The Reluctant Locavore

Finding herself in financial straits, writer Susan Gregory Thomas discovers eating locally out of necessity, beginning with that perennial question, “…how hard could it be?” From the New York Times:

Back to the Land, Reluctantly

I’m not interested in being hip or a hippie. Nor does my happiness particularly hinge on artisanal cheese. (Odd, perhaps, given that I grew up a stone fruit’s throw away from Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif.)

As a 42-year-old Brooklyn mother of three, what I care about is lunch, and feeding my family on a tenuous and unpredictable income. And so I have 20 fresh-egg-producing hens and a little garden that yields everything from blackberries to butternut squash to burdock root.

My turn with spade and hoe started a few years ago when I found myself divorced and flat broke. My livelihood as a freelance writer went out the window when the economy tanked. I literally could afford beans, the dried kind, which I’d thought were for school art projects or teaching elementary math. And I didn’t know how to cook.

Luckily, my late father had hammered into me that grit was more important than talent. So, when I couldn’t afford fancy food — never mind paraben-free shampoo — for my babies, I figured, if peasants in 11th-century Sicily did all this, how hard could it be?

I researched how to raise hens from chicks so we could get our omega-3-filled eggs. I learned to stretch a single piece of cheap meat into nearly a week’s worth of dinners. I made my own cleaning products. Not because I liked it. Because it was cheap.

My goal was to have healthy, unprocessed food for $10 or less a day. Cereal was the first thing to go. It dawned on me that making granola was a matter of tossing oatmeal and nuts into a bowl with a little oil, honey and spices — and then baking until brown. No more $14 boxes of fancy grains with pomegranate antioxidants. Read more…

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One Comment

  1. Lynn
    Posted October 10, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    So true!

    As a newly single mom myself, I also got creative to save some money.
    What did I find out? The things I used to buy in expensive Trader/Fresh/Whole stores are RIDICULOUSLY easy to make!

    Invest in a bread maker. It takes less time to make bread than to drive to the store (and costs about 1/4 the price!)

    Breaded Eggplant cuttlets? Spaghetti sauce?
    I can’t believe how much I spent and how easy, better tasting, and cheap it is to make it yourself!!

    The biggest coup? Those chickpea, edemame, taboule salads I love (and paid a fortune for). I Googled them and found their recipes. They cost less than 1/10 to make at home.

    Grow or buy from local farmers’ markets. Put your money in your neighbors’ pockets instead of sending it halfway around the world!
    Don’t even get me started on the pesticides of the large-scale farms (and their strong correlation with children and ADHD).

    Get your kids involved with cooking. Show them where their food comes from.
    You will be healthier, richer, and smarter for it!

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