My husband and I wanted to have more control over our food, so we took the leap and eliminated the “Big G” — the grocery store, the supermarket — from our lives. We’re urban farmers and grow and raise quite a bit of food, but you don’t have to even grow a houseplant to be able to eliminate the grocery store from your vocabulary.
We’re spending less and getting much better tasting, higher-quality food. Preparing food takes more time than throwing something in the microwave, but it’s a tradeoff we’re willing to make.
If you’re feeling adventurous, here are tips on how to give up the Big G…
Make a game plan
Now is the perfect time to start; farmers’ markets and CSAs are in full swing. Check out Local Harvest to find farmers’ markets, independent farmers, and CSAs near you. Once you’re started and in the groove of things it will give you time to find food sources and stock up for the winter.
Be ready to eat seasonally and locally
When we gave up the grocery store, it also meant giving up tomatoes in the winter, citrus in the summer, and pretty much all tropical fruits like bananas. In exchange for giving up out-of-season produce, you get fresher foods with more flavor.
Nothing says you have to eliminate everything all at once. Maybe focus on buying all of your produce at the farmers’ market right now. Or sign up for a CSA. Or eliminate processed food. Try finding something each month that you can eliminate buying from the grocery store and learn how to make it yourself or find it from an alternative source.
Don’t fear specialty shops
Real butchers are making a comeback. You don’t have to give up buying food from all retailers — the main point of giving up the Big G is to get closer to the source of your food. Fantastic cheesemongers who make their cheese, butchers who break down whole animals and are willing to talk to you about where they source from — there’s no reason you shouldn’t buy from them.
Learn how to can
Again, right now is the perfect time to stock up on produce at the farmers’ market and preserve it at home for the winter months. A pressure canner is a worthy investment if you don’t want to pickle everything.
You don’t have to be a chef
All you need are good cookbooks and willingness to experiment. You will fail sometimes, but don’t let it bother you. I was terrible at making bread at first — always ending up as a brick — but over time I’ve been able to perfect it.
Find a buying club or local cooperative — or start one
I found an organic local buying club that a woman runs out of her garage. We place a monthly order for bulk staples like flour, rice, and sugar, and pick it up from her house the following week. I found mine by Googling “food co-op in __________.”
Conscientious carnivores can now find meat, egg, and dairy CSAs
Eat Wild lists pasture-based foods near you. Consider buying a big chunk of animal — a whole, half, or quarter — and maybe go in with friends. The more of the animal you buy the cheaper it is. We got a whole organically raised hog for $2/lb.
It takes time, but not as much as you’d think
We no longer have to go to the grocery store. We go to the farmers’ market once a week and pick up our order once a month. Running an urban farm is a total time suck, but preparing our own food independently of that is a drop in the bucket. My husband and I work together which helps save a ton of time. He’ll make the spaghetti sauce while I make the pasta. Leftovers are eaten the following day for lunch.
Get the right tools
It can sometimes require an initial investment but in the long run it will save you time and money. I picked up a brand new bread machine for $5 at the flea market. When I don’t have time to make bread by hand, I can add ingredients to the machine before bed, set the timer and wake up to the smell of freshly baked bread for less than $0.50 a loaf. My stand mixer is indispensible. I don’t know what I ever did without a mandoline for slicing soon-to-be pickles or a food mill for removing tomato skins and seeds while making sauce.
Be prepared to fall in love with living supermarket-free
When we hit our six month mark we realized that we really enjoyed eating this way and decided to keep doing it when our year was up.