On Fridays, I take my 5-year-old to Fox Walkers in Nevada City. I’m a homeschooler and I’m creating and foraging for classes that will teach him to appreciate Mother Earth and make friends from like-minded families. This class is out in the woods and teaches the 4 elements of earth and Native American ways. They do all sorts of great stuff like hike, track animals, analyze skeet, finding clay and making things (he tried making me a coffee cup, God bless that boy), sit around fires and sing, play drums, get dirty, build things out of sticks. Perfect for a boy. Arjan already has two friends named Oliver and Durin. He is learning the art of storytelling and singing. This is real school as far as I’m concerned.
We are a strange family, I’m part modern and get the itch to shop just like everyone else. The other side of my personality is green and sustainable, old-fashioned and crazy frugal. I’m conservative and a hippy tree hugger. I’m working on balancing this out. One thing I have made peace with is that I just can’t shop at the box stores or Walmarts any longer. They represent all the many things I find disappointing with this new age. Not to mention I feel I need a spiritual scrub down and exorcism each time I leave that store. There is a certain crowd that gathers at that watering hole and they scare me when I think the group represents modern times. Of course, there are the grandmothers and me that bring balance but there is only so much we can do.
I’m a Libra at heart and I love all that is lovely and quaint. I love the old Victorian because back then homes and products were made to last and made charming and sweet. Look at old homes with the details or the old parts of town that were made for walking and gathering. Old buildings shadowed by the ugly, cold steel and cement of the modern skyrise. So sad.
Anyway, let’s talk shop. I prefer the local health food coops for their cozy, wholesome and sustainable feel. I have found one in Grass Valley so when I drop Arjan off in the forest with his Fox Walkers group, Sammy and I go to the Briar Patch Coop and get our drinks, his cocoa, and my soy latte, and we do all the weeks shopping. I love the cozy lights, the smell of sprouts, yeast, and lavender, the healthy customers that look like they will be taking a morning hike after they purchase their carrots and granola.
Sammy and I explore new vegetables and find the best apples. I’m an apple connoisseur. We collected different colored and shaped pumpkins to decorate with. He gets a free banana or apple of his choice on the house and we have a produce man that is a celebrity to us since the boys saw his photo on the website. We love his french carrots and eat bags of them like a horse.
After the shopping that we go about like a tourist, we select delectables from the deli and bakery. When we’ve paid for all our goods we sit in the cafe by the window and dine together. Sammy and I discuss deep topics such as why one doesn’t put pepper on their lemon poppyseed muffin and that goes for salt as well. I attempt to read the San Francisco Chronicle that has made it all the way up there in the forest town. I am instantly disgusted and turn back to the discussion of the real purpose of salt and pepper. That is a much more satisfying topic. We then put the groceries in the truck and take a walk with our drinks to take pictures of fall foliage and walk a trail that leads to the local college and collect pine cones on the way.
This is a very fun time for us and we look forward to every Friday. Who would think that grocery shopping could be so lovable?
Now, shopping at the local health food store or coop can be very pricey. Everything is organic and natural and it ain’t easy growing food and making products without the aid of chemicals. It’s labor intensive. That is why it cost more. Read The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball and you’ll have a great appreciation for real food.
Why pay those crazy prices? Because food and products made organically means that nothing was poisoned and ruined and destroyed or killed beyond recognition with hideous poisons that are proven to cause cancers and other diseases that we are always “fighting”. This fight against cancer could be cut very short if we actually removed the root of the problem. For example, recently it has been determined that yes, Round Up causes cancer. You would think they would have a worldwide emergency round up of this Round-Up and ban it completely and promptly. No, they just put a small label on it so your dingy neighbor will probably still spray the hell out of his yard and the fumes and runoff will come into your healthy yard. Stupid. But let’s get out there in pink t-shirts and march against cancer. Hey, why don’t we march against corporate farming, Monsanto, and Round Up and similar chemicals? Would that be too forward?
When you pay the extra money you pay for healthy soil, clean water, clean air, healthy ecosystems, healthy birds, bees, and farm workers. You pay for no cancer and disease which saves you so much time, pain, money, doctors visits, and your families hardship in the end. Wow, put that way it seems like not that much to pay.
The other great benefit is that organic food, free range, grass fed, cruelty-free, old-fashioned farmed food tastes great!
I hear all the time “but when people are poor they just want to fill their bellies”. I get that and there are times you just can’t do all that organic and free-range feeding. However, when you eat real food loaded with nutrition, it does fill you up and you are less hungry. When you are eating dollar burgers or mac and cheese you are getting fatter but feel hungry all the time because your body isn’t getting any real nutrition to actually work with. That is another long health and nutrition dialogue and I am bored already.
Here is how you take that small coin purse or EBT card and make it happen. And yes, I have done the coop on an EBT card.
First, you join the coop because you will get discounts and can do a lot of wholesale bulk purchasing. You can volunteer a few hours now and then to get a 10% discount and they have sales all the time.
I joined for $10 every 6 months until I pay off $200. I just ordered some Quorn Turkey roast (faux turkey made out of mushrooms) in a case and saved so much. Usually, it’s $9.99 a roast but with the wholesale case and discount, I got it for around $5.55 a roast. You can order bulk beans, rice, flour and so on. You save 30% to 50% when it’s all totaled up.
Eating very clean helps. If you eliminate the snacks and healthy junk food you save. If you cook from scratch you save big time. I purchased tortillas out of sheer laziness the other day and it was $6 for a pack of those flour delights. I could make 3 packs for $1 at home. Lesson learned…again.
When you only buy rice, beans, flour, wheat, produce in season…you spend very little. You can buy bulk and choose the brown rice that is the least expensive. Pintos are the cheapest and think of all the bread and tortillas you can make from a 25 lb bag of flour and wheat. You can even make your own pasta easily. That’s next on my bucket list.
If you love your meat and eggs and dairy then get the loose eggs. Some stores have a bowl of eggs. You bring your own carton. Get whole chickens. A whole chicken can last a family a week. We don’t need to eat all that meat. In the old days and in other countries meat is a garnish, not the whole meal. Move over Adkins we need to de-clog that heart valve.
Dairy is not something I recommend. My son used to get all sorts of ear infections until I cut it out. Both my sons had chronic and mucusy colds all the winter long. Now they get sick a day in the Fall. Butter is a luxury. Use sparingly or learn to use vegetable stock or make your own bone broth from the leftover chicken carcass. This is for simmering.
You may say, “rice, beans, wheat? How boring?” No, no senora or senor or senorita! I can’t even list what you can do with these main items. Just get a bag of onions, tons of garlic and some olive oil and sea salt and you will be a chef in no time.
Potatoes. God, I love the spud. French fries (baked of course), baked, au gratin, casseroles, soups, hash browns, country fries…
I’ll write another blog on “what to do with boring foods”.
With produce in season, you can whip up amazing salads, snack on fruit. Eating with the seasons is more flavorful and smart. God knew what he was doing when he made oranges ripe in the winter. Baked squash and corn in the cold weather…yummy!
You can also start growing your own food and raise a few hens. That supplements. A fruit tree in the front yard? seeds and trees and hens are cheap and give you food for years. And that doesn’t get any more organic than that.
I’ll be back with more ideas and tips as I master this coop business.