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Tag Archives: grass-fed beef

Bringing Home the Bacon

Ah, grocery shopping. Other than meal planning, is there anything more fun? Add in a toddler who MUST walk for herself through the entire store and you’ve got a load of entertainment, let me tell you!

We’ve been changing up our grocery shopping habits a lot in the last six months or so. Our baseline was your typical shopper, I think: we got most foods from a big grocery store like Safeway or Fred Meyer. We didn’t buy anything special, a fair mix of packaged foods and fresh produce. I didn’t care if things were organic or not, they just needed to look okay. We shopped a little at some smaller, locally owned grocery stores, too, but I hated going to more than one store for food.

Then when I found out about GMOs and started my New Years resolution to improve our diet, I started doing more shopping at Trader Joe’s and a couple really sweet local grocery stores. I tell you what, local grocery stores are where it’s at. If you’re lucky enough to have them close to you, check them out. Local grocery stores are where we’re getting the vast majority of our produce right now. It’s almost like a farmers market, because most of the foods are sourced locally, but they still have out-of-season foods like the grocery stores (like strawberries in January). It’s so much easier to find the organic produce at the smaller spots.

The farmers market, though… that’s where I’d love to get the bulk of our produce from. The local grocery stores just aren’t as “local” as the farmers market. The problem is I have to go by the market’s schedule. With the grocery store I can go whenever I want, but with the market I have to wait for the brief weekly window in which the farmers gather. I shouldn’t complain – here in my city there’s a farmers market five or six days of the week. But I still find it difficult to get there! And I have to plan meals more carefully and seasonally because the farmers markets don’t grow all our favorites year-round like the commercial growers. The third con on my list for farmers markers is the cost. Most of the time I don’t find them to be cheaper than the store (but Mr. Handsome is way more observant about prices than I am. I just look for what I need and buy it but he actually tries to stay within a budget. Imagine that!).

Speaking of seasonal produce, I’m in love with these seasonal charts. I want to print them out and hang them in my kitchen – both as art and as meal planning tools! Here’s the veggie chart.

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Moving on… so produce buying is sort of a balancing act between what is available and reasonably priced at the farmers market and all the choices but not quite as locally-sourced foods at the smaller grocery stores. There are some discount produce markets around here that are open all week and year-round – those are a good “in between” option. Another in-between’er is our food buying club.

We joined this club… it’s kind of a combination of group buying (where a bunch of people go in on a big buy of something like 50 pounds of honey or a whole cow), bulk buying like Azure, and farmer cooperative. We have been getting just about all of our meat through the co-op farmers and have had good luck with random boxes of veggies. I recently ordered 15 pounds of coconut oil that I plan to turn into more toothpaste (imagine that!), soap, hair products, and maybe even food. When we all had bad colds a few weeks ago we nursed them with a couple bottles of elderberry syrup that I got for a good price through the club. I’d love to start getting sundries from the club, too, but right now I still go to the big grocery store for toilet paper, dishwasher soap, vinegar, epsom salt, aluminum foil, and paper towels (we have used washable towels more lately, and I have some strategies to eliminate paper towels altogether, but I haven’t been able to implement them yet).

Now my shopping order goes something like this…

  1. Food buying club weekly for milk, eggs, cheese; monthly for meat, bulk staples, bulk produce like lemons, garlic, onion, potatoes.
  2. Farmers market weekly for seasonal veggies (if the price is right) and “craft” items like vegan chocolate.
  3. Discount produce market weekly for more seasonal veggies (that were too expensive at the farmers market).
  4. Local grocery stores weekly or every other week for produce we couldn’t find already.
  5. Trader Joe’s, if we have to, maybe once a month (we get plain Joe’s O’s for lazy breakfasts a couple times a month, beer/wine, flowers, and other random stuff at TJ’s like more chocolate).
  6. Big grocery stores for paper products, maybe once a month.

Yes, we go to more than one store to get our food now. But we don’t go to every place in one day and ask you can see we don’t even go to every place each week. I have been going to the club weekly but I’d love to cut down to every other week if it weren’t for the fresh milk that we need to get every week (Baby2 loves milk and Kiddo1 has even been on a bit of a milk kick lately). I went to Safeway last week for the first time in at least a month. I needed toilet paper. They laughed at my reusable bags. It’s a different world at those grocery stores for me anymore!

 

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Book Review: Long Way on a Little

Recently we changed our source for meat so we’re getting pastured-raised chicken, pork, and beef (and a duck, too!). The chicken was an easy switch, but the pork and beef were, admittedly, not so great. They were turning out kind of rubbery and gamey-tasting. Mr. Handsome said the beef tasted a little like lamb, which he thinks tastes like rotting beef. So there was room for improvement I guess.

I also didn’t understand a few things about our new meats. Why does this meat always come frozen? Why is it more expensive if the cows are just eating grass? Why isn’t it tasting as good as people say pastured animals taste?

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Luckily I bought this copy because the pages are already splattered with cooking grease!

Enter, “Long Way on a Little,” my meat savior. I got this book because I really enjoyed Shannon Hayes’s other book, “Radical Homemakers,” and I was interested in learning about reducing our meat expenses. The book did not disappoint! I have learned so much. And it was a super quick read.

Turns out there are very simple explanations for why pastured meat is sold frozen. There are much more complex reasons for why pastured meat is more expensive, including government subsidies of conventional meat production (and other types of farming). And the reason why my pastured meats weren’t tasting great is because I was cooking them wrong!

“Long Way on a Little” is packed full of recipes for all the parts of cows and pigs, as well as lamb and whole chickens and ducks (there’s also a great explanation on why farms sell chickens whole and why we should buy them whole!). I’ve learned about “super slow roasting” my meats as well.

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Super slow roasted chuck, the best roast I’ve ever tasted!

This photo is of a 7 bone chuck roast I scored from our food buying club (more on that in another post) that I roasted in the oven at 170 degrees (I later found out that my oven goes all the way down to 140 degrees if I use the warming feature, so I’ll be doing a lot of slow roasting now!). It took about three hours to cook up to 135 – the book also explains why lower internal temperatures are not only better for pastured meats but also way more safe than the same temperatures with conventional meat.

I’ve already made three recipes from this book and I can’t wait to try more. I’m very interested lately in finding ways to use the entire animal that we purchase. With whole chickens we’ve been making bone broth, but I’d love to start using the fat from the beef and pork cuts to make tallow and lard. Luckily the methods are outlined very clearly in this book, so I’m sure I’ll be making productive use of all those “leftovers” soon. I’ve got a bunch of fat leftover from the roast that is just sitting in the fridge waiting for me to render!

I love this book very much, I highly recommend it. The pork medallions recipe from this book is the one that Kiddo1 loved a few nights ago. So it even gets his stamp of approval!

The next book up for review is “Making Home” by Sharon Astyk.