspired by a comment on that post, as well as by our friends Dan and Leah, I made whole wheat bread in a bread maker and, with the help of the Tassajara Bread book, from scratch. Making whole wheat bread from scratch is incredibly empowering. I’ve only done it successfully once-- leading to two loaves that got us through this week-- but once I’ve tried a couple of different whole grain recipes, I’ll review the Tassajara Bread book here. It’s that awesome.

Home Made Granola
I also borrowed the King Arthur Whole Grain Baking book, which is huge, heavy, and packed with amazing recipes. It spurred me on to making my first granola. Which is super easy, I had just never thought to do it. I'm also going to try more recipes and share them here.

Organic Milk
I tried a couple of different kinds of organic milk, and have been buying only organic. For taste, so far I’d go with Stonyfield. Which I know is a huge company, so I’m not completely satisfied with my choice. But I’m comparing it to Trader Joe’s Organic, and Target Organic, and Stonyfield just tastes more wholesome.

Those were the main changes during the past month (gotta go slow, you know!).

But these are changes to come:
We actually didn’t buy any meat since I wrote that post. We’re currently out of meat and are going to have to buy some at some point soon. I’ve been researching affordable meat CSAs. It would shift our monthly meat cost from about $20/month to about $90/month, and I haven’t been able to wrap our budget around that cost. So I’m joining our local coop, Harvest, and only shopping for local, organic meat there. The coop sells meat from two farms (one chicken, one beef) that I’ve been researching. I’ll switch to their bulk bins for grains. I think the grains we’ll get will be of better quality: local, organic grains. Come February, we’ll no longer have our CSA so there’ll be about $50/month in our budget for organic fruits and vegetables. I’ll ask the coop whether they’ll be willing to bulk order whole wheat flour for me, and if so, I’ll compare the cost with King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour, also sold in bulk at Costco. I'm also going to buy honey and maple syrup in bulk, as an alternative to white sugar.

Upper Crust turns Bad
On a slightly unrelated note, we were really sad to learn that our favorite pizza place is facing a class-action lawsuit for their treatment of Brazilian workers. If you're in Boston and enjoy pizza at the Upper Crust, check out this article. We ate there occasionally because of their great quality pizza and our sense that they were a local chain, so we're sorry to have to go elsewhere.

Finally, Amazon is having a sale on the bread maker we use, and there's also a "remanufactured" version for $52.95, which I think is pretty good.


Dan Archibald said...

I'm commenting!

We get our milk from Shaw Farm in Dracut. It isn't certified organic, but it's rBGH free and--more important to us--local and sold in returnable glass bottles. Super tasty too! Of course, I don't know if you'll be able to find it near you...

My daily bread recipe is on the internet here, if you're interested in perusing it. It's pretty easy to make, except for being sticky in the summer. The only issue with it is that it uses honey, and local honey is not cheap. I must admit that for the most part we just use the gross bulk mixed honey from Costco. Oh well, can't win em all.

Concrete Gardener said...

Hi Dan, how much does a 1/2 gallon of milk cost taste at Shaw Farm. Their website looks really great. How often do you and Leah usually go to the Farm to pick up your milk? (and is it on Fridays? :) )

Dan Archibald said...

We've actually never been up to the farm: I hate driving to Dracut! We mostly get our milk from Chip-In Farm around the corner, but our Whole Foods also carries Shaw Farm milk (though not in glass, so we only get it there in emergencies). It's fairly expensive--we get quarts for, I believe, $2.75 plus 90¢ deposit--but we think it's totally worth it. We'd be happy to bring you a bottle or two to try out if you'd like!