Tips to save money on groceries – Vegetables

How to eat well on a budgetWe eat a LOT of vegetables. Some we get from our farm share, some we get from local grocery stores, some I pull from the freezer that I have purchased in bulk in peak season and some are pickled or canned.

Where I get my vegetables

Buy Local
Did you know just how important it is for your food to be grown locally? I’m not just talking about the environmental impact of shipping truckloads of produce from far, far away. (I saw produce from Israel the other day?!?!)  I am talking about the actual nutritional value of your food.  In order to arrive at our markets without spoiling the fruit and vegetables had to be picked way before they were ready.   They didn’t get the full benefit of ripening on the vine, or tree or in the ground etc. So it is picked before it’s had the chance to get all the vitamins and minerals that nature intended for it from the soil.  The unripe produce is refrigerated and sits on a truck until it arrives at the store.  There the unripe fruit and veggies are then “gassed” with ethylene gas to kick start the ripening phase again so it looks ripe and pretty for you to purchase.  The ethylene gas is concentrated and is used on both regular and organic produce. 

I don’t know about you, but I want my produce to ripen in its own time, still attached to its food source until it has absorbed as much nutrition as it can.  That is how you get nutritionally dense food!

I won’t even get into the guidelines for farming in other countries, but know that there are a lot of blurred lines and a whole lot of spray!

Find a Farm Share
I LOVE my farm share! I am a “depot” for Plan B Organics. This means that once a week a truck comes to my house and drops baskets of produce (and eggs and other local goodies you can add on) on my porch.  I found several other families in my neighbourhood who were also interested so I was able to become a “depot” and the truck drops my basket and several other families’ baskets to my front porch.  The neighbours then pick their baskets from my porch.  Plan B gives you the option for “local” or “local and import” baskets in different sizes depending on your family’s needs.  I get the local bin (obviously) because I want the best nutrition for the price. Shortest distance travelled should mean longest time ripening and absorbing of nutrients.  I also support the hard working farmers in my Southern Ontario community.

There are other companies that do similar produce bins, but Plan B is an actual farm.  They grow a lot of their own stuff.  They have relationships with farmers in their immediate area (Flamborough, Ontario).   I have toured Plan B’s farm more than once. I have gone with my family on their family days and I can whole-heartedly say that when I grow up, I want to be a farmer just like Alvaro, Melanie and Rodrigo at Plan B.  Their passion is infectious and the absolutely love what they do, and I support that kind of farming with my grocery dollars. I also forgot to mention – every Wednesday when I get my bin, I mentally tally up what I would have paid in a grocery store for sometimes lesser quality organic produce.  And every week I have an Ikea “start the car” moment thinking I’ve just gotten such a steal!

Farmers Markets
Summer and Fall are ripe for glorious farmers’ markets!  Time to stock up on the freshest local produce and at the best prices.  In my community I have my favourites.  I love the Watertown Farmers Market, as well as the one in the town of Dundas.  I recommend these ones because they have a large selection of organic farmers.  Check out your local resources for organic and near-organic veggies and fruits.  This website shows all the Farmers Markets in Ontario.    I’m sure your area has on-line resources to this as well.

Farm to Market stores
I also have used “Farmer Jack” to be a liaison to the Mennonites who grow tomatoes and pickling cucumbers (non-organic- but Mennonites use very minimal sprays if any). Farmer Jack is a produce store here in South Burlington that is seriously passionate about local food, and again the prices are bang on.  Throughout the winter they have great prices on fresh herbs.  They also do juicing and make soups and smoothies.  Farmer Jack is a hidden Gem!

Grow your own
You can grow your own veggies! I have mastered herbs (literally you just have to water them).  My green thumb stops there, yet I have not given up. I have a very ambitious garden planned for this year.  Growing your own is so cost effective! Not to mention the freshest ever produce.  It just takes time and skill. Things that I hope to have this summer!

My garden will be I my yard – but in many areas the city has community garden plots available.  Contact your city hall to ask about them.


Sprouts ready to go in the garden

Wholesale Stores like Costco
There are things that we can’t get locally. I buy a few things at Costco like lemons and limes from the US. I juice and freeze the juice in cubes when they go on sale.  Costco also has bags of Canadian frozen fruit and some vegetables when your own frozen veggies are all used up. Just read the label and be sure there are no preservatives in there.  They also have great prices on organic pine nuts, organic olive oil, cold pressed avocado oil, organic coconut oil, organic chia seeds, organic dates, and organic salad mix or spinach.  That’s especially useful when you’re doing a juice cleanse and need lots. I also buy Canadian non organic shallots, and USA Brussels Sprouts.  (I buy Ecos laundry soap there too.)

How to store your veggies and fruit

vacum-pak-395Vacuum Pack and Freeze
Buying in bulk gets the best prices, but to quickly preserve that freshness through the winter I highly recommend buying a food saver, those machines that vacuum-pack and seal stuff.  I got mine at Costco.   It’s a good price and Costco is fantastic for warranty stuff.  I use this machine all the time to freeze my ripe, local produce for the winter. Bags of blueberries or asparagus will last months in your freezer when vacuum sealed this way.


Fresh Peas from the freezer, stored in vacuum packed bag.

Ziplock Bags and Freeze
Then there is the veggie scrap bags, so much talk of the veggie scrap bag.  When I talk about making soup stocks – I use all those veggie scraps that I keep in a ziplock bag in my freezer.  In it you will find all your clean green bin scraps. Peel a carrot – peels into the veggie bag. Core a pepper – core and seeds into the veggie bag.  Peel an onion – veggie bag. You get the picture. When the veggie bag is full, you take it from the freezer and make a stock.  You can add a bag of bones that you have been saving and call it delicious soup stock.  All things that would have gone into the garbage live on in your stock.   Using all these scraps adds wonderful fresh flavor and saves you money!

Canning is a whole other can of worms (Ha ha, see what I did there) and I will be running classes late summer on how to master this lost art.  But this is a very cost effective way to save produce. Making a dozen jars of pickles is much cheaper than buying chemical filled ones. Canning is also a great way to make people feel special around the holidays as I give these as presents.  I have dozens of jars of canned bone broth (or stock) in my basement, and this is super cost effective as they cost literally next to nothing to make.

I can bushels of tomatoes to make my own tomato sauce, ketchup, and tomato paste.  I use my pressure canner and giant cooking pots for this.

I’ll be sure to add my recipes for these in the fall!

Beets, green beans, turnips, pickles, and horse radish, jalapenos are just some of the jars that line my shelves in the basement.  Then there are just as many options for fruit.  One of our favourites are Cherries in Brandy.  A jar of that makes a great Christmas present!

I’ll be sure to add my recipes and directions for this as well in the Fall.

I love my dehydrator!  You can dry your herbs, garlic, onion, cayenne, paprika, chill flakes, turmeric, ginger and make your own organic spices without the crap they put in commercially produced spices. Did you know that lots of spices have silicon in them so they don’t clump? Silicon is not food! Not to mention the radiation used on some imported spices.  You can even make your own greens powders for power smoothies.  I’ll be adding “recipes” for this in the near future.

These are some of my favourite ways of ensuring my family has the best nutrition while staying within my food budget.  Do you have any other methods?  I’d love to hear about them!  I’ll be adding lots of recipes related to this in the near future.  Stay tuned.

Fermented Foods

Fermenting Blogs:

Fermenting Recipes:

Why eat Fermented foods?  Well for one they are delicious. For some they are an acquired taste.  If you have never eaten fermented foods before, they taste “different” then you are used to.  Of the five tastes of your pallet, fermented foods fall into the “sour” category usually. When I first started down the fermented path, I really didn’t care for them.  I knew how good they were for me, so I kept on.  Over time your tastes change, and now I can honestly say I love them.

In our modern day world we don’t eat a lot of fermented foods, mainly because we don’t have to.  We can go to the grocery store in January and get a cucumber, or we can make fresh coleslaw any time we want.   Back in the day, before bazillions of dollars were spent on chemical food preservation people had to preserve their fresh foods for the long harsh winter coming. The food industry has decided to pasteurize everything, which kills good and bad bacteria. People also like the predictable flavours of buying their second jar of something.  Fermenting can be different every time, causing variation from batch to batch, which can throw some people off.  For some like me it is exciting, you never know if it will be better than your last batch!

Some how over the years society as a whole has decided that bacteria is bad and fresh is best. Fresh foods are amazing and extremely important in a healthy diet, but I argue so are fermented foods. Fermented foods are loads with “healthy bacteria” promote healthy guts.  Research now is showing the the health of your gut or digestive system is crucial to your over all health.  Poor gut health can contribute to depression, weight gain, lack of energy, allergies, lowered immune system even learning disabilities.

There are so many things that negatively impact you good gut bacteria.  Pharmaceuticals including antibiotics completely upset the balance, food preservatives and additives, even tap water kills good bacteria. Oh, and stress… Stress messes with your digestion, therefore messes with your good bacteria. Luckily none of us have any stress, right? Incorporating fermented foods into your diet can repopulate your gut with healthy bacteria and starve off the bad bacteria.  Bad bacteria can take over when there are no good guys there to defend your gut.

Fermenting is a natural preservative. Meaning it preserves the foods nutrients naturally, keeping the goodness alive. The good bacteria break down the natural sugars of the food and create probiotics and vitamins and even some healthy fats – naturally!

If you are just starting out on your fermenting adventure, eating a plate full of Kimchi, or a gallon of Kombucha might cause you some tummy troubles.  These can be attributed to the bad guy bacteria dying off when the good guys show up. None the less, take it slow and avoid the cramping.

Some commercially produced fermented products are actually pasteurized after being fermented, which kills all the healthy bacteria making the product less beneficial to your gut health.  Some fermented products are packaged in BPA plastics and sealed with aluminum.  Some industrially produced fermented products have small allowances for non food contaminants.  It is always better to make your food yourself and know exactly what is in it.  And this way you can make things to your own tastes.  You can make Kimchi as spicy as you want, you can make Kombucha in a different flavour every time. You’re in charge here.

Tips to save money on groceries – Buying Meat

How to eat well on a budgetWe buy our meat in bulk.  It seems expensive to shell out hundreds of dollars all in one shot, but I assure you in the long run, it is cheaper.   And I’m happier because I know where the meat comes from, how it is raised, what it’s fed, and how it is prepared.  Here’s how I started my research for the best meat for my family.

We regularly have half a cow, and a dozen chickens, geese, and duck plus lamb in our freezer. We also have a few sides of wild caught salmon and our homemade bacon.

First, look local.  I’m fortunate that I live within a short drive to hundreds of local farms that produce a wonderful variety of products here in southern Ontario (Canada).  I love farmer’s markets and ask a lot of questions.

Secondly there are lots of terrific resources on the web that can help you find local suppliers of wholesome and nutritious foods, including meats.

cow-300I was thrilled to find the Eat Wild website, that lists farms in Canada and the US that believe cows and lambs should be grass-fed.  Why?  Because feedlot cattle are fed grains to fatten them up for market. And since grains are not in their natural diet they don’t digest them well.  Feedlot animals live a very stressful life and are often sick because of it. Many animals are given antibiotics all the time to prevent sickness, others are dosed with high “kill all” doses. Either way I don’t need their antibiotics in my dinner!  Fatter cows are not happier or healthier.  They provide more profit to the farm.  Pasture raised animals are less stressed and don’t usually need antibiotics.  And because they are not stressed their meat has less of the chemicals caused by stress passed on to my family.  Everyone has heard that stress raises Cortisol in your body, same goes for the animals we eat. You are what you eat after all. Don’t be eating additional stress (and more Cortisol)!

Chickens, ducks and geese should be “pastured”. The term “free range” needs to be clarified.  It can mean that there are a million birds climbing on each other in a suffocated barn. Free range just means they are not caged all day. Pastured or pasture-raised are words you want.

The EatWell website has lots more excellent information on the benefits of animals that are grassfed and pasture-raised.  Check this page for tons info on why this meat is so much more nutritious for you and your family.

Once I found this website I started researching the farms.  I would email back and forth with questions.  I personally don’t care if they farm is “certified organic” because those certifications take lots of time and money to achieve.  In my opinion, as long as the cows are grass fed AND grass finished and local and antibiotic free – I’m happy. (We don’t add hormones to cows in Ontario. Thank Goodness!)

My daughter and I visited several farms listed on the Eat Wild website to see how the animals were raised and to speak to the farmers.

That’s all good – but how does it save money you ask?

Buying directly from the farmer I eliminate the markup added by the grocery store.

Plus buying on bulk the price averages out less per pound.  Yes I do get some cuts I usually wouldn’t buy in the store – but that just adds some adventure to our dinners! I love that I have to Google what the heck certain cuts are, but it’s exciting to try new things and find new recipes.

Meat is expensive.  There is no denying that.  But at our house we use every bit, I don’t waste a penny. 

Bones included for nutritionally rich bone broths


Starting a lamb broth with the bones and veggie scraps.

Some farms throw in the bones for free! Some farms will even give you everyone else’s bones because bones have little value to mainstream people.  To me bones are the ticket to flavour town! Amazing bone broths for all your soups all year long, added to sautés, or gravy full of healing collagen goodness.  You can pressure can or freeze these bone broths until you need them. When you cook a whole bird you get more than one meal out of it, because you can always make a soup from the bones.

I save all the bones from cooked meats in zip-locked bags in my freezer.  Bag for chicken bones, another for beef, and so on.  I also save my veggie scraps to add to the soup broths for extra flavour.

Leftovers is not a dirty word in our house.
I use leftovers to make new exciting meals.   Again I love to Google new recipes

Save the animal fats
I save all the animal fats that come off things like goose or duck or bacon and use to roast veggies for added flavour.

Organ meats


Organ meat into the Dehydrator to make best ever dog treats!

No I haven’t explored too many recipes to use these for my dinner – but my dog Earl sure enjoys them!  Buying from the farm, you often get an assortment of organs, to which most people turn their nose.  We dehydrate them to make jerky for treats to last Earl for a full year.
I do admit I save some of the liver and “hide” it in meatballs just for the nutritional value.   (Don’t tell my husband!)

Visiting the farms we also have a greater variety of meats to choose from.  We rarely see goose or duck in our local grocery store.  Unless it’s an expensive treat for certain holidays.  Touring the farms we have bought these as well as lamb at reasonable prices.

Here’s some of the wonderful farms that supply our household with healthy top quality meats:

To name names, I used Grass Roots Beef from Durham Ontario.  I toured the farm.  My daughter and I got to pet the animals. We will be buying from them from now on.

Visit their website to learn the many benefits of grass-fed beef.

I’ve also purchased lamb, beef and chicken from Dreamach Acres (It’s a haul to get there, but they said they can deliver for large orders so team up with a friend)   My farm sidekick and I toured that farm as well and spent hours playing with the animals.  (No website)

We cure and smoke our own bacon.  I have yet to find a farmer that will sell just one or two bellies. I purchase those from The Healthy Butcher shop in Kitchener, and they also have a Toronto Location.


Fenwood Farms specializes in chickens, I have also used Morden’s Farm store in Dundas for odds and ends.  I also love Harrington Lane Farms.  I discovered them at the Waterdown Farmers Market.  They will also deliver in Burlington.  In farmers’ market season, I go to Waterdown Farmers Market every chance I get – it’s one of the best!


In a pinch, our local grocery store Fortino’s sells organic chicken, and they sometimes have “Manager’s Specials” where the meats are close to their “best before” dates and are half price (but check dates).  As long as you prepare it quickly or freeze it there’s no problem.

When Nutrafarm came to my door one night – I will admit, I was excited.  They sell bulk orders of frozen food, delivered to your home.  Reading the brochure and the info on their website, people were saying that their meat was organic.  But nowhere on Nutrafarms website do they claim to be organic.  They throw the word natural around – but that word is meaningless in my opinion.

I asked a lot of questions and no one could tell me where the farms were actually located, so I couldn’t visit and see how the animals were raised. I asked if I could talk to the farmers and they said that wasn’t possible. They could not tell me if all my beef in an order came from the same cow. They say cows don’t have “sub therapeutic antibiotics”, but no one could tell me if they were ever given antibiotics therapeutically (meaning if they were sick).  They couldn’t tell me how long the meat I would purchase had been frozen. They also didn’t answer my question when I asked if they used water to plump their meat. (The meat industry does this to make a higher weight for their product, because meat sells by the pound).  I could go on!  But it felt like a whole lot of smoke and mirrors to me.  They did tell me they feed cows grains.

Oh, and wait – if you order you get a freezer! Nothing in life is free my friend. You are paying for that freezer one way or another. I would suggest you’re paying for that freezer with a lesser quality meat.

Could you buy lesser quality meats for less money? Yes.  But if I don’t agree with how the animals are treated, I don’t buy it.  I don’t support industrial farming which sells meat cheaper at the expense of the animals’ health and nutritional value of meats.  And I silently protest with my grocery dollars.  Let’s support our local farmers!

I love the bulk orders because I get different cuts, cuts that make me Google and experiment.  We eat meat every day.  But not every meal, and we value it.  Meat is not the primary food on our plates, because we eat a truck load of veggies.  The next blog post will talk about where to get all the best vegetables!