The Basics – Where Do You Grocery Shop?
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The Basics – Where Do You Grocery Shop?

Let’s talk about the basics today. I’ve been asked by a few people where I grocery shop, and then I see their eyes widen as I go on for about 40 minutes because I don’t shop traditionally and they really weren’t expecting that answer.

Here’s the short version. I buy everything I can in bulk, from the farmers market, from local farmers, and then after I’ve gone through those 3 areas I buy from the grocery store.

Bulk is cheaper in the long run, and I like the idea of having a bit of stockpile in case of financial difficulties. The problem with bulk though is it is a more expensive initial cost. We buy a little bit every few months, and store it.

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A few of the items I buy in bulk are:

Brown Sugar  – I keep it in my freezer so it doesn’t go hard or dry out over time. I weighed out 1 pound portions and froze it in individual zip lock bags.

Flour – I can get 20 kg of flour for $14. Most grocery stores sell only 10 kg for that price! I buy only traditional flour at this time as I haven’t found a good source for organic flour that won’t break the bank. Hubby and I are talking about getting a flour grinder so we can grind the flour ourselves. Wheat berries are significantly cheaper, but there is still the cost of getting a good grinder (we would rather just buy it right the first time.) Everything is a work in progress, so for now regular flour at a great price is what we do.

Organic Cane Sugar

Raw Apple Cider Vinegar

Organic Coconut Oil

Organic Olive Oil

Organic Maple Syrup

Raw Honey

Cooking spices – nutmeg, cinnamon, oregano, basil, black pepper, sea salt, etc.

Medicinal herbs and spices – turmeric, dried ginger, nettle leaf, raspberry leaf, cayenne pepper, olive leaf, licorice root, dandelion, etc.

Legumes

Rice

Organic Popcorn – the kernels not the prepackaged already seasoned type that you put in the microwave. I have an air popper and we enjoy popcorn quite often as a treat.

Seeds and Nuts – flax seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, cashews, etc.

Peanut Butter

Condiments such as mustard and BBQ sauce – {Here is how I buy big and store it}

Cheese

Oatmeal

Tea

Baking Ingredients – aluminum free baking soda, baking powder, yeast, arrowroot powder (I use this in place of corn starch), etc.

Dried Fruit – dates, raisins, cranberries, apples, etc. (someday I hope to get a dehydrator so I can dry a lot of stuff ourselves without the added sugar. For now though this works)

I’ve been shopping this way for over a year now, and that is a sampling of what we have managed to purchase and stock up on in that time. We’re aiming for a lot more. The great thing about buying in bulk is once you’ve initially purchased whatever item, you don’t need to buy it again for quite a long time, which clears up more room in your shopping budget for other things. The majority of my bulk purchases are organic as well. I haven’t found a better way to buy organic than in bulk.

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What we can’t buy in bulk then gets broken down into 3 categories: farmer’s market, local farms, and the grocery store. We try to use the grocery store as the last resort for a lot of things, and are always looking for ways to cancel it out. I don’t think we’ll ever be grocery store free. Girlfriend needs toilet paper if nothing else. While I applaud people who go completely grocery store free, and who don’t use toilet paper because of the impact it’s having on the environment, I don’t think I’m quite there yet. Actually I’m pretty sure I’ll never be there. I also don’t have a washing machine. I feel like a bucket of poop rags is unwelcome at the laundromat. Just a guess.

But I digress.

We garden here, and grow what we can but I still shop at the farmers market quite a bit. I will also buy in bulk from them as well and can/preserve what we won’t be using right away, or store it away in the cold cellar if it’ll keep.

This year I bought:

1 bushel of tomatoes – I canned them and made ketchup

Bell peppers – I sliced and individually froze them

Squash – stored in the cold cellar

Garlic – stored in the cold cellar

Dill Weed – used for pickles

A lot of farmers will also give you a discount if you buy a large amount from them. Talk to them, get to know them, and network. We try to eat as fresh as possible all summer since we don’t buy much in the way of fresh vegetables or fruits throughout the winter. It’s nice to know that should we get snowed in sometime that there is plenty of pickles and peaches and frozen berries to be eaten.

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What I can’t buy from the farmer’s market, I buy from local farmers. Uhh April what’s the difference? I’m glad you asked. At the farmers market I can get vegetables, and fruit, and home preserves. At local farms I can get meat and cheeses. It is illegal here to sell eggs outside of our farm gate, so should you want farm fresh eggs, you have to go right to the source. I buy free range chicken, free range duck, grass fed beef, pastured organic pork, and was gifted apples from local farmers. This also opens us up for great networking. Barter and trade is very much alive in the networks of farmers that we’ve had the privilege to get to know.

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After going through all those sources I buy from the grocery store. Our grocery stores sell a lot of Ontario grown vegetables for a great price throughout the summer and I’ll stock up on them as well.

This year I bought:

3 huge cabbages – I shredded them and froze them, and I also made sauerkraut.

70 pounds of onions

60 pounds of potatoes

40 pounds of carrots

I also rely on the grocery store for things that aren’t grown locally, such as avocados, citrus fruits, fresh ginger root, pineapples, and coconuts.

Sometimes the budget is tighter and I have to buy more from the grocery store because I simply can’t afford to buy 10 pounds of an item at that time. Or sometimes it’s just convenience if I need something right away. The bulk food items are either quite a drive, or I have to ship them to my house. The farmer’s market closes down in the winter, and a lot of the farmers are scattered all over. Simply put the grocery store is easier to get to, but the quality is lacking. I have bought brown sugar that was already hard from the grocery store, the spices aren’t as fresh and vibrant tasting, and the meat has been produced as cheaply as possible, which also means poorly.

I have found that going through these steps has saved us money on good quality items, allowed us to eat a more natural diet, and allowed us to support small businesses and local farmers.

Where do you do most of your shopping?

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