A High Country Food Hub/Local Farm Meal Challenge!
This is a tad lengthy, but I feel worth it, so stick with me!
Often times, one of the stumbling blocks of shopping for locally produced ingredients is the so-called expense of feeding one’s family. Granted, it can be more expensive to shop at the farmer’s market for locally-raised meat and produce. It’s not always the case, but it’s to be expected.These are big time corporations here, these are small farms with a few employees, sometimes it’s just the farmer himself/herself. I try to be intentional about my shopping. I like to shop from local farmers, because my purchase could help send their child to dance lessons or to a math tutor. I know whose hands have touched that food and I know that it’s absolutely as fresh as can be.We also budget our grocery shopping (we use the Dave Ramsey “cash method” to stay in budget). But being 30 minutes away, going to the farmer’s market isn’t easy for me on Saturday, so I love the convenience of shopping online at the High Country Food Hub. Purchasing online uses our debit card, but we adjust accordingly. If you haven’t heard of the High Country Food Hub, I invite you to check out their website. They’re a part of Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture and they provide online access to local farmers to make it easier for you and me. I just love the service and they do so much to bring the community together with local agriculture with shopping, events, etc. By the way, this post is not sponsored…this truly was my own idea.
The challenge: Shop for a week’s worth of local goodies and make meals for my family. with it. Budget: $100. I did my shop and it was $82 and some change.
Of course, I used some pantry/fridge ingredients to supplement like rice, onions, garlic, sauces to help stretch that budget but that’s to be expected. I did not go to the grocery store for any components I needed for my meals, only for random items like milk, avocado, snacks that I like to have on hand every week anyway. And I did swing by a local farm stand to get peaches one day because summer. Incidentally, the food hub does sell delicious whole creamery milk, but my son, the primary drinker, prefers 2%. And I placed my order too late to get Owl Creek bread.
Here’s my order:
Mixed cherry tomatoes, A Bushel and a Peck Farm
Heirloom tomatoes (red slicers) Against the Grain
Heirloom tomatoes (mixed) New Life Farm
Purple potatoes, Blue Ridge Naturals
Summer squash/zucchini, A Bushel and a Peck
Arugula, Full Moon Farm
Spring salad mix, Full Moon Farm
Shishito peppers, Full Moon Farm
Mixed red/yellow sweet peppers, New Life Farm
Cucumbers, New Life Farm
Blueberries, Moffitt-Toolan Family Farm
Boston Butt, BRG Farms
Ground beef (2 lbs), Moffitt-Toolan, BRG Farms
Beef stew meat, Chestnut Grove Farms
Garlic brats, CS Farm
Chorizo sausage, Moffitt-Toolan
Here are the meals I prepared, with the local goods in italics. A recap of the recipes
is coming soon is not up!
Meal 1: (served 6) Paella Fried Rice using chorizo, some leftover chicken, leftover rice from a previous meal, peppers, onion, cilantro.
Meal 2: (served 8) Cincinnati Chili (This was enough for another meal of leftovers days later (without the spaghetti the second time). This counts as 2 family meals.
Beef was the only local item in this meal.
Meal 3: (served 5) Pulled Pork using the Boston butt, Rainbow Veggies using the zucchini, peppers, shishitos, Purple Mashed Potatoes
Meal 4: (enough for 4) Mediterranean Night with garlic brats, peppers, blistered tomatoes (leftover rainbow veg) and Fried Feta w/ pita and hummus
Meal 5: (served 5) Southwest Bowls w/Chorizo & Chicken, peppers & pico de gallo (using tomatoes) on local grits
Meal 6: (served 4) Korean Beef Bowls w/ Instant Pot stewed beef, zucchini, mushrooms
Meal 7: (served 2) Arugula & Spring Mix Caesar Salad
Meals 1-6 (including leftovers from the chili) were were enough to feed my entire family. Paella fried rice gave us leftovers for 2 people. SW Bowls gave us another leftover meal for 1 (I turned it into breakfast), then there were a number of smaller meals, like salads, BLT’s. Take a look.
Arugula salad with peaches, blueberries, burrata (served 2)
Arugula with figs, pancetta and burrata (served 1)
Spring mix salad with tomatoes (served 2)
Everyday cucumber salad with tomatoes (served 1)
BLT (served 2) using spring mix, arugula and tomato
I used the blueberries in smoothies, as well as snacking.
The eggs were used in a couple of different breakfasts including one that used the leftover pulled pork into an omelet. We still have half dozen eggs left.
Arugula, burrata, figs, pancetta
Arugula with peaches, blueberries, pancetta and burrata
Foodies, that means for my $82, I was able to make 40+ plates of food with those staples and every family meal included a locally-raised meat (6 meals that fed all 4 of us, a salad for 2, plus leftovers and individual lunches). I shocked even myself with the ability to extend my dollar. And what’s more…my husband and son both went on a trip a few days into the “challenge”, putting it on hold, and the salad, peppers, zucchini were all still fresh two weeks later. I bought the food on Aug. 7, started the meal portion of the challenge on Aug. 9, stopped family meals Aug. 11 and restarted on Aug. 16 and completed Aug. 19. While they were away, I made salads for myself and ate leftovers with my daughter. It’s probably the healthiest I’ve eaten in a long time with well-balanced, colorful local goodness. The other takeaway is that we don’t have to be nervous about using up these ingredients. None of the produce went soft or bad and it took me almost 2 weeks to eat it all.
Guys, I’m nothing special, I made a meal plan of items I know my people like and bought ingredients from the Food Hub based on my meal plan, which is nothing different than I do if I’m typical grocery store shopping. My habits are usually Food Hub every 2 weeks, then I fill in with a grocery shop, and when I go down the mountain to Winston-Salem, I usually hit Trader Joe’s (once a month). Every now and then, I shop a local market or Earth Fare, but we have a cash budget and we stick to it as much as possible (sudden trips for ice cream or chocolate chips don’t count, do they?).
I want to make it clear that this is not a sponsored post. Items were purchased with our own money. This really was a challenge….to see how I’d do.
As for the recipes, some are tried and true and found online, some are mine and most of the salads are seriously just thrown together. Recipes coming at you Thursday!
By the way, if I’ve kept you to this point, on Friday, the Hub is having a Fill Your Freezer sale with lots of great locally raised beef. There will be presentations at the Ag building (address is on the flyer below) all day long beginning with ME at 11:30 when I demonstrate how to sear and carve a flank steak. Come see us and maybe you can get a taste of the flank steak with a delicious corn and tomato salsa that’s perfect for tailgating at App’s first home game!