Back in March, we stayed on a 100 acre farm up in the San Juans as a much needed getaway for our family. We spent three days exploring the farm, feeding the animals, watering the plants in the hoophouse, and exploring the rest of the island. The place was beautiful and peaceful and a restorative to our souls (it sounds dramatic, but it was). Heading back down to our crowded town was painful after the quiet stillness of the island.
While we were there, we focused on preparing meals using only local ingredients, which was quite easy, as the owners stocked the fridge with eggs and hoop house vegetables for us (in March!) and we purchased beef from the farm stand a few hundred feet from the cabin. A small artisan bakery leases space on the farm, and we picked up a loaf of their awesome bread that had been baked fresh that morning. The potatoes came from the local organic grocery in the village and the beer from the island’s one very small brewery. The butter was the biggest traveler, coming from a dairy co-op off island but not far past the ferry.
We do our best to buy local and sustainable ingredients at home, but it requires constant diligence. We have tons of great farmers markets during the summer months, and local, humanely raised meat is hard to come by at a decent price, which is always the struggle – our path to FI is filled with high cost grocery items. While I am well aware that eating a plant based diet is best for both our budget and the planet, my guys are both big meat eaters, and I quite enjoy it as well, so while I am working to reduce what meat we eat, my bigger focus is on humanely raised local meat and wild game. The big downside to local meat is the cost – it is so much cheaper to buy from Costco or grocery store sales, but there is a high environmental cost to that choice.
Enter in the option to buy a quarter of a cow from a farm we’ve stayed at and gotten to obvserve first hand how well they are loved and cared for. Bonus – the owners are very focused on sustainability in all aspects of their lives, and they are the island’s commercial composting facility.
Buying locally in bulk brings the price down considerably and we get much higher quality for it. Plus, when our freezer is stocked, we are less likely to head to the grocery store last minute and end up buying more than we need.
The cows were slaughtered a few weeks ago, and we picked up our four large boxes yesterday. The excitement felt like Christmas as we inspected our purchase. We had done a good job of emptying our chest freezer prior to pick up, which was a very good thing, because the beef filled it to the brim. We plan to buy a half pig from them come winter, but we now have our beef needs covered for a good long while. Having awesome quality ingredients at home should help us to continue our relearned habit of weekend breakfasts at home, which is supplemented this time of year by produce out of our garden. Any day we can prep meals from what we have at home is a great day.
The biggest learning experience thus far with purchasing locally in bulk is realizing how small our freezer is. My husband will hopefully hunt us an elk or mule deer (or both!) this year, along with smaller game, and if he’s successful, we won’t have enough space in our current freezer, so we will have to consider upgrading to a larger one. We’ve gotten parts of deer in the past from my brother, and that hasn’t been a problem, but an entire one definitely will not fit. Since that won’t be until this fall at earliest, we have some time to figure out how we will handle large quantities of game in the future and save up credit card rewards, just like we did when we bought our current one.
The quarter beef purchase came with a third night free at the farm, so we should be headed back up there this fall. Maybe one of these times we won’t come back and decide to live the island life – once we reach financial independence and can decide where we want to live independent from a job location.