Welcome to our Live Sustainably series!
While grocery shortages are sweeping the country, we're surprised to find ourselves rather well equipped.
Why? Because we live in the country, 20 miles from the nearest grocery store. Learning to live sustainably was a lifestyle that was forced on us awhile ago. We’re used to freezing milk, making our own bread and planning a month’s worth of meals in one grocery store trip.
So, since we know this may be a new way of life for many people, we thought we’d share some tips in hopes that it will help others get through this time with as few grocery store outings as possible.
We’ll cover food, kitchenware, household items, toiletries, baby essentials, etc. in the next few weeks, so stay tuned. First up, the one that’s on everyone’s minds: food!
1. Start a Herb Garden. A great place to start in the kitchen is to grow your own culinary herbs in pots. Just clip what you need and you’ll aways have some in stock!
2. Freeze Your Extra Milk. We make it a habit of getting a month’s worth of milk and freezing what we won’t use in the next week. We drive 1.5 hours to a dairy to get raw milk, so we always buy in bulk. Freezing does allow you to preserve the milk’s nutrients. Just remove about a cup off the top so there’s room for expansion and put in the freezer. When thawing, shake frequently so the cream doesn’t separate.
3. Get Started on Sourdough. Getting a sourdough starter changed our lives forever for the best. We’d stopped buying bread from the store, but were delighted to reintroduce this easy-to-digest homemade sourdough loaf. Not to mention tortillas, pasta, pancakes, pizza dough, etc… all possible with just a bag of flour and some simple ingredients. We love making pasta and freezing a portion, then we can just throw it into a pot of water and it’s ready in minutes. We don’t have a fancy pasta maker either we just roll it out with a rolling pin and use a pizza cutter to cut into strips.
4. Make Your Own Yogurt. In an effort to cut some costs on our grocery list, we started making our own yogurt. All it takes is a couple tablespoons of cultured yogurt, milk (if you drink raw milk, you can even use milk that’s starting to sour) and sweetener if you prefer it. We make ours in our Instant Pot (there’s a yogurt button), but there are many other kitchen appliances that work for this as well.
5. Keep a Backup Veggie Stock. We always have frozen fruit and veggies on hand in case we run out of our fresh stock. We prefer this to canned (unless you canned them yourself) since then we don’t have to worry about chemicals in the can lining and generally we believe it preserves the nutrients better. We just steam them or add them to soups.
6. Freeze Your Proteins. We freeze pretty much all of our meat. You can just defrost overnight what you need the next day or add meat frozen to soup if you have a pressure cooker (I tend to forget to plan ahead so soups and stews are a go-to for me). We process our own cows and deer, so we have lots of pre-cut stew meat and ground beef ready to go in the freezer. We also opt to buy whole chickens from the store. It lasts for several meals and then we use the bones to make bone broth, which we freeze as well. Individual salmon fillets and packs of bacon are great freezer essentials too!
7. Try Homemade Ice Cream! Did you know that most every commercial ice cream brand contains antifreeze? Even if it’s not listed in the ingredients. Not only does a big bucket of ice cream take up precious freezer space, but they can be pricy and quite unhealthy too. We make our own using a little 2 quart ice cream maker, no hand cranking necessary. It takes as little as four ingredients. Here’s the recipe we use.
8. Get Chickens. Having unlimited fresh eggs will change your life forever too. Then that paleo pumpkin muffin recipe that calls for 5 eggs will be no big deal (and you can make lots of ice cream!). They’re super nutrient rich and have unlimited uses when you’re running low on other ingredients. Plus, chickens are a great disposal for kitchen scraps and grass clippings.
9. Make Your Own Ferments. Kombucha, pickles, sauerkraut— they’re things we should be eating with at least two meals a day and they’re really simple and cheap to make. Also, kombucha is a great substitute for whatever other drinks you’re used to picking up from the store and much healthier for you (I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen at the grocery store with 3 cases of soda in their carts). Flavoring options for this bubbly treat are unlimited! We’ve made pumpkin, lemon ginger, root beer, mint and even chocolate flavored kombucha.
10. Grow What You Can! If you have some yard space, porch space, a community garden or a spare corner of a sunny living room, you should definitely consider growing some food. Most basic vegetables grow fairly easily. You’ll have more kale than you know what to do with and one spaghetti squash plant will feed you for months solid. Tomatoes, onions, garlic, zucchini, jalapeños, squash, etc are all great starting points. Also worth considering if you have a yard: fruit trees. Once established, a good growing season will leave you with crates of fruit for you to get creative with (think: yogurt toppings, kombucha and ice cream flavoring, jams, pies, smoothies, applesauce, etc.)
11. DIY Your Canned Staples. Make your own salsa, pasta sauce, refried beans, etc. They’re simple to make yourself and you can knock out one huge batch in an afternoon. Just can what you don’t need in mason jars and stock your cupboards.
12. Craft Your Condiments. You can also make homemade sauces, like ranch, mayonnaise, etc. rather easily and freeze the excess in ice cube trays.
13. Buy Bulk Staple Items. I like to look for deals on bigger bags of flour, oats, coconut sugar etc. Keep smaller amounts in glass jars in your pantry and stow away the bigger bags somewhere less accessible to preserve space.
14. Eliminate the Vegetable Oils. Most Texans do this already, but save that bacon grease! We keep a jar in our fridge and use it as cooking oil. We also buy big tubs of coconut oil and keep a smaller jar by the stove, no more canola oil and Crisco!
15. Keep a Milk Backup. Keep raw almonds and coconut flakes on hand in case you run out of milk. You can make your own almond or coconut milk and then dry the leftover meal in the oven to use as flour.
What are your go-to tips during this time? Share them in the comments below!
Thank you so much for this! I make my own bread sometimes and have a grain mill to make my own flour from wheat berries, spelt, and einkorn—the nice part about that is that the berries keep for a much longer time than ground flour so you just grind up what you need—it tastes better and you don’t lose the nutrients. I also buy raw milk and freeze it—thank you for the tip on shaking it frequently as it thaws—I have noticed the fat seems to separate a bit. I think I will stop by my nursery today and pick up a few more herbs! Thank you again, these are great tips—I think the current events are a wake up call to how completely dependent on others we for all of our needs, and while we won’t eliminate this entirely, I think these suggestions can help. (I also recommend a good deep freezer!) I look forward to your other additions to your sustainability series!