Shopping is 60 miles away. I have a large family. When we go shopping, it takes all day—sun up to sun down. Oh, and one more thing—neither the Farmer nor I has ever particularly liked shopping.
So what’s a family to do when town is so far away?
As my regular readers know, we live in a homesteaded community. Most of the families who live here are the original families who homesteaded this land over 150 years ago. Most of them are in the same situation as we are.
I’ll tell you what we don’t do: we don’t shop that often.
Some families make a monthly shopping trip.
Younger couples, and those who drive to town for work, shop weekly or twice a month.
And then there are the rest of us. When I was making the 120 mile round trip drive to work three times a week, I would shop when I wasn’t too tired after work. But I’ve been out of the corporate world for two years now.
My first year without a corporate job, I shopped four times. This year, we only went shopping for food twice.
Those who are unfamiliar with our lifestyle will comment, “Wow, you must be super organized and have a large vehicle to do all your shopping only a couple times a year.” What they don’t realize is we have other ways of meeting our needs.
How And What We Don’t Buy…
We grow most of our produce. It takes a lot of hard work and determination, but we do it. We have a 70 day growing period. That means for two months we are working intensely in our large garden.
We have a large garden, an orchard, a rotating pumpkin patch, and berry patches. There are also a few things we grow inside in containers during the winter.
We grow most of our own herbs. What we don’t grow, a friend brings us each fall when she comes to stay with us.
This wonderful widowed friend of mine leaves her homestead in the hands of her son in the fall, and travels here to visit and help me with my children as we make massive foraging trips. She is a zone 7, and we do a great deal of trading during this visit.
We forage for what we can. When foraging, we only get “hot ticket” items. I know families that spend all day foraging for things like huckleberries, but honestly, if I’m not getting a gallon of berries an hour, it just isn’t worth my time. I can’t spend five hours finding a cup of huckleberries.
We preserve like crazy. We prioritize preserving in this order: cold cellar, canning, dehydrating, freezing.
We raise and process our own animals. Some years, if time permits, we hunt. If we hunt, then we process less of our own animals. This year we got enough elk that we did not process a cow.
We also have dual purpose chickens. They provide meat and eggs. We let them multiply naturally. Some years we have more chickens (and thus eggs) than others.
We barter for pork and turkey right now. I don’t like the thought of purchasing it at the stores now that the country of origin no longer has to be on the label. If we don’t barter from a neighbor, we do without. When we don’t hunt a particular year, we will also barter for bear, moose, deer, quail, etc.
We are gifted a lot of salmon and halibut. We don’t have time to fish, but another family in the community that does not have farm animals does. They gift us incredible fish (and we gift things back too, don’t worry).
We barter our honey and Havarti cheese. There are sheep herders that come through here every year. They ask to pass through our land (the parts we don’t farm), and in exchange they give us raw honey and Havarti. I’m talking gallons of honey and the biggest brick of Havarti you’ve ever seen.
We are a small family farm. After the harvest and before we sell, we take all that we need for our animals first. I take our barley portion from this.
We don’t grow potatoes, but we help our farmer neighbors who grow potatoes commercially. The Farmer helps them drive their windrower, and with mechanical difficulties. Every year when they harvest, they let us glean in their fields for the tiny potatoes, and then they give us a year’s worth of potatoes. We can also forage for purple potatoes around here too.
Things we don’t grow, barter for, or receive as gifts, that we don’t shop for come from our Amazon Prime account. For those of you who don’t know, you can shop for many different groceries on Amazon, and with a prime account it doesn’t matter what you buy, it will ship to you free of charge within two days.
When I’m out of creamer, I can get online and order a bottle for $2 and it will be at my home in two days. It’s $99 for membership each year, but I figure that’s just 4 shopping trips for me. Four trips is 10 hours of driving and 4 entire days lost. To me it’s worth the fee.
A few times a year I order coffee, coffee filters, creamer, and occasionally diapers (for Sundays.) If I went shopping for these things each month, it would be 10 more trips to town each year—10 days, 30 hours in a car, plus the cost of 10 days of meals. Totally worth it. (Right now, they are having a free 30 day trial if you want to try this technique out. Affiliate link.)
This is also how I get any essential oils, toilet paper, and many other products I can’t (or don’t) provide for myself (but this article is only focusing on food).
What We Do Buy At The Stores
The groceries we get from town fit into four main categories.
First, we buy typical bulk products. These include salts, sugar, flour, oats, peanut butter, vegetable oil, lemon juice (for canning), cream-of-soups, rice, some pastas, coconut oil, grape seed oil, and vinegar.
Second, we peruse for items that are on sale and in season during our trip and a few treats. This is how we mix it up, and make sure we have different “treats.”
For example, it is always worth it to stock up on the cheapest chocolate you can find. We love cooking with coconut and it is nearly always on sale during the pre-holiday season.
On my last trip, rye flour was on clearance for $0.59 for a bag, so I got one. A few sale items keeps the pantry interesting.
Third, there are items we could never get in our area. These include citrus, pineapple, grapes and special items that result from a flopped garden for use. On the year we lost all our tomato crop, we got a couple cases of canned tomatoes. And occasionally when our cucumbers don’t do well, we buy pickles.
Fourth, we do some special orders. For instance, we order 200 or more pounds of oranges each December.
If you were paying attention to what we actually do buy, you may have been surprised by a few items:
- I don’t have the means to roll my own oats—so I buy them.
- I don’t mill my own flour—even though we are wheat farmers. I hate cleaning the wheat. If anyone knows a super way to clean it, let me know. I have a mill, and don’t mind milling it myself—I just hate cleaning it.
- I don’t make my own vinegar.
- I don’t have the time to make all the pasta our family consumes.
- Gallons of vegetable oil are for the cast iron, not our recipes.
- I never bought sugar until I started canning everything. I have found it impossible to avoid if I choose to preserve as much of my own food as possible.
- Yes, chocolate. Always buy chocolate.
You Can Do This Too
Want to try implementing less shopping trips in your home? Write this down.
- Grow a garden this year. (Read how here if you’ve never done this.)
- Learn how and where to forage for edibles.
- Preserve what you grow (or what you are able to buy on sale in bulk in season).
- Barter away things you have an abundance of in exchange for things you would like.
- Get produce from local farmers.
- Go to Amazon and check out their free 30 day Prime membership for any groceries you need that would save you a trip to the store. If it doesn’t work for you, cancel within your 30 days, and owe nothing.
- When you do shop, shop in bulk as much as your home storage will allow.
- Don’t forget a few treats that will keep your family satisfied, and thus away from the store.
Are you already doing things on this list? What can you focus on this year to spend less time at the stores?