Thrifty and Nifty: {Guest Post}

Today my guest on the Thrifty & Nifty series is Anne-Marie Miller from Greenish Monkeys. She shares some awesome tips for buying locally grown food by utilizing your local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Looking for a CSA in your area? Click here.

Seasonal Meal Planning: Eating local veggies without breaking the bank      {by Anne-Marie Miller}

Using locally based food resources while staying on a budget is challenging—at first glance, local food appears expensive. Supporting the local economy and ethical farming practices is not necessarily cheap, but it’s important for my family, from health and environmental perspectives.

Here are some tips for maximizing the dollars you spend shopping local:

  • If possible, join a community supported agriculture (CSA) program. Depending on your family size, splitting a share with a friend (or buying a half-share) might be the best option for you. This can help you avoid waste and try things that might be unfamiliar in smaller quantities. If you use a CSA well, it can save you money—with mine, I typically get about a 10% discount from retail.  Many CSAs will allow you to split the season fee into multiple payments. Some CSAs use a credit model—one near me offers $100 shares, which are good for $110 worth of spending at their booth at the farmer’s market. With this type of share, you get to choose exactly what and how much you get, thus avoiding waste. You do share some of your farmer’s risk when you join a CSA: this might be the year that the tomato horn worm appears with a vengeance. But this kind of shared risk has real benefits for local agriculture and for your local economy.
  • Know your farmers, and know your neighbors. I look for opportunities to buy in bulk whenever I can and to split resources with other families. Sometimes I buy second-quality produce at my farmer’s market—I was able to buy 20 lbs of organic tomatoes for $20 this summer. I do preserve foods, but even if you don’t, you could split a deal like that with a friend and have lots of salsa, tomato sauce, and BLTs that week! If you shop at the end of the market, sometimes you can get a deal, too.
  • Can you harvest it yourself? Picking your own fruit often saves you money, especially for items like berries (raspberries, for example, were $5-6/ pint this summer at my farmer’s market, but I paid $2/pint for the ones I picked). It’s fun to do, and berries are easy to freeze.Can you grow it yourself? Yes, gardening takes some time and some investment… but it’s one that pays off. I do plan my garden to save money—it is a small space, but we pack it with what we love the most.  Herbs can be grown in pots or among your perennials.
  • Plan your other shopping around your local purchases, whether you are going to the farmer’s market or picking up a CSA share. My approach is to list the items in my share, take a look at my own pantry, and then plan our meals for the week. Planning six meals at a time will cut your grocery expenses—I do plan by day, but you don’t have to.  Planning by day can ensure that you budget time as well as cash. Make sure you plan to use (or freeze) any delicate items quickly.

Not sure what to do with the produce? Ask your farmer or talk to the other folks at the market. My CSA farmer also includes a few recipes with each share, and gives instructions about how to prep or use something unusual.

  • Consider prepping and/ or cooking your CSA or farmer’s market items right away. This cuts down on the likelihood of food spoiling in your fridge, increases the likelihood that it will be convenient for you to eat the food, and cuts down on your meal prep time during the week. For more on this approach, you might look at Tamar Adler’s book, An Everlasting Meal.
For Anne-Marie’s tips on buying local meat, click here.

Anne-Marie Miller is the mom to three children (1, 7, and 10) and lives in central Maine. She is a social worker by trade but is currently at home with the kids most of the time. She enjoys reading, gardening, and hiking, and would rather cook something than clean the kitchen. She blogs about her family’s efforts to live more sustainably and simply at Greenish Monkeys.

Thanks Anne-Marie for all the great information. Be sure and stop by Anne-Marie’s blog and say hello. Ask her a question about CSAs or leave her a nifty comment below letting her know how much you enjoyed her post on The Budget Maven.

Have a Thrifty & Nifty Thursday!


If you’re interested in sharing your “Thrify & Nifty” story, click here.


5 thoughts on “Thrifty and Nifty: {Guest Post}

  1. Tammy says:

    Great tips and a great guest post! 😉 I love your tip on prepping right away or setting aside time to do so as it really does make things easier during the week and keeps me from wasting items.

  2. Jane Green says:

    I went to buy seed for my garden this morning. Ambrosia corn had gone up to over $18.00 a pound due to a drought last year where it is produced. I purchased 1/2 pound of corn, Blue Lake bush beans, and okra seed for a little over $12.00 total. The beans were $1.75 for 1/2 pound and the Okra was $.50 per ounce, which goes a long way. Even with the higher price for seed corn, this is a great bargain versus purchasing the same quality produce from the store.

    I loved Anne-Marie’s idea for prepping what you buy right away to prevent spoilage and waste. The bargain she found on tomatoes was great also. It made me hungry for fresh garden tomatoes right now!

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