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“Real Food” costs money.

In a society that is so used to paying cheap prices on industrial food, it can be quite astounding to see the differences in pricing over organic produce and grassfed/pastured meats.

I’ve been taken aback a few times when I’ve seen some of the prices at “boutique” natural food stores.  One glance at the price tag has given me the understanding of who their target market is.

However, I know why these prices are higher.  After all, I’m an urban homesteader who organically grows my own vegetables and tends to backyard chickens for meat and eggs.

Simply put… it takes more work, more time, and more effort.

At the same time, I’m also a middle class American. We live simply and mostly on one salary.

What does this mean?  We don’t have tons of money to buy our hearts content of the best in nourishing and nutrient dense foods especially when it comes to retail prices.

So, what do I do to save money on real food? I buy in bulk, barter with local family farmers, work, and make local connections with real people.

One thing to note, the number one way on saving on saving your family money on real food is  getting out of your comfort zone and talking to people.  Reaching out to others and being part of a community in real food.

Buying in Bulk

Most people are quite aware that buying in bulk can save you money in the long run.  But to find out where to shop in bulk for real food can be more of a challenge.

Below is my list of top places to save money buy shopping in bulk on real food.

  1. Costco – Costco has great selections on natural and organic produce and meats.  Everything from tortilla chips, evaporated cane juice, spices, dried fruits, nuts, syrup, produce, seafood, meats, and cheese.  During the summer, they’ll often have great deals on 4lb containers of organic strawberries (I look for them every year).
  2. Azure Standard – If you’re lucky enough to have a drop point in your home state, you’ll LOVE Azure Standard.  Azure Standard has the best prices in bulk buys on organic everything.  Grains, beans, baking products, meats, cheese, frozen fruits, vegetables, etc…  In order to purchase through their internet store, you’ll need to first find out if they have a drop point near your city. You’ll need to join a group and make your online order once a month. Azure Standard delivers in their own truck at a designated drop point. You’ll have to drive to that drop point at the designated time. When we have extra Azure Standard money, I like to purchase produce through them.  In the summer, I especially look forward to their organic peaches in bulk to preserve.
  3. Amish Produce Auctions – If you live near rural areas, google produce auction and your city.  This is something I learned about last year and was quite pleased to score some big deals on bulk locally grown produce.  To get a better idea of what it is check out this youtube video.
  4. Bulk Group Produce Buys - I’ve only seen this done through Annette Cottrell of Sustainable Eats.  Her group buys are simply amazing.  She contacts local farmers directly.  She then gets a large group together to buy their organic produce in bulk which is delivered and picked up on one day.  There group then cans and preserves their bounty together.  How amazing is that!  A true community at heart.
  5. Buying Meat in Bulk Directly from your Family Farmer – If you’d like to get better deals on bulk meat buys, contact your local family farmer. It will save you so much money in the long run especially on those retail prices. To find a local farmer near you visit www.localharvest.org.

One thing I understand is that grassfed and pastured meats can be expensive in large urban areas.  One of the many blessings of living in the Midwest is that the pricing on bulk meat can be less costly.  A couple of family farmers I buy through in Iowa ship to anywhere in the United States.  Something you may be interested in and may save you money in the long run.

  • Stamps Family Farm- The Stamps put a lot of time into their pastured heritage breed Berkshire Hogs.  I’ve never had pork with so much flavor.
  • Ebersole Cattle Company- Shanon takes exquisite care of her grassfed cattle.  Again, some of the best beef I’ve ever had.

Give them a call, I’m sure they can work something out for you.

Bartering

In this day in age, bartering may sound odd and intimidating.

I’ve been captivated recently by the Little House On The Prairie series.  It’s been fun to see so many people back then bartering with one another.

Most of the town residents bartered chickens for medical services from Doctor Baker.

As funny as that sounds, bartering still happens every day.

It can save you money and is beneficial to both parties.

For myself, I’ve built relationships with local family farmers.  I’ve been able to barter my web design skills for meat.  It’s helped save my family the upfront costs of cold, hard cash.

However, the barter still required my knowledge and time. A good even trade.

What skill sets do you have?  What can you barter for in exchange for meat or produce from a local farmer?  Photography, design, crochet, knitting?  Who knows… your family farmer may have a niece that’s getting married and needs a wedding cake?  Think creatively.

Here are my tips to bartering.

  • Get to know your family farmer.  Talk to them, find out what they do, what their day to day is, and stay in contact.
  • Don’t be shy.  Now a days, you can email one another so there’s no need to be embarrassed.  Contact your local family farmer and let them know what your situation is and that you’re looking to barter.  Talking things out together you may find something that will be beneficial for both parties.

Working

Working on a local farm can get you FREE produce and meat.  Many farmers need the help and will pay you with real food they’re growing and raising.

I know many CSA’s will even offer you a full share for an entire season in exchange for a commitment of work.  It’s definitely worth it and a learning experience as well.

To find out more, call your local family farmer and ask them if they have “work days” or offer produce in exchange for labor.

Again… no need to be shy.  It’s a great deal for both parties involved.

Making the Right Connections

It comes down to making the right connections when you’re looking to meet the right farmers, find out about special events, and to purchase local deals.

One thing to remember, making the right connections should never be just about scoring the best deals.  It should be about being a part of a community.

Once you start to tap into different groups, you can start to develop new friendships.  You’ll start to learn about what it takes to grow and raise real food and where you can buy certain items grown and raised locally at great prices.

There are many homesteaders out there working out of pure enjoyment with excess food to sell.  It helps them in their hobby or part time farming job when they can sell their goods directly to you.  It’s a great deal all around as you’ll get the best quality of food at lower prices.

Below are some tips on how become more involved in your real food community.

  • Join your local Weston Price Foundation group.  This is my number one tip on seeking out real food in your community.  Many rural small farmers are a part of Weston Price. When you join you’ll not only gain a wealth of knowledge on real food but be tapped into the best sources for the best locally produced food.  You’ll find small homesteaders to large producers. Either way, you’ll find what you’re looking for at great prices.  Weston Pricers like to barter and help one another out.  If you live in a large city, I would suggest to join a group in a rural area of your state.  This will guide you to smaller farmers and homesteaders selling their products at lower prices than what you will find in the big city.
  • Visit your farmers market and talk to the farmer.  Ask them where they’re located, what they’re farming practices are, and if they take visitors.  Visit them and start to ask about other farmers in your community.  You’ll be pleased to find out that most farmers hold special events which will allow you to start meeting more and more people interested in real food with sources of their own.
  • Seek out real food groups on yahoo and google.  By joining you’ll be able to find out about local sources of food.

Be Active in Your Community

Through all of this information, my best tip to saving money on real food is to be a part of a thriving community that wants to better nourish our future generations.

Don’t be shy.  Talk to your farmer, join a group, be involved.

When you do, you’ll not only be excited to be getting the best food at best prices but overwhelmed at the friendships you make that will start to blossom.  That, my friends, is priceless.

Do you have any tips to share with us on saving real food?  Be a part of this community and share in the comments below.


12 Responses to Save Money on Real Food by Buying in Bulk, Bartering, Working, and Making the Right Connections

  1. I absolutely LOVE Azure Standard! We get a fair share of our monthly groceries from them every month. I’ve heard a lot about produce auctions, but I’ve never attended one. We live about 45 minutes from a large Amish community that does one frequently. You’ve inspired me to look into them further.
    Phoebe @ Getting Freedom recently posted..Laundry & Dish Detergent Coupon Deals {April 25th}

  2. Diana, what a great post. I knew some of it, but learned a lot! I’m taking your pointers and putting them to use, thanks so much.
    Ally’s Sweet&Savory Eats recently posted..Wednesday Wishes

  3. Christine says:

    What a great post! I’m bartering with some whole food suppliers (local farm, fish monger, beef producer), I have not had a lot of luck buying in bulk as we don’t have a lot of choices for bulk purchasing in our area – but I’m hopeful because everyone seems to be moving towards whole, organic when you can, local, fresh foods.
    Christine recently posted..Chilean Sea Bass with Lemon Butter, Capers and Parsley

  4. Steph says:

    Thanks for all of the tips! We also have “befriended” a family farmer-while I don’t know we get any price breaks, they are always so kind to our family & let us know when they have extra eggs etc. and give us beef bones for soups & stocks when they butcher cows. They have let us bring our small children to roam around & see the animals and what it is like on a farm which to me is invaluable as right now we live in town. I don’t think I have any talents to barter with but I know I am a hard worker-the tips on asking about “work shares” are awesome!! I guess I just need to know where to start & how to ask! Thanks for this series!! :)

  5. Deborah says:

    Hello,
    I am interested in the Amish Produce Auction in Ethridge Tenn. The comments are from 2011 and I need to make sure they are still doing this. I want to do a trip this summer with my granddaughters. Can you tell me if they are still doing this?
    Thanks
    deborah

  6. [...] Save Money on Real Food–Lots of great ideas on how to buy real foods on a middle class budget. [...]

  7. This post is one of the best representations of why I love your blog: 1) you think outside of the box, 2) add a lot of value to how we can live our lives and 3) you stay true to your mission of local, organic and sustainable. Great job Diana!
    Christine @ Fresh recently posted..Lentil Stew with Smoked Turkey and Sweet Potatoes

  8. what a great post. i absolutely love the idea of bartering. there’s something that just screams “community” when you can barter and trade. it really takes knowledge and trust to barter/trade well (i think) and it sounds like where you live allows you to do that easily and well. this is why we will hopefully be moving out of NYC soon. i’m ready for a bit of that community spirit that only comes in smaller towns. and people from brooklyn/nyc can talk all they want about how we are “tight knit” and all i’ll say is “it is NOT the same thing” as what happens in smaller areas. it’s just not! thanks for a great read.

  9. [...] $120 a week on groceries.  However, this does not include any of our meat since we invest in it, or barter, at the beginning of the year.  It frees up money throughout the entire year for the rest of our [...]

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