Author Topic: Mustachianism & Principled Eating  (Read 4516 times)

netskyblue

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Mustachianism & Principled Eating
« on: February 04, 2014, 09:29:49 AM »
Those mustachians among you who have committed yourselves to eating according to your principles, be they eating local, avoiding GMOs, pesticides, herbicides, irradiation, pro-animal welfare, avoiding businesses whose practices you don't agree with, etc: what are your best strategies for keeping food costs down, yet still following your principles?

I'm a carnivore, no intentions of switching to vegetarianism/veganism.  I don't eat a LOT of meat, and work to eat meals that stretch the meat I have.  I want nothing more than to own a home on an acreage and do intensive gardening, but that's still several years out, finances-wise.

In August, I will be buying a 1/4 beef from my sister (and I approve of the way in which the animal has been raised), at ~$4.50 a pound, which is a decent price, compared to regularly priced supermarket meat, considering we'll get the "good" cuts along with the ground beef, as well as bones & tallow.  But it's still more than eating nothing but sale-priced ground beef.  (BUT...argues my conscience...who knows what all is in that meat, how it's been treated to kill whatever might have been growing in it!)

Local, farmer's market vegetables are SUPER expensive, and I don't yet have the means to grow my own.  I'm also not particularly keen on having pesticide-laden vegetables that have been trucked halfway across the country (or from outside the country) fill my table just because they're $1.80 cheaper.

And don't get me started on chicken!  Commercial chicken can be bought for $5 or less per bird.  Local, free range birds are closer to $12-14 per bird.  But the health problems of the commercial chickens, solely as a result of the way they've been hybridized (to grow fast & large for maximum profit), not even taking into account the conditions in which they are raised...I can't bring myself to be okay buying that.  So, don't eat chicken?

It's rough having only so many dollars, and to increase my food spending would decrease spending elsewhere, and I'm pretty pared down as it is.  What are others' best tips?

lackofstache

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Re: Mustachianism & Principled Eating
« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2014, 10:11:11 AM »
My wife and I have gone back and forth on this for several years. We've found a good balance for us. We have a small garden, but my wife also works at a local farm co-op in the spring, summer & fall in trade for produce and well raised meat. When we buy meat, it's expensive, so we don't eat a ton of it. We buy pricey eggs, but $3/dozen is well worth it for me. Overall, for a family of four, we could spend less by getting the cheapest we can, but $550/mo for food isn't bad. We've cut back on a lot of things though, and really try not to buy things we don't need. We rarely eat out since you usually pay a whole lot for pretty crappy food (even if it tastes great).

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Mustachianism & Principled Eating
« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2014, 10:33:18 AM »
We're omnivores but cutting meat to 1-2/week can really help reduce your food budget.

I'm not the poster child for organic whatnot, because the "organic" label doesn't necessarily mean a whole lot.  You can still use pesticides, etc, as long as they're "naturally occurring". They are marginally safer in certain categories, mainly greens. I've found a store in my area that charges very little premium for organic stuff, so I can buy produce without a huge price hit. I research, and ask my wife since she has an MS in Food Safety and works in the industry.

For meat, the 1/4 cow route is a nice way to go if you have a freezer for storage. I'd have to buy something to do that. A different local store sells pastured pork and beef for very little price premium over conventional, so when I'm craving meat, I'll bike over there and see what they have. It surprises the hell out of me, but grassfed round steak is superior to just about anything short of Prime NY strip or ribeye conventionally raised.

For other protein, I really like wild caught fish more than beef/chicken/pork. From the right store, it's rarely expensive, usually 4-8/pound.

mboulder

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Re: Mustachianism & Principled Eating
« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2014, 11:28:16 AM »
Local, farmer's market vegetables are SUPER expensive, and I don't yet have the means to grow my own.

Talk to the farmers at the market and see if they will sell their goods direct to you, or if they supply any local grocery stores, where you can buy them cheaper. Farmers markets have become very trendy, and with it, prices have increased. For years I've bought fresh veggies at a stand at a farm near my house. He also sells at the farmer's market, but he marks everything up at the market by a good 20% or more, because people will pay it, and also to cover the cost of renting a space and trucking the goods over. Turns out he also supplies a few of the grocery stores, again, cheaper than the farmer's market.

Ask farmers if they will sell you blemished or older vegetables for a discount. I do this for local peaches, plums and tomatoes around August/September, when they are in season and super delicious. I then turn them into jam, sauce, or cut them up and freeze them. After buying a giant box of blemished organic peaches direct from an orchard last September for about $10, I made something like 10 huge jars of jam, which I'm still going through, even after giving some of them away. Did the same thing with tomatoes, turning them into pasta sauce. Yum!

Which brings another point - follow the seasons, buy extra when something local is in season, and learn to preserve them for when they are out of season, or in the case of some items like squash, learn how to store them so that they will keep for months, and then stock up when they are in season and cheaper. Or, if it suits you, buy frozen if something is out of season. I love blueberries in my cereal in the morning, but they are EXPENSIVE when out of season. Luckily Costco sells tasty organic frozen blueberries cheap, also organic broccoli, organic corn, organic peas, etc.

Eric

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Re: Mustachianism & Principled Eating
« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2014, 02:32:08 PM »
I'm a carnivore, no intentions of switching to vegetarianism/veganism.

Holy cow!  Eat some vegetables already!!  Oh, you meant omnivore?  Okay then, if you're okay with a little bargaining, show up at that same farmers market just before closing and ask for a deal.  No one wants to re-pack and re-transport unsold produce.  I bet you can get 50% off.

scrubbyfish

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Re: Mustachianism & Principled Eating
« Reply #5 on: February 04, 2014, 05:11:38 PM »
Oh, thank you for starting this thread! I just last night posted in my MMM Journal that I have very reluctantly opted to go non-organic for the month of February.

My food goals/dreams (and, until now, actions) have historically been to:

-support my regional and local neighbours (buying what they grow, shopping at the stores they work at)
-support minimal transport
-support organic farming
-support the health and happiness of animals (pasturing, etc)
-eat really delicious stuff
-support my kid's health and my health (which in our cases demands meat and no cheap starchy fillers, as we learned the very hard way)

Doing my best to meet this goal was costing me $1000/mo, in a good month. No can do.

Here is what I am newly implementing, slowly but surely:

-almost no restaurants (did zero in January!)
-avoid eating at coffee shops, etc
-rely on a food recovery program as much as possible (food that was going to be thrown out is instead sold to low-income people)
-eat less at each meal (I had been compulsively eating more food than my body required; I've now stopped that)
-buy whole fish for a few dollars and use the whole thing up
-drive to the US for food; where I live quality eggs are just under $6/dozen; there they are $3 (ditto meat, yogurt, greens, etc)
-locally, buy non-organic for the month of February and see what happens

This is hard for me, and an experiment.

I'm a little restricted only by having a tiny home/tiny freezer. If I get a bigger place, a chest freezer will be considered.

MayDay

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Re: Mustachianism & Principled Eating
« Reply #6 on: February 04, 2014, 06:36:42 PM »
I am far from perfect, but we try to achieve similar goals.  Here is a rundown of how we source our food.

We have a great local store that orders from regional suppliers for dry goods type stuff- flours, oats, nuts, beans, etc.  they sell bulk bags for 10% over their cost.  I buy fairly local whole wheat flour, oatmeal, black beans, etc from them.  I buy 25 lb bags so I get a good price per lb, much better than costco.  Plus it is local small business. 

In the summer we garden and I can stuff, which helps a lot.  Some stuff I do not grow myself, though.  We go to u-pick places a lot.  I can get u-pick peaches for about 50 cents a lb.  if I bought them at the farmers market they would probably be 2$ a lb. or more.  Peaches aren't organic around here.  I canned and froze them. 

I work very part time for a local farm that does farmers markets and csa's.  Whenever I work I get to take home anything they have excess of that will spoil.  Someone I know works for them weekly at market and gets a free CSA share for it.  I love gardening, so it is fun for me plus 8$ an hour, plus free food. 

We don't eat meat so that is easy for us, but when my h did, we got our chicken and wild caught seafood at costco.  We found it to be the cheapest by far in our area.

In the winter we eat mainly cheap winter produce (oranges, root veggies) or organic frozen veggies from costco.  We also get organic salad greens and organic carrots from costco in the winter.  In my area, you can't eat locally all year long unless you subsist on sweet potatoes alone all winter, lol, so I find costco to be by far the cheapest place to buy organic stuff during winter.  In the summer we eat pretty much only local produce. 

bikebum

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Re: Mustachianism & Principled Eating
« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2014, 06:44:55 PM »
Not sure if this is the kind of thing you are talking about, but I mainly avoid food that comes in unnecessary packaging. This is the main reason I choose one option over another. And it usually doesn't cost any more!

Milspecstache

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Re: Mustachianism & Principled Eating
« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2014, 07:10:34 PM »
I didn't have any concerns until I watched Food, Inc on Netflix.  Since then we have done larger and larger gardens each year to supply more of our own food.

As far as meat we have at times produced our own meat but it is always so much work, particularly since I'm feeding children in addition to myself and my wife.  Since chicken is the easiest animal to raise for us, this explains why we eat a lot of chicken as we haven't bought a whole chicken in a couple of years.

SisterX

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Re: Mustachianism & Principled Eating
« Reply #9 on: February 04, 2014, 08:54:15 PM »
This won't work for everyone but...we hunt.  Actually, I don't.  My husband and his entire family do.  If someone gets a moose, the meat gets shared by the large extended family.  My in-laws go dipnetting every year and get more salmon than they could eat, so they give a bunch to us and take some to friends and family they stay with when they travel.  (It makes me laugh: wild Alaska salmon is our "I'm feeling poor" food!  This might make you cry, but a lot of our fish leftovers go to the dog.)

For meat we buy, from a local butcher, we just add less than normal to a meal.  My husband thinks a meal isn't complete without a bit of meat, but going to half (or less) of the meat a recipe calls for is just fine by him.  For instance, if something calls for 3 chicken breasts I'd probably only use 1.

We also buy whole chickens a lot, since they're $3/lb rather than $4/lb for chicken breasts.  (And super easy to cook in the crockpot.)  What we don't eat the night it's been cooked gets used in other meals and the bones get made into stock.  Skin frequently goes to the dog as a treat in her dinner.  (As do cooked salmon skins, btw.  Don't waste those if you have a dog!  Just be sure to cook them first.)

I also forage.  We don't have U-Pick farms around here (not to be confused with Yupik farms, lol) but we do have an abundance of wild berries.  Annually I gather at least 1 gallon of blueberries, generally 1/2-1 gallon of cranberries, and at least a quart of raspberries.  I also sometimes gather fireweed flowers and make jelly.

Are you sure you can't garden at all?  Even a small window herb garden can make you feel really productive.  I grow cherry tomatoes in my office every year, and have even grown jalapenos in the office.  If you look around, there might be more opportunities for growing food than you think at first.

scrubbyfish

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Re: Mustachianism & Principled Eating
« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2014, 09:24:54 PM »
Here is what I am newly implementing, slowly but surely:

-almost no restaurants (did zero in January!)
-avoid eating at coffee shops, etc
-rely on a food recovery program as much as possible (food that was going to be thrown out is instead sold to low-income people)
-eat less at each meal (I had been compulsively eating more food than my body required; I've now stopped that)
-buy whole fish for a few dollars and use the whole thing up
-drive to the US for food; where I live quality eggs are just under $6/dozen; there they are $3 (ditto meat, yogurt, greens, etc)
-locally, buy non-organic for the month of February and see what happens

Want to add to my previous post, quoted above: I didn't track spending for quite a few interim months, but I know in 2011 and 2012 I spent a good $1000+ /mo on food/household/supplements -I don't remember if eating out was within that or over and above- and that last month (my first one tracked for some time) I spent about $375, so I'm definitely seeing results! Also, my food is definitely as delicious as ever. And I released about 15 pounds of excess weight since late December.

Canada's food prices are trippy, so I don't know how far I'm going to be able to get it down -haven't tried very hard before this. (At one point I spent only about $30/mo on food, but that was a result of having only $30 to my name each month and it severely impacted my health. So not going for extremes.)

Emg03063

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Re: Mustachianism & Principled Eating
« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2014, 09:37:38 PM »
Look around for a community garden near you, or if none are convenient, start one.  I'm gardening land at my synagogue that was previously used to grow grass.  Land cost for me = $0 (plus membership dues I was paying anyway).

senecando

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Re: Mustachianism & Principled Eating
« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2014, 09:51:50 PM »
We're working towards this more and more. We've done CSA's and love them, but I think our main focus is now on animal welfare. Questions of anti-biotics and pesticides don't exactly weigh on the ethics-spectrum for me and I don't worry about them much.

My main suggestions are eggs and offal. We'll eat a fried egg on veggies and rice once or twice a week. Another meal or two is eggs and hash.

I've been eating more and more offal, mainly because it's cheap even when you're buying meat from well-raised animals. I've gotten extreme pleasure from learning about the old ways of thrift, when meat was expensive as maybe it should be.