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Eating real food with real ingredients is a priority for our family. Before we moved to the Ozarks, we lived outside a large city where organic produce and meat was not hard to find. The prices were reasonable since there was a demand for organic food.
We moved to an area of the country where the organic food movement is just now trickling in. It was definitely an eye opener to see how spoiled we were, with pretty much anything we wanted just a 10 minute drive away. There are grocery stores that sell organic meat and produce about an hour away, which we do go to if we happen to need to go to the city for other reasons. However we prefer to stay on the farm and avoid unnecessary running around as much as possible.
So how do we eat well in rural America when organic food isn’t so readily available?
Grow your own
There is such a feeling of accomplishment when you can provide your family food that you have grown or raised yourself. Plus, everything homegrown tastes better. We have a large garden that provides fresh produce spring, summer and fall. We preserve the abundance for the winter months. Our chickens keep us well stocked in eggs and we raise our own meat. Our goal is to be able to grow/raise most of our food. We’re not quite there yet, but it’s becoming more frequent to find everything on our plates is from our farm.
Cook from scratch
Our family eats real food, with real ingredients. We try to avoid processed foods as much as possible, partly due to our kid’s food allergies but mainly because we all feel better when we eat real food. Specialty items, such as gluten free, corn free tortillas, are hard to come by in a small town. However making gluten free tortillas isn’t hard to do and actually taste much better than what is available in a package. In fact, everything tastes better when made from scratch!
Of course, you can’t make everything. There are things that you can’t easily make and some that you may not want to make, like noodles or sour cream. I have made homemade noodles, and they are the best! But having a package of noodles on hand is a life saver when it’s been a busy day and the kids want to eat NOW!
Keep it local
Of course, you can’t do everything. Even if you have a garden and raise a few chickens for eggs and meat, there will be a few things that you would like to add to your diet that you aren’t raising or growing. Getting to know your neighbors and helping each other out is a great way to build community and friendships. Once you get to know the people around you, you learn how they raise their animals and crops. It always feels good to buy directly from the farmer who is doing a good job.
Going to the Farmer’s Market is a great way to get to know other farmers in your area. Our small town has a Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings. Some things are conventionally raised, but there are farmers there that raise their produce organically. While they aren’t certified organic, just talking to the farmers about their growing practices will tell you what you need to know.
Local Health Food Store
We are fortunate to have a health food store in our small town. The store doesn’t have a huge selection and most items are pretty expensive. But it is nice to have the option when you need something in a pinch. I have found grass-fed hamburger at a very good price at our health food store, but I shop elsewhere for the bulk of the groceries that I buy.
I buy most of our groceries from the local food co-op. Unfortunately, the items are mostly not locally grown, but are at least organic. The co-op is a group to help locals buy good food at a discounted price. I can purchase nearly anything that we would ever need in bulk, including organic produce. A big advantage of participating in a food co-op is the ability to split up cases with other members of the co-op. The food co-op has also kept me from having to drive to the city for groceries. It has been a challenge to learn how to shop once a month for a family of 5, but I’m figuring it out.
If all else fails…
Like a lot of small towns these days, we have a Wal-Mart. I am not in love with shopping at Wal-Mart, but they do have some organic and gluten free options. While I don’t do my grocery shopping there, it is nice to have a store that will have some organic fruit when our fruit supply is running low. My kids eat a lot of fruit.
There are some items that you just can’t find locally or at the food co-op. Sometimes there is a better deal to be had elsewhere. While I like my family to eat well, I also like to stay within my grocery budget. Shopping around can definitely help you save a few dollars, which do add up! Amazon has some good deals as well as Thrive Market. Thrive Market has great deals on gluten free flours and mixes, the best that I’ve seen.