Saturday, July 9, 2011

Guest Post: Rachel Z. on Eating Locally While on a Teacher's Budget

We’re not trendy West Seattle-ites like the Kings, but us Zupkes do know a thing or two about living the good life.  I’m Rachel and my self-assigned job in our 2 person, 2 cat, and 1 dog family is to plan delicious meals, source the ingredients as locally as possible, and do it on a budget.  My husband, Ben, and I moved to Everett this past summer, purchasing our first home, a 1910 built Craftsman with original hardwoods, hearth, and crown molding.  My sustainably focused husband went right to work figuring out how to make our house more energy efficient.  I, on the other hand, found the nearest farmer's market, researched CSA's, and kept right on meal planning like we always had.

Long story short, we’ve always lived on a budget.  Since getting married in August 2008, we have lived on as little as $1800/month.  The occasional parent-funded trip to Costco has also help keep us afloat.  That means that our meal planning has had to be spot on or we were going to have enough $ for next month’s rent, utilities, you get the picture.  Basically, we (me with Ben’s input) sat down on Saturday with a few issues of Everyday Food and a cookbook to determine what we were going to eat each night for the next week.  Then we’d go grocery shopping Sunday after church, careful to only purchase the ingredients needed for our week’s worth of meals.  We ate oatmeal or cereal for breakfast and the previous night’s dinner leftovers for lunches to keep our costs even lower.  Having meals planned also meant that when we got home from long days of teaching science to [unruly and disrespectful] teenagers, we didn’t have to have that awful “What are we going to have for dinner?” discussion.

When we followed God’s leading to buy our house in Everett, we knew we’d have to stay tight on the budget to continue to be good stewards of the public school teaching salaries He blesses us with.  They may seem like conflicting goals – eat well, stay on budget – but then we added in eating locally and might as well have given up on the whole saving money thing.  We had to reevaluate what was most important and decided we could ease up on our food budget to eat well and choose local over corporate whenever possible.

Required reading for this endeavor included In Defense of Food and Plenty, both very well written nonfiction books that both inspired and intimidated me.  Instead of being discouraged by this, we charged forward, going by the following guidelines: buy local; if we can’t do that, buy from small companies versus corporations; and buy organic if you can’t do the first two.  We’re big into being a part of our community, including attending a church within walking distance and praying for jobs in the Everett School District.  Buying local seemed like the next most obvious task.

The first thing we did was become members of the Sno-Isle Foods Co-op, only 1.2 miles from our house.  Maya (our newly rescued Siberian Husky) loves walking there with us, even if she has to pull the wagon of groceries, because they always have treats for her as she does her job of honorary greeter while we shop.  Shopping at the co-op made it much easier to purchase locally, including milk from Skagit County, yogurt from Nooksack Valley, lettuce from Whidbey Island, and eggs from Sultan, just down Hwy 2 from us. We wanted to join a CSA so after much research, we signed on with Klesick Family Farm and got a Northwest Box (delivered to our doorstep!) every other week.  The Northwest Box delivers produce grown at Klesick or other Washington farms.  There was a very steep learning curve of what to do with some of the vegetables that I had never seen or heard of before.  Like any good descendent of Midwestern stock, I knew my starchy vegetables very well but not my chards, kales, or other not-so-run-of-the-mill veggies. The first thing I made was a Chipotle Veggie Stew.  My carnivore husband declared that he felt satisfied after the meatless meal.  This was huge because normally Ben says, “This would have been so much better with [insert your meat of choice here].”

After a few weeks, we fell into the pattern of forming new habits and cutting corners elsewhere in our budget.  It was well worth it to bake with Stone-Buhr Shepherd's Mill Flour.  This flour especially excited me because you can type the “Best Buy” date into the Find The Farmer website, see where your wheat came from, and watch a video/read a bio of your farmer!  If you know me at all, you know that baking is one of my favorite things to do in the kitchen.  That, along with canning my own Orondo peaches in every August and hopefully some of the produce we get out of our newly planted garden this year, puts me next in line for Miss Suzie Homemaker of the Year.  Saving the harvest for later, along with batch cooking and freezing, helps us take advantage of what is in season while not blowing our paychecks.

What have we been learning over the past year?  That the following equation is true: meal planning + choosing local whenever possible + doing prep work like canning and batch cooking = less stress at the end of long workdays, staying within budget, eating better than we ever have, and supporting the local economy of the region God has lead us to live and serve in.  We are really excited for all that He has for us here in Everett and that He can use us to be examples of frugal, healthy, and sustainable eating.

1 comment:

  1. I just love Ben and Rachel. They are good people that obviously come from good upbringing. Ben is a very good go kart driver as I learned when he was my co-driver at Arthurs Bachelor party and Rachel was the best maid of honor that I have ever seen at Arthur and Kelsey's wedding. Have faith you two, God does good things to good you two are DEFINATELY good people. Couples like you and the Kings are the reason that I have good feelings of the generation that comes after us.


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