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HOMEGROWN Life: What We Learned From Our Year Without Groceries






I can’t believe it’s been a year now since we started our year without groceries. We learned a lot in that year. We are definitely healthier, but also we’re happier. Our relationship with each other is stronger as we’ve had to learn how to really work well together.

When we first decided to do a year without buying food from the grocery store, convenience stores, box stores or restaurants we thought the challenge was going to be really difficult. And it kind of started out that way. We had difficulties getting local milk, even though we live near a lot of dairies, and our goats hadn’t been bred yet so we had to wait for them to start producing. We had an order on part of a steer that almost didn’t come in, and our first monthly co-op order was missed.

But as time continued onward we started to get into the groove of things. After a lot of research I had found a milk delivery service that actually came to my town. We made do that first month without our co-op order and the steer finally came in. We visited the farmers’ market every Saturday and if something came up and we couldn’t make our local one, we were able to always find another one in a nearby town that we could go to. Our little urban farm started to become more productive and eventually we were able to provide all of our own dairy from our two goats.


We met a lot of great small family farmers and built relationships with them. They answered our questions, gave us tours, and we relied on them for our food. We learned that you don’t have to produce your own food to give up the grocery store, you just have to get out there and meet the people that do produce your food. Not to mention that we saved money on food while buying higher quality products.

About 6 months into our year we realized that it was pretty easy and that we wanted to have more of a challenge. We decided to go the last three months of our challenge without buying any food. We would have to rely on what our little lot could provide us along with anything we had on the shelf.

We were so far behind on planting due to Mother Nature refusing to cooperate that I was worried we wouldn’t have anything to eat fresh. We got lucky and our first big harvest was the day we started the three month challenge. For those first few weeks we were limited to cucumbers, green beans and zucchini. That was probably the hardest part of the challenge – having such a limited diet. And because of our less than stellar weather during the first part of the year, our fruit trees were a complete failure.

On the plus side though we learned first hand what we should have in storage in case of emergencies. We also developed a bartering system with friends which helped strengthen our community.

After a year of being free from grocery stores we decided to continue this journey indefinitely but we’ll allow ourselves one restaurant visit a month. We met a lot of great people along the way and we learned a lot about ourselves.


My friends in college used to call me a Renaissance woman. I was always doing something crafty, creative, or utilitarian. I still am. My focus these days, instead of arts and crafts, has been farming as much of my urban quarter acre as humanly possible. With my husband, we run Dog Island Farm in the SF Bay Area. We raise chickens, goats, rabbits, dogs, cats, and a kid. We’re always keeping busy. If I’m not out in the yard I’m in the kitchen making something from scratch. Homemade always tastes better!


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7 Responses to “HOMEGROWN Life: What We Learned From Our Year Without Groceries”

  1. Holy Cow! I’ve read some blogs of people eating local food for a month but FOR A YEAR?!? I’m looking forward to reading a lot more of your story right here. Thanks for posting it.

  2. I enjoyed reading about your creative solutions to issues that arose. I also liked that you found the initial challenge too easy and even that worked out ok.

  3. I’ve been reading your blog off and on over the past year and am amazed at how well it has all come together for you. My wife and I have been doing our best to grow and locally source as much as we can, but, as you mentioned above, it can be really difficult to find some of the more critical elements such as milk, cheese and meats. Being that we’re not too far inland from you all, I’m wondering if you have any tips on finding local sources for these hard-to-come-by’s? Thanks for all of your inspiration over the past year!!!

  4. Fantastic story. What I love best is how your (re)connection to real food led you to real connections with neighbors. So simple, yet so important.

  5. I would so love to stop going to the grocery store. For a family of four we have been spending at least $600 a month on food. Money is one of my husband’s and my biggest arguments.
    So how do I find out more information on how to go about doing this?
    Where can I read more about your journey?
    How much property did you have? How much did it cost you for food for your animals? I have 9 rabbits, 2 chickens a dog a cat and four alpacas. For just the dog, cat, rabbits and chickens I spend around $80 a month, the alpacas cost about $400 a year.
    I just really need to cut my expenses. Food at $7,200 a year just for us humans is too much and could go towards helping with a down payment for some land to have a small farm. 🙂

  6. Tracey, I have a second blog called Another Year Without Groceries. It can give you some more info about how we did it. Just click on my name and it should take you there.

    We have a 1/4 acre lot. For all of our food producing animals (chickens, turkeys, ducks, goats, rabbits and bees) we’ve spent $3000 on food. Hay for us is extremely expensive running about $25/bale, which is why our cost is so high. Goats are notorious for wasting more hay than they eat so they can be a money suck. We also feed all organic to our animals other than the hay, which I can’t find organic anywhere. The amount of animals we have fluctuates a lot. We currently have 19 egg layers, 7 meat chickens, 3 turkeys, 2 goats and 9 rabbits, but for awhile this year we had over 65 animals (17 rabbits, 5 goats, 6 ducks, 3 turkeys and 34 chickens) .

  7. Thank you so much for sharing this, Rachel. I’m so inspired by your efforts. I’ve been a CSA member for several years, and this fall have started bulk buying from farms and subscribing to an a la carte CSA service called Farmers To You which brings full-menu goods to Boston from Vermont. Unfortunately, I still find myself going to the grocery store for olive oil, coffee (can’t live without it, it’s my only vice left) and chocolate. Hey, every little bit is a good feeling knowing that more of my dollar is making it into the farmers’ pockets.

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