In a world where I can get my food on demand, why would it matter so much where and how I source my food?
A heightened awareness of food came about when I was in high school and noticed red meat (among other things) made me sick. When I ate it with my nanny family, I didn’t have the same response. I quickly put together that it was a food quality issue. The meat from the grocery store had a very different effect on my body than the locally sourced meat from our natural foods co-op.
My curiosity about food sourcing piqued when my first daughter was born…if she was eventually to tolerate dairy, wouldn’t it make sense to go source direct in its purest form? It became quickly important to me that we educate our children on where their food comes from. Keeping that sourcing line short, i.e, farm to consumer direct, would keep prices down, quality up, and provide a sense of relatedness and community lost on big box outlets.
Once we began connecting with farms I quickly learned they (farmers) are interested in providing us with food we are proud to eat. They want us to have a say in how our food is grown, what it’s fed, and where it is processed. The immediate result here is healthier food at a lower price, all the while supporting our local economy. It’s a win-win!
(Nature’s Pantry Farm by Parks Photography)
How to Source Your Food
If you’re eating a whole foods based diet, then you’re looking for the basics to fill your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer. That being said, a diet consisting of the following will get you started: produce, either fresh or frozen, meat, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and dairy products. Anything beyond that is for pure convenience.
You might start by looking at what you need, how often you buy it, and how you could change or update your purchasing habits. We started out with a small chest freezer and began to upgrade as our family grew and budget allowed.
There are times I supplement our kitchen with what I can score at Costco. I’m not going to lie, it’s super convenient to buy the items we go through more frequently in bulk. But we all know the Costco effect, it’s like Target, you go in for a few things and come out later with a full cart.
Using online resources is also quite convenient. From ordering meat and non-perishables to fill in the gaps with Thrive Market, or buying in bushels or by the case through a buying club like Azure Standard. I’ve also discovered over the years sister orchards to the ones we love here where I can buy bulk fresh berries, cherries, and peaches every summer to freeze for the following year.
I rely on our local natural foods co-ops memberships for special order items, like the kind of millet bread our family likes. DeLand Zucchini, sooooo good. It makes me want a BLT just writing this. I also order our pizza crusts in bulk so it’s a few months before I have to re-order them. It makes throwing together weekly family pizza night (grain free) super easy.
This year we will participate in another Community Supported Agriculture-where we purchase a share of a farm’s produce is a fabulous way to not only boost the local economy, but you’ll get a variety of produce weekly (schedule may vary) that is fresh, beautiful, and delivered to a dropsite close by.
Costs Associated with Farm-Direct Food Sourcing
When you break down the cost associated with sourcing your food, I look at it like an investment as mostly the money is paid up front. This is an investment in our health, in our community, and in our overall well being. I appreciate supporting small businesses and watching them flourish, as the love and education they spread has a powerful ripple effect. Paying up front for later delivery of meat or produce is common, so you’ll need to have set money aside to allocate for this purchase, however, by the pound you’ll save a bundle.
CSA memberships vary, but last year we paid $900 for the 9 months of produce. That’s a steal.
Buying a quarter of a cow at a time for our family of five (which we do 2-3 times per year) is less than $700 each time. This breaks down to less than $5.99/# for grass fed organic (not certified though they don’t use any chemicals, antibiotics, or hormones) meat.
When we purchase pork, I’d have to check, but I believe we buy two for the price of the beef.
Raw milk is a popular farm direct food source, and the legalities around this depend on the state you live in, though this ran us about $6/gallon when we were buying it. Some farms will even sell yogurt, raw, or maple syrup.
Pastured chicken is delicious and the eggs so nutrient dense, it’s silly not to go this route.
My Personal Food Sources
Such as with the berries, cherries, and peaches, I have found really great resources to support our food consumption that I can feel so good about.
We buy this cheese in bulk (freezes well, just gets crumbly for grating) as goat cheese does better for our family than dairy: Pasture Pride Cheese. I buy at least 20 blocks of it at a time.
When we brought home a rescue dog about four years ago, we didn’t know she was riddled with parasites, sick due to vaccines and pesticides, and would chew her paws incessantly because of anxiety. So, yes, she is on a Nutrition Response Testing program, AND, we feed her a raw dog food diet. In reality she gets raw food at her evening meal because Little Mister is in charge of feeding the pets in the morning, so she gets grain free kibble at that time. Raw Delivery MN ships right to our doorstep. The raw meat comes in tubes, so we thaw two at a time, make it into patties, re-freeze, and then thaw a few days at a time for her.
Thrive Market, if you haven’t checked it out yet, is a mix between Costco and Whole Foods meets Amazon. Super convenient, and with it’s affordable ($55) annual membership, you get 25-50% off the natural foods you know and love. I’m excited that they now have frozen meat and seafood options as well. I save so much money buying here…I get to see how much I save every time I add things to my cart.
Imperfect Produce is my new favorite. We go through so much produce at our house, that during the cooler months when we don’t have access to a CSA, this is a great option. Every week I log in when I get the email reminder, I spend at least $35 (usually more like $50-60) on organic produce, and it’s delivered right to our house every week. It might not be pretty, but these fruits and veggies are going into the oven, dehydrator, smoothies, the roasting pan, or straight into our bellies and I don’t really care what it looks like. It isn’t local, but it’s super convenient.
Pasture Adickes for beef and pork. This farm is so close to us that we get to visit it regularly. They also have a great “grocery aisle” we can stop into for items such as beef sticks or my absolute favorite, braunschweiger!
Dan & Becky’s Market is a great stop if you’re close to Cokato. This is about 50 minutes from us, but for years we drove by it monthly to pick up our raw milk. They are a small natural foods market that is so much fun to check out. We source our whole chickens through their organic family farms.
AppleJack Orchards is a resource we have used for at least twelve years. We stop in during the fall apple season, but utilize their online ordering from sister orchards for dark and sweet cherries, blueberries, and peaches every summer.
The Strawberry Basket in Monticello is where we go during the summer to pick fresh strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. They are family owned and run and it’s a blast.
How we can Support You
We have developed relationships over the years with the following farms/outlets and have items either in office or via drop-off available for cash/check (direct to the source):
Pasture Adickes beef & pork
Nature’s Pantry Farm beef, pork, and farm fresh eggs (these are $4 and go fast!). Their meat is priced per package for super easy pick up. Will have
Dan & Becky’s Market of Cokato will be delivering fresh frozen whole chickens beginning in June. At $3.80/# they are a cost effective way to get more than one meal per week in for our family. Call My Healthy Beginning to let us know how many you’d like for the next delivery. My personal family chicken total annually is 20-24 whole chickens.
Sugar Shanty maple syrup
We are eternally grateful for the experience we get in sharing these incredible resources with our community. You won’t be disappointed in these delicious products.