Groceries by the Pallet

We buy groceries by the pallet-load, but we don’t eat them.

Our goal when starting our homestead was to produce more of our own food.  Initially we had eggs and the occasional chicken meat.  We’ve since added animals (for turkey, duck, lamb and goat meat), established the veggie garden, and added dairy animals.  We were also fortunate that the previous residents planted an apple tree that has produced an abundant crop of apples all but one of the years we’ve been here.

Consequently our spend at the local Kroger has reduced tremendously over time.  In September I spent $38.20 at the grocery store, on items like bread, cereal, spices and condiments that we cannot produce here.  It wasn’t an unusual month.

I wish I could truly say that is all we spend on “groceries”.  The reality is, instead of buying human groceries, we now buy animal groceries by the pickup load because, in order to provide us with good quality food, they need to eat good quality food themselves.  In summer, the cows, sheep and goats are able to graze almost 100% of their nutrition (they get a small amount of grain as a treat for standing nicely while being milked).  But, in winter, when they are heavily pregnant or nursing babies, and at the same time the grass is dormant so they have to eat hay instead, they consume more purchased calories.

We tried an experiment this year with the poultry.  Commercial pelleted feed is a relatively new invention; old-timers didn’t feed their chickens – they got by foraging/scavenging everything they ate.  So, this year we reduced their feed substantially, to encourage them to get out and find more bugs and greens of their own.  I expected egg production to reduce, but if it did, I couldn’t tell.  I had just as many broody hens trying to hatch and raise chicks as ever, and was still inundated with eggs at the peak of the season.  Meanwhile, the hens look healthy and our property has very few bugs.  I call that a win-win-win.

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However we are approaching the time of year when our grocery bill will increase again.  Maybe not for the people – the freezers and canning jars are full and will take us through the winter easily – but expenditure on groceries for the animals will increase.  Nevertheless, I’d say we are where we hoped one day to be and it is satisfying.