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Five Ways To Have A Homegrown Kitchen

eat locally

Want to eat as locally as possible? Hoping to have fresh, healthy meals while supporting your local farmers and staying on budget? Wondering where to begin? Here are five tips to help you bring the Homegrown home.

1. Grow and raise the food you love

More power to you folks who grow a wide variety of fruits and veggies yourselves. For those of us with limited space, time or ability, smaller and simpler gardens are the way to go. Are tomatoes your thing? Can’t get enough of the almighty spud? The price of herbs getting you down? Try growing a few varieties of your favorites for maximum happiness. Don’t forget that backyard chickens mean a steady supply of fresh eggs! (duh).

2. Subscribe to a CSA

Community Supported Agriculture ensures a regular stream of fresh, local and family farmer-raised products in your cooking arsenal. Check out the CSA Cookoff series for inspiration. Frugal gourmets note: By selling directly to you, the customer, the farmer is able to provide you with a better price while keeping the “middlemen” out of his pockets. There are still farms taking subscribers. Find them on Local Harvest and The Eat Well Guide.

3. Practice Meal Planning

Busy moms like Tory know the value of this time-saving tip already, but everyone can benefit from some preparation and organization. If you have a CSA share, your farmer should send out a list of the contents of the week’s harvest. If you shop the farmers market, having a list really cuts down on the tendency to buy too much stuff or stuff that doesn’t get used (who hasn’t done that before?). Either way, try to spend 20 minutes each week thinking about what’s in season, what the week’s schedule entails and what ingredients are already in your pantry, then sketch out some meal ideas.

4. Minimize waste

By mid-season, we can find ourselves drowning in vegetables. Keeping a chalk board in the kitchen with a list of what you tuck away in the fridge each week (start with that CSA list!), helps cut down on spoilage. After eating fresh, your second defense against rotting food is preservation: Too many greens? Blanch and freeze them! Overdosing on beets? Cucumbers? Beans? Get out those canning jars! Too many tomatoes? (Never!) Slow roast, sun dry or dehydrate them and store it all for those dark winter days. Join the Food Preservation group for recipes and support.

5. Buy in bulk

Buying in bulk not only saves you money, it saves on excess packaging and trips to the store. A pantry stocked with whole grains, canned goods, beans and pasta puts you ahead of the game. Use your pantry as the foundation for your meal planning. Buying a whole, or going in on part of an animal with your friends and neighbors is a tremendously economical way of cooking with meat. You can find farmers who sell their meat directly through Local Harvest and The Eat Well Guide. Ask around at your local farmers market, too.

Good luck and good eating! Please feel free to add your tips for eating and living Homegrown in the comments.

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10 Responses to “Five Ways To Have A Homegrown Kitchen”

  1. Excellent recommendations.

  2. I have found that the best way to learn how to have a homegrown kitchen is to make a real commitment to cook. I am yet amazed how many of us understand all about growing our food, supporting csa’s, food preservation and animal husbandry but seem to run out of steam or commitment when it comes to the day in and day out of actual cooking. Certainly that is what our parents and grandparents were all about – every day, each day, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Changing how and with what we stock our pantries (homegrown and home preserved) will only really make sense to us when we start cooking and using it all in a system that is seriously committed to the 365 days of the year. At least that has been my experience as a householder of a home grown kitchen.

  3. This is great advice, and so simple! A little common sense (and planning) goes a long way toward a more natural diet. Kudos!

  4. I’ve recently looked into my local CSAs, and was taken aback by the prices. I know, over the long term, it would even out. But I simply cannot afford to do it.
    I’ve thought about asking friends, but only one would consider it…if she wasn’t poor as well. My friends think I’m slightly off my head for trying to stay local and homemade.
    Any ideas?

  5. Totally agree that a bit of planning is key. I often start my day by setting up to cook that which takes the most time: a pot of beans, a pot of brown rice, sweet potatoes in the oven, etc. When I take 5 minutes to get it going first thing in the morning, by the time I go to work it is done – many things cook themselves in 45-60 minutes.

    Thanks for this concise list of great tips. I’ll retweet it.

  6. Thank you everyone for the great feedback! Brandee, some farmers take CSA payments in smaller increments so that it’s not such a big blow to the bank account. They may not overtly advertise it, but you should feel free to ask. If anyone understands the need for financing, it’s a farmer! :)
    Just curious, where are you and what prices were you finding for CSA shares?

  7. Great tips! Wish there had been an article like this around when I first started looking for ways to buy fresh local produce!

    What we do in my neighborhood is 1.) take turns making trips to the local farms, and 2.) buy in bulk. We get really good bulk discounts and we save on gas. Then we split the goods and the cost…(This might be a workable solution if the CSA is too expensive).

    We also make deals directly with distributors to get durable goods in bulk, also with big discounts. That gets shipped right to us, and we split the goods and the cost. So you can see why this article was right up my alley! :)

    The hard part for us was getting organized. Right now, we use an online tool called SplitStuff (http://splitstuff.com) to connect with each other and fix the details of each ‘split’. This has been working great for us. It’s a huge improvement over the phone calls we used to have to make to do something as a community. (And our splitting parties are half the fun.)

    Hope this encourages those who have felt that buying local or in bulk has to be expensive–be assured that it doesn’t!!!

  8. Can’t afford the initial investment of a CSA? Commit to spending $$ with a specific farmer each week/month. Most CSA farmers also participate in farmers’ markets and/or supply businesses during their growing season and value your financial commitment even if you’re unable to belong to their CSA.

  9. Catherine Clark Says:

    This is my third year for a backyard garden (Chicago, IL) and I love it! Every year I learn more about what I need to do next year, LOL. However, cooking is another thing. I work full time (overtime also) leave home @ 5:30 a.m. and get home @ 6 p.m. so cooking for my work lunches is done on weekends and week nights not much cooking is done at all. I can’t afford CSA’s at all and after asking a few about prices they were pretty inflexible, so I dropped it. We are a two income couple trying desperately to make it on one income plus a little he makes doing some trucking and carpenter work. I frequent the farmers markets but the one closest to us has only farmers that spray; no organics :( so we buy from fruit markets that have organics.

  10. Hey Annette: I tried the link to splitstuff but it didn’t work. Can you give me another one to try? I’m intrigued.

    Harriett: Still awaiting your book on everyday cooking. :)

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