real food on a costco budget.

A few years ago a friend asked me how to feed a family real food on a Costco budget.

My reply was, I have no idea and if you figure it out let me know. I’ve written before how we are from the States and how the food prices in Canada were a shock to us. For the most part I’m over it but still smart when buying junk food. A girl needs a treat now and then. I consider it more of a real cost of food rather than the hidden built in to the system cost in the States.

This past weekend we were busy gleaning from the garden. The twisted dried vines gone to seed, greens and herbs have nearly given us our last. The batch of layers was dispatched to do duty in the freezer for a winter of soups and we picked the nearby hedgerows pretty clean.

I hate canning with babies on me. And since I have a baby on me now I didn’t do it this season. Maybe next fall I will be ready. Frankly I would love an outdoor set up. It’s so hot, the kitchen is so small and the people are so curious. I have a whole year to sort that out.

I made salsas and chutney, cakes and crisps. After learning my lesson the past five years we are juicing the apples and freezing in bags to make mulled cider in the crockpot all winter. My children loathe applesauce. They wax poetic on how terrible it tastes. They love apples and other kinds of fruit sauce. It’s a mystery I don’t care to figure out.

Now that most farms charge a fee per head for picking and only build a few fees in to the cost at the end of the pick, we don’t pay to pick fruits and veggies anymore. The one exception being a chemical free Mennonite strawberry farm far up the road. We don’t have a patch large enough for our needs and our strawberry needs are copious and reach far in to the winter. Strawberries are dreamy. We pick apples from hedgerows, take extra bags to the park and if we know someone with a tree, we can bring ladders. I have not had success with storing the apples we have picked so we work with them asap.

I buy from whatever farm stand is open being unable to be picky about organic or non organic right now. I’m happiest purchasing from fields I can see. Another friend said to me, All we can do is say a prayer and take a bite. Indeed.

We look to having the stand alone and top of the fridge freezer fit to burst by the end of October. Purchasing 1/2 cow from a farmer we know and the chickens see to most of that and I squish in what I can on the sides. Beginning at Christmas we start using what produce is in the freezer. Our local farmer’s markets have closed and the produce at the other markets are almost entirely shipped in. We will revel in bananas and citrus come January and February but till then, it’s what we have on hand we will eat.

By late winter, the pickings from our own larder are sparse. That is when visiting all the different types of markets we live around are a special treat. The Toronto area is an exciting place to be for food shopping. We go to the Southeast Asian markets and stop on the way home at the Russian smoked fish counter that stretches on and on. We spend a month ‘eating Swedish’ and make elaborate menus from places we are studying, treating ourselves to a days in the kitchen. The winter here is long. The cold, frosty spring is even longer. Eating from the freezer or jars would be too much for me right now.

I want our garden to be bigger, have more animals to raise for meat and pick more hedgerow apples but right now, I’m maxed out. I make compromises. Spend an inordinate amount of time parking in big box parking lots or feel so tired and uninspired that I call for a pizza. It’s not a terrible reality.

It’s a thing to apologize for bringing something not organic or local or homemade. It’s a thing I have had to get over because I am doing what I can, how I can.

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