One priority we are both on board with is food. After our mortgage, we spend the next highest amount per month on groceries, including the occasional date night at a restaurant, or take-out pizza. Last year we bought a quarter beef, (butchered, wrapped and frozen) from a friend who lives on a hobby beef farm in the Ottawa Valley. This meat lasted almost a full year, and was hormone-free, from grass-fed beef who lived happy cow lives. This made me feel good, especially on days when I maybe wasn't my best self as a mama and wife. At least, I could justify, I was serving my family quality ground beef burritos for dinner, even if I served it with a huff.
This week, the three little girls and I went to visit my friend on her farm. We had a great catch-up, a hearty lunch, and I loved watching my girls explore. My friend keeps laying hens, who roam free and are absolutely hilarious. We were sent home with two dozen eggs and they are deeply-coloured, fresh and delicious. We also greeted the cows, who liked following us along the backyard fence, though they too were free to roam around vast acres of grass-covered pasture.
We put in another order for beef, once these cows are taken to slaughter, hung, and butchered later this fall. If you're asking: No, this doesn't make me sad. Seeing how peaceful it is at the farm, how cared for and appreciated the cows are in their lives, I am relieved that the meat I purchase to feed my family supports this type of agriculture. My friend doesn't sell her beef to the public, but if you're looking for another source, I Google'd "Ottawa beef" and found a number of leads.
We also agreed to buy Ontario-farmed chicken and pork from a farm wholesale company, Nutrafarms, Inc. They met our needs where we wanted to fill our freezer with hormone-free, antibiotic-free meat from animal-friendly farms. Many local farmers I found sold chickens whole, and we rarely eat them roasted this way. Nutrafarms sold us chicken breasts, drumsticks, pub-style chicken strips, ground meat and a few whole, from a farm in Niagara. We also selected pork hot dogs, ribs, roasts, hams, sausages and bacon from a farm in Sarnia. We were happy to see the animals are raised humanely, using traditional farming practices. We have had our shipment delivered, our freezer is full and after sampling their bacon and making pulled pork from a shoulder roast, I don't know if I can ever go back to grocery store pork.
When buying bulk meat, the initial price tag is a tough pill to swallow, at least for us. I spent a lot of time looking at our monthly budgets from the past year, and when I subtract what we spent on meat, our weekly grocery bill goes down substantially. The upfront costs should be justified, at least that is the hope. For now, our freezer is full, our weekly grocery bill is dramatically slashed, and I can feel good about supporting friendly farming practices. In terms of our budget, this is all good news. Now, I plan our meals not around what meat is on sale in the flyer, but what we have in our freezer already. I know I have to make it last, so once or twice a week we have a meat-free dish, like tonight's quiche (from the farm eggs, yum!).