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Last year I wanted to try to switch to primarily eating local, in-season, meals. Unfortunately, I was just so busy splitting my time between my "day" job and our business, that it felt too overwhelming to try and start something new. But, with May's change your life challenge of getting out of your comfort zone, it's time.

Some of you may be asking why and I wanted to give a bit of background on this.

I don't see myself as frugal, although I would like to be and strive to be, in many aspects of my life. One of those areas is groceries.  I previously shared with you that years ago, when I discovered the concept of meal planning, I also discovered it was a great way to help reduce grocery cost.

And it is!

Then, we went to a one-income household and I decided to challenge myself in reducing our food costs to $60.00 a week (dividing the annual cost by 52 weeks so that $60.00 is the average) as a means of ensuring financial success. Because that was a bit tighter than we liked, we then moved the bar to keeping our food costs under $100.00/week.

And now I've set a new goal.

Eating primarily locally grown and raised ingredients.


First was the book by Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which I read a few years ago. Then were the videos such as Food, Inc. I just finished the book Blessing The Hands That Feed Us, by Vicki Robin. In that book she referred to an article written by Rebecca Thistlewaite titled: Do You Have The Balls To Really Change The Food System?

All of this has made me think.

For so many reasons it just makes sense to try and buy as much from local farmers as possible. Some of them include:
  • To help maintain farmland (and green/open space) in your own community. If farms can't survive, the land may become strip malls, apartment buildings or developments. Purchasing directly from a farmer, rather than a faceless mega store, makes you think about and appreciate farmland. It's no longer invisible and someone else's responsibility. 
  • To eat fresher food. Local food spends less time in transit (it's usually picked the day of distribution and transported to a local farmers market or CSA drop-off) AND you're eating what's in season for your area.
  • To reduce oil consumption. According to Dawn Gifford of Small Footprint Family, if every U.S. Citizen ate just one meal a week composed entirely of locally and organically raised produce and grass-fed meats, eggs or dairy, we could reduce our country's oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week.
  • To strengthen your community by supporting your local farmers.
  • To eat food that is likely safer. It's provided by farmers you can meet, in conditions you can see for yourself. The safety of food continues to be a concern and I believe will only get worse. There's the worry of what is being put on/in the food itself to help it last in transit and look good, as well as the worry about salmonella or other dangerous bacteria coming into contact with your food and making you and your family sick.

  • To vote with your dollars and support humanely raised animals. If you're not vegetarian, taking a stance against the industrial production of meat.

There's also the concern about our current food system eventually collapsing. Vicki Robin says this about relational eating (eating locally and, therefore, forming a relationship with those who you purchase food from rather than it being a faceless producer):

Relational eating, being an "eater-in-community," can settle our fears about being fed on every level. When you have no relationship with food other than the megamart, you seem well supplied but are helpless without that store. When you stand in the middle of a living food system, growing some, trading some, buying some local and some from afar, you have more power to assure that you are fed - and fed well. Relational eating doesn't necessarily mean local food, it means that you, the eater, understand your place in the world.

Yes, I currently shop at the farmer's market, seek out local meats when I can and choose meals made with local ingredients, if offered, from the restaurants menus. But it's not enough. I'm not making it a point to buy as much as I can locally and then the remainder from other sources.

So that, my friends, is what I'm going to challenge myself to do.

I have no idea what this will cost us. Yes, food produced by local farmers certainly costs more than buying that which is industrialized. Once we raised chickens for meat for the first time ourselves, we certainly had a very good understanding of the costs. For those of you who grow a garden and deal with the planting, weeding, watering and lost crops, you understand the expense of fruit and veggies. The fees associated with certification and licensing can be enormous for small farms. All of this goes into what it costs to produce the food they bring to market.

But I also believe that if food is cheap, it makes it much easier to justify waste. According to Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland: "we don't eat 25% of the food we buy. We throw away $2,200 each year in uneaten food, from spoilage and plate waste". I can see how this is true - I have certainly noticed this with our own food patterns.

Eating locally, to me, is as much about supporting our local farmers which is investing more dollars in our local food system as it is about lessening the amount we spend to fund the industrial systems we don't agree with. It's voting with our dollars and every single person can make a small difference. By not purchasing ground burger, for instance, from the grocery store, and instead from a local farmer, you are choosing not to fund inhumane treatment of farm animals and the practice of adding pink slime (a slaughter byproduct added to some ground beef) to your meat.

Does that mean we will eat 100% locally? Nope.

There's too much that we choose to consume that is just not available and/or can't be grown or produced here. I like rolled oats for breakfast, rice with my meals, citrus fruit, bananas in my smoothies, coffee every single day, coconut milk as a non-dairy creamer, etc.

My goal is this: To continue raising and growing what we can. What we can't grow or raise, to purchase all of our food items locally, regardless of cost, first and then look to the rest with an eye out for regional items and fair trade, where applicable. This will absolutely change the way I plan menus as we still have a budget that I would like to stay in. It will likely include cutting down on meat and/or reducing the amount in a meal which will not go over well with my meat-and-potatoes-loving husband.....


Some of the items I know we can find locally year-round include:
- Fruits & Veggies
- Meat
- Seafood (it's regional not local as it's from the southern part of the state)
- Honey
- Maple Syrup
- Milk and milk products
- Cheese (cow, sheep and goat)
- Dried Beans
- Mushrooms
- Jams/Jellies and other preserved foods

I'll share with you what we purchase locally, the costs, and our meal plans.

Eating locally goes hand-in-hand with eating real foods. Thankfully, we do this, for the most part, on a daily basis. As you know, I make most things from scratch so this is one transition that won't need to happen.

How about you? Have you ever tried to purchase the majority of your food locally? Have you ever challenged yourself to eat, even for a week, what you can get at your local farmers markets?

I certainly anticipate some challenges in trying to eat primarily local grown/raised. One is trying to create recipes that don't use exotic or out of season ingredients. Another is trying to find many ways to use the little variety available in winter and spring. And lastly, thinking ahead to buy extra fruit and veggies that can be preserved to eat later on in the year when we need options. I also have no idea if it will be more expensive compared to what we've been typically spending.  I will share it all here.


How about you - have you tried eating locally?  If so, what were some of your challenges?



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If you’re just tuning in, this is an ongoing series in which I share our weekly meal plan as I (attempt) to convert us to a Whole/Real Food lifestyle.  Our grocery budget is $100.00/week for 2 adults.  Often I make 2 different meals because I am primarily plant-based and my husband is not.  Most of what we eat is made from scratch and any boxed, canned and/or frozen products follow the Real Food guidelines.  Meal planning is my way of controlling the grocery budget (read as a LOT of dollars saved), ensuring there is no food waste for the week, as well as saving time.  You can read more about meal planning here.

Spring can be difficult for meal planning. I typically try to plan a month in advance and it's impossible to predict when it may rain which means the grill is not an option. I try to keep things somewhat flexible so we can move meals around as needed.  It's also a difficult time for trying to purchase veggies & fruit locally.  We are fortunate to have veg available that we enjoy, I guess it's more of a mind shift that I need to do and try to work with what is available.

Our spending this week was low because all of the meat on the menu was purchased previous weeks.

Weekly Meal Plan:
Sunday
Lunch - me- Salad, J - Ham Sandwich
Dinner - Homemade Pizza (me - Veg, J - Pepperoni)

Monday
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Apples & Raw Walnuts
Lunch - me - Salad, J - Ham Sandwich
Dinner - Veggie Stir Fry, Rice, J- Grilled Beef Teriyaki

Tuesday
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Apples & Raw Walnuts
Lunch - Leftover Pizza
Dinner - Pasta with Pesto, Peppers, Spinach & Artichokes, J- Grilled Chicken Breast

Wednesday
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Apples & Raw Walnuts
Lunch - me - Salad, J - Ham Sandwich
Dinner - Tacos (me - Bean & Veg, J - Beef) with Homemade Salsa, Tator Tots

Thursday
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Apples & Raw Walnuts
Lunch - leftover Pizza
Dinner - me - Roasted Sweet Potato, Broccoli & Asparagus; J - Grilled Pork Tenderloin, Mac & Cheese, Roasted Asparagus

Friday
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Apples & Raw Walnuts
Lunch - me - Salad, J - Ham Sandwich
Dinner - Grilled Shrimp Tempura, Broccoli Rice, Grilled Asparagus

Saturday
Breakfast - French Toast 
Lunch - Leftovers
Dinner - Gnocchi with Sage Butter, Roasted Cauliflower, J - Grilled Chicken Breast

Weekly Food Cost:

Commissary - $14.83
*I am not allowed to share individual costs from the commissary so I've listed what we purchased and the total price*
  • Flour, Mayonnaise, Corn Tortillas, Mozzarella, Sweet Potatoes, Cauliflower

Hannaford - $23.36
  • Whole Grain Bread - $4.99
  • Cashew Milk - $3.39
  • Canned Artichokes - $2.79
  • Broccoli - $2.57
  • Avocados - $.88
  • Red Peppers - $1.67
  • Cilantro - $1.29
  • Parsley - $1.29
  • Grape Tomatoes - $1.49
  • Blackberries - $3.00

Farmer's Market - $26.00
  • Apples - $5.00
  • Mesclun Mix - $5.00
  • Spinach - $5.00
  • Radish - $3.00
  • Asparagus - $8.00

Grand Total - $64.19

Weekly Food Notes:

  • You should never (ever) see eggs on our shopping list since we raise chickens for eggs.
  • I had on hand: Green Pepper, Brown Rice, Refried Beans, Roasted Red Peppers, Pesto, Tomato Sauce, Pasta, Cheddar Cheese, Milk, Gnocchi, Burger, Pepperoni, Beef Teriyaki, Chicken Breast, Pork Tenderloin, Shrimp, Non-Dairy Creamer, Coffee, Ginger, Garlic, Sage & Tator Tots
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If you’re just joining in, the “Change Your Life In 2018” series is my quest to make some small changes this year.  Rather than setting easily forgotten resolutions I wanted to focus on 12 changes that would help me learn and grow as a person.  I’ve chosen to focus on one change per month so that it could not only become a more manageable goal, but I have a better chance at making these new habits as well.  I hope you’ll join me in the challenge!

“If it’s still in your mind, it is worth taking the risk.” ~ Paulo Coelho

This month's challenge is somewhat similar to last months in that it's time to shake things up.  As we discussed last month, if you want things to change in your life then you need to change.

They say that everything you're after is at the end of your comfort zone.  It seems this is true!  If you've ever really stuck your neck out on the line only to have things suddenly work in your favor, then you know that this is where the magic happens.  Pushing yourself to do what may seem uncomfortable or unnatural can be incredibly beneficial.



We are creatures of comfort.  We find joy in being able to anticipate what happens next.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing, however, if you are able to break through that sense of comfort from time-to-time you can push yourself to do even better or to find something you've been searching for.  It can also make you more creative, help you use your time more efficiently, as well as provide more mental stimulation which is beneficial as we age.

Fear of failure is probably the largest obstacle we have in venturing out of our comfort zone.  What if it doesn't work out? we ask when contemplating taking a scary step.

Instead, ask yourself, what would happen if it did work out?

Our journey through life is full of obstacles and lessons.  Sometimes we'll trip, and other times we'll easily adjust, but we've got to learn to, at times, ignore our first response and push ourselves out of our comfort zones.  We've got to believe that we can succeed at whatever we are working toward.


“Those who believe they can move mountains, do. Those who believe they can’t, cannot. Belief triggers the power to do.” - David J Schwartz

Here are some steps you can take to break out of your comfort zone:

1. Question your first response.
     If your first response to something appears to be "what you would always do", this is the time to determine if there's growth in responding differently.  Be honest with yourself and keep an open mind.  Sometimes we mistake our gut reaction with a reaction that makes us more comfortable - start to try determining which you are actually feeling.

2. Identify how, if you responded differently, this could be beneficial.
     Again, take an honest look at responding differently and the potential benefits.

3.  See fear and failure as a lesson, not a result.
     If you are contemplating stepping out of your comfort zone but fear of failure is holding you back, why not risk succeeding or, if that doesn't happen, growth (rather than "failure")?

4.  Believe in yourself.
     If you believe you cannot do it, then you cannot do it.  If you truly believe that you can do it, then guess what?  You can do it!  That being said, make sure you are TRULY believing you can do it and make the commitment.  If you only tell yourself you believe but don't actually believe, your chance of success is minimal.  Be honest with yourself.


Have you pushed out of your comfort zone recently? 
Or, conversely, have you consciously not taken the opportunity to do so and, looking back, wish you had?



Next month’s topic is: Simplify Your Life


Find the introduction to the series here: 12 Things You Can Do To Change Your Life In 2018

Find January's challenge here:  Letting Go Of Regrets
Find February's challenge here: Figure Out What To Do With Your Life
Find March's challenge here: Setting Goals & Chunking Them Down
Find April's challenge here: Change Your Routine


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If you’re just tuning in, this is a brand new ongoing series in which I document each month of our lives in our transition to a simple, homemade life on a modern homestead. We ditched town and moved to the country in 2008 and we blog about both our successful and not-so-successful ventures in homesteading, switching to natural products, and embracing a whole foods lifestyle.  Check out the entire series here.

We got so incredibly lucky in April - we had very little mud!!  We were so relieved as it's usually so darned messy and disgusting.  Although it was a cooler than average month, the end of the month temp's were 70's and sunny for the most part.  Do you notice how much happier everyone is when it's 70's and sunny?


The countertops are in and the tile was started!

New counters, sink and faucets

The kitchen is coming along.  The window is in (trim still needs to be completed), countertops are in, and sink and faucets are in.  I love them all. 

Flooring is in progress as I type and cabinets are scheduled for next week.  After that all that will be left is finishing the trim.  The goal, of course, is to have everything done by the second week in June because we will have absolutely no time to devote to it again until fall. 

I think we'll hit our mark......












One of our many jumbo eggs on the left (those are Large eggs on the right)

Coop Girl Bethany

Chickens
Well you've seen photos of the (adorable) chicks so you know they are here and doing well.  We did have one pass away the first night they were with us.  She was struggling to breathe when we received her so we're pretty sure she had some internal issues.  We kept her comfortable and continued trying to get water and a touch of food down her in hopes it was something she could overcome.  Unfortunately, it was not. 

The others are doing very well and are entertaining us daily.  I love when they realize they have wings.  They run and launch themselves off of one another - it's really adorable.

We will be prepping the coop for their move this weekend.  We have a section of the coop that we can install a temporary "wall" (it's wood and wire) in allowing the newbies to remain separated from the others until they are big enough to defend themselves.  They have their own outdoor access, as well as living and sleeping quarters.

The bigger girls are doing well.  They are generous enough to offer us 14-20 eggs per day.  Which is helpful because we sell those at the market to pay for their feed and "goodies".  They are enjoying more free ranging time now that the weather is so nice.  Of course, with the garden starting to get planted, they are kicked out of that space temporarily and that does not sit well with them.  They harass me when I'm in the garden because they believe they should be able to go wherever they would like.  We have pretty interesting conversations with a couple of them regularly giving me a piece of their mind.

Oliver

Emerson
The Dogs
Oliver and Emerson LOVE spending time on the deck.  Let me correct that - Oliver LOVES spending time on the deck.  Emerson tolerates it.  Emerson is obsessed with being with us (it's his obsession of food, not necessarily a fondness of our company) because he is convinced we eat whenever he's not around.  I have no idea why he cares about being around us when we have food - he doesn't get table scraps.  I think he believes there will be a day when we'll just throw a plate of food on the ground and let him at it, and if he's not there, how can that dream ever come to realization?

I'm back to walking them in the park a few days a week.  We are so fortunate to have such a beautiful state park that we can walk in.  We do have a dog park as well, but I'm not a fan.  So we stick to the regular park.  It works out perfectly except when there are horses there.  A few years ago a guy on a horse was being a real jerk and thought it would be funny to keep running his horse toward the boys because he could tell they were intimidated.  He thought it was so funny.  I was, unfortunately, by myself, so I couldn't pick them both up.  Instead I was forced to rush them toward the vehicle as the bully on the horse continued to torment us.  Now, anytime they see horses they are ready to leave.


Jack watching over the chicks
Jack
Jack loves the spring and early summer because the door is open (screen door is closed) and so he spends every waking second of every day attempting his escape to the back deck.  You see, because the screen door has a closer on it, he can sneak by without us noticing, and get out before the door actually closes.  Once out he rolls lovingly in the dog beds on the back deck.  This lasts for approximately 2.15 minutes and then he realizes "oh crap - I'm outside!!" and panic sets in. 

Every.  Single.  Time. 

It gets a tad frustrating.

He is quite intrigued by the chicks of course.  The photo above was taken as he "supervised" them.  I had them on the picnic table on the lower deck, taking pictures, and Jack was mesmerized.  He was allowed the check them out through the screen but that's it.  He's such a good hunter I would fear their demise in seconds.


Cobble Hill Farm Apothecary
Our farmer's market has officially moved outside for the season!!!  It's so exciting because it's just a different vibe when it's outside and we get double the vendors.  We are going to participate in 2 farmer's markets this summer.  We are so excited to be able to attend the Chestertown Market again in addition to the Spa City Market.  We'll also participate in a handful of craft shows that we've really enjoyed as well as trying one or two new ones.

If you would like to see more of our day-to-day, please join us on Instagram.

How was your April?

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If you’re just tuning in, this is an ongoing series in which I share our weekly meal plan as I (attempt) to convert us to a Whole/Real Food lifestyle.  Our grocery budget is $100.00/week for 2 adults.  Often I make 2 different meals because I am primarily plant-based and my husband is not.  Most of what we eat is made from scratch and any boxed, canned and/or frozen products follow the Real Food guidelines.  Meal planning is my way of controlling the grocery budget (read as a LOT of dollars saved), ensuring there is no food waste for the week, as well as saving time.  You can read more about meal planning here.

This week the kitchen is again in disarray as we pull it apart to begin the next step.  The floor.  Next week is the cabinets.  The last part will be the trim and then it will be DONE.  I can't wait.  So, because of this, it seems we are in a constant state of "catch up" which means meals must be easy.  Or at least easier.  The good news, is the weather is making it super easy for grilling which always makes for an easy dinner addition.

I'm thinking about trying something different in the next month or two.  Have you ever tried eating mostly local?  We were going to try that this year and then put it on hold because of juggling it all.  However, the more we continue to discuss the importance of voting with your dollars, the more we think it's important to give it a try.  It will be interesting to see how much more money it costs as well as what percentage of items we can actually find locally.  I'll write more on this in the coming weeks.

On to the meal plan!

Weekly Meal Plan:
Sunday
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Raw Walnuts & Apples
Lunch - Nut Butter & Jam Sandwiches
Dinner - Brats, Potato Salad & Green Salad

Monday
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Frozen Cherries & Raw Almonds
Lunch - (me) Salad, (J) Ham Sandwich
Dinner - Clam Linguine, Asparagus

Tuesday
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Frozen Cherries & Raw Almonds
Lunch - (me) Salad, (J) Ham Sandwich
Dinner - Penne with Fire Roasted Tomato/Roasted Red Pepper Sauce, Spinach, (J) Chicken Sausage

Wednesday
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Frozen Cherries & Raw Almonds
Lunch - (me) Salad, (J) Ham Sandwich
Dinner - Veggie Stir Fry, (J) Grilled Beef Teriyaki, Rice

Thursday
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Frozen Cherries & Raw Almonds
Lunch - (me) Salad, (J) Ham Sandwich
Dinner - Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower, Garlic & Walnuts, (J) Grilled Pork Chop

Friday
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Frozen Cherries & Raw Almonds
Lunch - (me) Salad, (J) Ham Sandwich
Dinner - Homemade Pizza

Saturday
Breakfast - Pancakes
Lunch - Out
Dinner - Veggie Lo Mein, (J) Grilled Filet Mignon

Weekly Food Cost:

Commissary - $29.86
*I am not allowed to share individual costs from the commissary so I've listed what we purchased and the total price*
  • Clams, Frozen Mangos, Frozen Cherries, Ham Lunchmeat, Bread, Onions, Ginger Root, Cheese, Pork Chop, & Brat Rolls

Fresh Market - $34.02
  • Organic Cauliflower - $3.49
  • Tomatoes - $3.00
  • Oranges - $7.32
  • Filet Mignon - $14.09
  • Beef Loin Flap - $6.12

BJ's - $24.55
  • Spinach - $3.69
  • Organic Half & Half - $3.39
  • Blackberries - $3.99
  • Green Peppers - $3.99
  • Beef Loin Flap - $28.29 (we will get 8 meals from this)
  • Organic Butter - $9.49

Farmer's Market - $13.00
  • Organic Spring Mix - $5.00
  • Organic Pea Shoots - $4.00
  • Asparagus - $4.00

Grand Total - $101.43

Weekly Food Notes:
  • You should not see eggs on the grocery list (ever) since we raise chickens for eggs.
  • I had on hand: Apples, Brats, Potatoes, Mayo, Broccoli, Rice, Pasta, Garlic, Canned Tomatoes, Roasted Red Peppers, Burger, Chicken Sausage, Nuts, Jam & Rolled Oats

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They are fuzzy, they are cuddly, and they are super sweet!  Unfortunately, one passed away her first night home, but so far the other 9 are doing really well.

I know, I know, I wrote a month or so ago that we decided against growing the flock this year.  But then we got to thinking about the ages of the other coop girls (we have a pretty good blend of ages 1-4) and realized we very well may either lose a couple this year or the egg production will at least slow right on down.  And so we decided to order 10 of these little cuties.  I announced in our newsletter a few weeks ago. 

If you haven't already signed up, you can do so here!  We never (ever) spam or sell your information and usually only send 1 email per week.

Now to figure out their names.......

Here are more photos:







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If you’re just tuning in, this is an ongoing series in which I share our weekly meal plan as I (attempt) to convert us to a Whole/Real Food lifestyle.  Our grocery budget is $100.00/week for 2 adults.  Often I make 2 different meals because I am primarily plant-based and my husband is not.  Most of what we eat is made from scratch and any boxed, canned and/or frozen products follow the Real Food guidelines.  Meal planning is my way of controlling the grocery budget (read as a LOT of dollars saved), ensuring there is no food waste for the week, as well as saving time.  You can read more about meal planning here.

Well, we've gone from winter to summer, all in one week.  From the upper 40's to, we are told, the low 80's by tomorrow.  I can tell you for fact that ALL of the critters are enjoying this change.  The Coop Girls went from constant complaining (rain was dampening their spirits) to full out joy.  The dogs are spending as much time outside as they can and Jack, our handful of a cat, spends every second of every day trying to figure out how to successfully sneak outside.  (he's made it and goes into sheer panic mode when he does successfully escape)

The kitchen reno has finally begun!  Countertops are in, as is the new sink and faucet.  Backsplash is getting installed today and tomorrow.  And my fingers are crossed that the work continues from there........I'm just throwing this out to the universe - PLEASE let my kitchen get finished this month!!!!  I'm still dealing with a half finished bathroom so I'm really hoping not to be stuck with 2 half finished rooms.

I'm thinking of getting to work in the garden this week.  I would like to at least clean out the asparagus bed and prep a few of the other beds for planting in the next week or two.  The problem, is that the night-time temp's can still dip quite low, so I try (try.....) to only plant cold-hardy items until the 3rd week in May.  It is really hard to resist though.  We shall see!


Weekly Meal Plan:
Sunday
Breakfast - Cereal
Lunch - (me) Salad/(J) Ham Sandwich
Dinner - Skillet Shrimp, Spinach & Orzo One-Pot Meal

Monday
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Blueberries & Almonds
Lunch - Leftovers
Dinner - Out (using a gift certificate from Christmas)

Tuesday
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Blueberries & Almonds
Lunch - BLT Pasta Salad
Dinner - (me) Veggie Stir Fry, (J) Stir-Fried Beef & Broccoli, Rice

Wednesday
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Blueberries & Almonds
Lunch - Leftovers
Dinner - Squash Risotto, Oven-Roasted Veggies, (J) Grilled Pork Chop

Thursday
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Blueberries & Almonds
Lunch - BLT Pasta Salad
Dinner - Veggie Kebabs On The Grill, (J) Grilled Chicken Breast, Homemade Biscuits

Friday
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Blueberries & Almonds
Lunch - Hummus & Veggies
Dinner - Refried Bean & Veggie Tacos with Homemade Salsa, Mexican Rice

Saturday
Breakfast - Breakfast Burritos
Lunch - Egg Salad Sandwiches
Dinner - (me) Veggie Burger, (J) Fried Chicken Sandwich, Onion Rings

Weekly Food Cost:
Aldi - $10.91
  • Butter - $2.36
  • Broccoli - $1.69
  • Cilantro - $.89
  • Tomatoes - $2.49
  • Organic Baby Spinach - $2.49
  • Scallions - $.99

Commissary - $20.12
*I am not allowed to share individual costs from the commissary so I've listed what we purchased and the total price*
  • Canned Diced Tomatoes, Mayonnaise, Ham lunchmeat, Bread, Sweet Onions, Red Onions, Canned Chickpeas, Organic Spring Mix, whole wheat rotini,

Hannaford - $14.41
  • 2 Blackberries - $5.98
  • Blueberries - $2.99
  • Oranges - $3.95
  • Pork Chop - $1.49

Trader Joe's - $79.16
  • 2 Red Peppers - $2.00
  • Opal Apples - $5.16
  • EVOO - $7.99  (backstock for the pantry)
  • Sea Salt & Turbinado Sugar Dark Choc Almonds - $4.49 (these are AMAZING)
  • Sea Salt - $1.99
  • Marinara Sauce - $3.49 (backstock for the pantry)
  • Kalamata Olives - $2.99
  • 2 Fire Roasted Red Peppers - $5.97
  • 2 Rolled Oats - $7.98
  • 2 Raw Slivered Almonds - $6.98
  • Mushrooms - $2.29
  • 2 Coconut Creamer - $2.98
  • Asparagus - $2.49
  • 3 Shredded Hash Browns - $5.37 (I like to keep these in the freezer for quick breakfast)
  • Cereal - $3.99
  • Organic Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts - $13.00 (4 whole breasts = 6-8 meals)

Farmer's Market - $12.00
  • Honey - $12.00

Grand Total - $136.60 *
*(I used the $100.00 from this week and the leftover money from the last 2 weeks that totaled $61.53, leaving me with 24.93 additional for next week if needed)

Weekly Food Notes:
  • You should not see eggs on the grocery list (ever) since we raise chickens for eggs. 

  • I had on hand: milk, orzo pasta, rice, butternut squash, refried beans, flour, bacon, brussels sprouts, potatoes, sirloin beef, shrimp, & homemade (freezer) veggie burgers.


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If you’re just tuning in, this is an ongoing series in which I share our weekly meal plan as I (attempt) to convert us to a Whole/Real Food lifestyle.  Our grocery budget is $100.00/week for 2 adults.  Often I make 2 different meals because I am primarily plant-based and my husband is not.  Most of what we eat is made from scratch and any boxed, canned and/or frozen products follow the Real Food guidelines.  Meal planning is my way of controlling the grocery budget (read as a LOT of dollars saved), ensuring there is no food waste for the week, as well as saving time.  You can read more about meal planning here.

I am horribly late with this post again this week.  Because the weather is starting to actually turn into spring, it's allowing us to get so much done around the homestead!!  J was able to get the larger window installed over the weekend because the weather allowed for us to have no window while he cut the larger opening. 

The countertops are scheduled for next Monday and then we'll work to get the remaining items completed - floor, backsplash, and paining, before we start the summer markets.  We plan to enlarge the opening from the kitchen to the dining room as well, but not this year.  All projects come to a halt typically in May because our Apothecary business gets so incredibly busy for the next 8 months.  

We will also get busy with the garden starting next week.  Although we won't grow nearly the amount of veggies we've grown in the past, we still plan to grow a fair share in addition to a large stock of herbs.  I cannot wait to get my hands working in the soil!

We still have some veggies left in the freezer from last summer and fall.  We are down to 1 bag of sugar snap peas, and a handful of bags of both corn & butternut & hubbard squash.  We hit a pretty good deal at Hannaford.  Although they aren't organic, we did purchase 2 whole chickens at 85 cents per pound.  They will be used for beer can chicken this summer!  And we were still under budget, again.  Woo hoo!


Weekly Meal Plan:
Sunday
Breakfast - Avocado Toast & Poached Eggs Over Greens
Lunch - (me) Super Salad, (J) Ham Sandwich
Dinner - (me) Buddha Bowl, (J) Beef Skillet Rice & Mashed Butternut Squash

Monday
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Berries & Raw Nuts
Lunch - Hummus & Veggies
Dinner - (me) Veg Burger with Veggies, (J) Grilled Brat, Oven-Baked Potato Wedges, Broccoli Salad

Tuesday
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Berries & Raw Nuts
Lunch - Hummus & Veggies
Dinner - (me) Butternut Squash Salad with Cider Vinaigrette, (J) Grilled Caribbean Chicken Quarter, Rice, Mashed Butternut Squash

Wednesday
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Berries & Raw Nuts
Lunch - Hummus & Veggies
Dinner - Spinach & Mushroom Orzo, Grilled Asparagus, (J) Sweet & Spicy Pork Chops

Thursday
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Berries & Raw Nuts
Lunch - Leftovers
Dinner - Veggie Stir Fry, Rice, (J) Teriyaki Chicken

Friday
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Berries & Raw Nuts
Lunch - Leftovers
Dinner - Homemade Pizza

Saturday
Breakfast - Waffles
Lunch - Leftover Pizza
Dinner - (me) Veggie Stuffed Baked Potato, (J) Slow-Cooker Roast Beef, Mashed Potatoes and Oven-Roasted Parmesan Carrots

Weekly Food Cost:
Aldi - $20.54
  • Blueberries (2) - $5.38
  • Bell Peppers - $2.49
  • Butter - $2.36
  • Organic Milk - $2.95
  • Broccoli (2) - $3.38
  • Scallions - $.99
  • Asparagus - $2.99

Commissary - $18.68
*I am not allowed to share individual costs from the commissary so I've listed what we purchased and the total price*
  • Flour, Chipotle Chilies, Chicken Quarters (6), Pepperoni, Carrots, 2 Avocados, Potatoes, & Bread

Hannaford - $40.07
  • Brat Rolls - $3.59
  • Rice - $2.39
  • Hot Pepper Jelly - $3.29
  • Pork Chop - $1.61
  • Whole Chickens (2) - $7.82 (for the freezer)
  • Organic Chicken Breasts (2) - $5.42
  • Grass Fed Sirloin Roast - $5.68
  • Limes (2) - $1.00
  • Parsley - $1.29
  • Mushrooms - $1.99
  • Organic Spring Mix - $5.99

Farmer's Market - $8.50
  • Grass Fed Beef Burger - $5.00
  • Apples & small Cider - $3.50

Grand Total - $87.79

Weekly Food Notes:
  • You should not see eggs on the grocery list (ever) since we raise chickens for eggs.
  • I had on hand: Butternut Squash (freezer),  Roasted Red Peppers, Kale (freezer), Canned Crushed Tomatoes, Oats, Raw Nuts, Chickpeas (canned), Beans, Brats, Mayonnaise, Mustard, Ham Lunchmeat, Cheese,  Spinach (freezer), Orzo Pasta, Soy Sauce, & Parmesan
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This post contains affiliate links.  When you click on one of the links and make a purchase, we receive a small monetary compensation at no extra cost to you.  Thank you for supporting Cobble Hill Farm!

I often get the question "I want to get some chickens - what do you think I need to know?" I also get the question "I want to get chickens but my husband said no.  Can you tell him why we need chickens?"  Yikes!  While I can help with the first question, I really can't help with the second.

This post is a result of the many times I get the first question and includes a VERY brief look at things to consider.  We have a "chicken-keeping" tab full of all of the articles I've written if you would like to take a more in-depth peek into life with chickens. (spoiler alert - they are a LOT of fun!!)



There is nothing more enjoyable than walking outside and having a flock of coop girls excited to see you.  The chatter and excitement makes you feel a little like a chicken celebrity.  (they associate people with food which is the reason for said popularity)  And there is nothing more sweet than spending time in the coop listening to one of the girls softly singing the egg laying song and watching her prep the nesting box for the arrival of the egg.  Gentle cooing and lovingly moving straw from one side to another is part of the egg laying preparation.  And while not all of our chickens are so delicate in their process (some stand up and holler rather than coo), watching those who are is pretty darn neat. 

A while back I wrote a post titled "5 Reasons You Need Backyard Chickens Today" giving an overview of the joy chickens can bring.  And they absolutely can!  But, like any animal care, there's the reality side of chicken keeping that you must also factor in, preferably before you bring those adorable little fluff balls home.

P.S. we neglected to factor any of these points so I'm hoping you can learn from our mistake.....not that it has changed our minds (we have 27 chickens and 8 more on the way...) but it would have been good to have thought about these topics in advance.

Here are six factors to consider before jumping in:


1. Can You Have Chickens In Your Town/City?
If the answer to this question is "no", you may as well stop here.  It's just not worth breaking the rules of your town/city, bringing chickens onto your property, only to eventually have someone turn you in and you now have to get rid of them.

If the answer is "I don't know", please research this before bringing them home.  Many towns will allow a small number (usually 4 or 6) of hens and no roosters.  If that's the case, read on!

Related: Wait....You Don't Need A Rooster To Get Eggs?
               So You Want To Raise Chickens, Part 1
               So You Want To Raise Chickens, Part 2


2. Where Will Your Chickens Reside?
I know the answer is "a coop, of course", but have you thought about their needs both inside and out?  Inside = Space to roost, space to eat and drink, nesting boxes, etc. 

Will you allow them to free range in your yard?  Before you shout "yes!" remember that chickens poop.  A lot.  Like, everywhere. (see #5)

Will you have a designated outdoor space for them?  How will it be fenced in?  Will it be covered (for year-round enjoyment)?  If not, you should consider netting or something going overhead so wild birds and predators cannot get in.

How will you predator-proof their coop and outside space?  What types of predators do you have in your area?

Do you have a safe space for the chickens to get outside in all weather conditions?  How about enough space inside if your temp's dip into single digits?

Can you get into all parts of the coop in order to clean it or take care of a sick chicken?  I make this a point because there are some absolutely adorable coops out there that are not at all practical.  They have areas where a chicken can get into but a person cannot.

Related:   Chicken Coop 101: 13 Lessons Learned
                The Chicken Coop At Cobble Hill Farm
                All You Need To Know About Chicken Roosts


3. How Will You Deal With Any Chicken Illnesses, Including A Dying Chicken?
I told the story, years ago, about our first venture with chickens and we had not even given this a thought.  Within 3 weeks of new chicken-keeping, we had a coop full of girls (and one boy) coughing, sneezing, and disgusting liquid spilling out of their beaks.  What we were dealing with was upper respiratory infections (which we did not know at the time), and seems to have come with the pullets we had just purchased.  We had no idea what to do. 

We called our vet - she doesn't provide care for birds.  The only vet I could find that would see a chicken was an "exotic bird" veterinarian.  Do I need to even tell you how much she charges for office visits????  A lot.  So I took one bird, Lucy Lou, (who ended up missing for about 1/2 hour with the woman who was supposed to take her to another room for an exam) and the end result, after a whole lot of nonsense, was that the flock had an upper respiratory infection.  A couple hundred dollars later, we were able to treat them all.  And I decided right then and there to read all I could about chicken health.

(this put on their beaks and under their wings is the BEST natural upper respiratory preventative we've found)

We also had a mite outbreak.  Once.  Never again - we now do what it takes for prevention.  We've had egg-bound hens (you need to be able to put your hand into their vent and VERY carefully pull the egg out), a hen with a prolapse (you must clean off the exposed tissue that is hanging out of their vent, push it all back into their vent and then keep them calm and separated), worms (totally disgusting) once, as well as hens, dying from natural causes, that are being pecked to their death by the others. 

For us, when we've had a dying chicken, we've removed them from the coop and either put them in a box to die peacefully, or, if they seem to be in pain or it's going on for too long, we've moved it along ourselves.  It's never (ever) easy, but we hate to see any animal suffering.

Related: Why Do My Chickens Lay Soft/Thin-Shelled Eggs?
               Prolapsed Vent - How To Treat It
               Using Diatomaceous Earth For Chicken Health
               Dealing With Worms In Chickens
             

4. Who Will Be Responsible For The Daily "Chicken Chores"?
Chickens are super easy, but they still need care.  For our coop, here are our "chores":

Morning:  Let girls out, feed "goodies" and scratch grains (scratch grains in winter only), do a basic cleaning of the coop (poop removal), re-stock food and water, egg gathering, and a quick inspection of girls.

Evening: Re-stock food and water, egg gathering, a quick inspection of girls, and lock girls in for the night.

Monthly: Clean coop - shavings, windows, and any surfaces they get onto.  Add straw to nesting boxes.

Seasonally: Put diatomaceous earth on walls, floor and in nesting boxesA Thorough coop cleaning.

Related:  Preparing Chickens For Summer
                 Preparing Chickens For Winter 
                 Fall Coop Clean-Up 


5. What Will You Do With All Of The Chicken Poop?
So, they poop a lot.  I once had a thought that I would just add all of the manure to our compost bin.  Well, we get way more than we could ever use.  You may have neighbors who would willingly take it, or, with a smaller flock, perhaps you will be able to use it all.

As mentioned above, you may also want to consider this when you decide about free-ranging.


6. How Will You Handle Neighbor Complaints Regarding Noise, Smell, Chickens In Their Yard, etc.?
It may never ever happen, but if you have neighbors that are reasonably close to you, you may want to consider how you will handle this.  Certainly, letting them know ahead of time that you've got a small flock coming may help diffuse some of the situations, however, no one knows how anyone will really react until the birds are already in your backyard.  And the problem with today's world (I feel like my grandmother when I say this, but it's so true.....) is that we are used to sharing our opinions with the world, many times anonymously, and are unfortunately getting away from having simple conversations.  So, your neighbors unfortunately may not tell you point blank that they have a concern.  You are more likely to read it on facebook, hear it from another neighbor, or have animal control show up on your doorstep.

Chickens can be noisy.  If they get startled or upset by something, they can chant in unison VERY loudly.  We had a random dog show up in our yard one day and our girls were incredibly upset.  The chanting went on forever and it was very very loud.  They do a moderately low chatter throughout the day, but, as mentioned above, sometimes egg laying can be a bit noisy as well.

If you keep the coop clean they do not smell, however, there are people that convince themselves that they do and you may have to deal with a neighbor who has done exactly this.

Chickens will wander in search of bugs.  They will fly, so if you have them free-ranging in a fenced in backyard, the fence is simply a speed bump in their journey to the front-yard, the neighbors yard, etc.  While some will be thrilled to welcome the feathered guests, not all will.


I sincerely hope this has helped some of you better prepare for a backyard flock.


I would love to hear from you if you have additional questions that I didn't cover, or if you have additional advice from your own experiences.  




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Chicken breasts can be bland and dry if you aren't using a flavorful marinade or sauce.  That is what we experienced, until we began using this SUPER simple marinade.  I use this whenever I want the chicken to have just a bit more flavor or if it's going to be standing on it's own.  I use it on chicken when I make grilled chicken, grilled chicken subs, Quick & Easy Chicken Parm, chicken for kebabs, chicken for chicken salad sandwiches, etc.


As noted, it's best not to let it marinate for longer than 3 hours as the lemon juice starts to break down the meat and after 3 hours it will start changing the meat to a bit of a mushy texture.  At 2-3 hours of marinating time you will get a lightly flavored and juicy chicken breast.  And, of course, make sure not to overcook your chicken.  Unfortunately, overcooking will always result in dry chicken.


Delicious & Simple Chicken Marinade

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, unthawed if frozen

Mix the olive oil, lemon juice, italian seasoning, garlic salt, and pepper.  Place chicken breasts in a sealable container or bag.  Add marinade.  Seal and refrigerate for 3 hours (don't marinade any longer or the chicken will start to break down too much and become mushy).  Grill or saute.

**I like to slice whole boneless chicken breasts in half, leaving me with 2 thinner, equal-sized breasts.  It takes the marinade much better AND is quick and easy to cook!**




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