Over the years we’ve made, remade and tweaked our basic “grocery list” of things we can’t grow here on the urban homestead and for the most part we pretty much stick to the list week after week, month after month.  When I say “stick to the list” we don’t buy outside the list which helps save money and keeps our  simple basic diet in motion.

Now, this is not to say we cannot improve – there’s still more we’d like to remove from the list!  Throwing away the entire list would be awesome but we have to realistic!  We are smack dab in the middle of the city and there aint any wheat fields — well, at least not yet.

The list includes staples like grandma would have had on her shopping list: things like flour, oil, spices, salt, cheeses and vinegar which are the primary items on our grocery list.

Only when it’s canning season does the list change a bit to include more of certain canning essentials.

What you will notice absent from the list – eggs, meat, over processed, frozen or even canned foods.   Instead we, try as best we can (with some exceptions – yeah, we aint perfect!), to purchase the ingredients and make our food/meals from scratch.

Also you will notice there are no produce except for that of onions and potatoes which we purchase only when necessary.  95-99% of our produce (fruits, veggies, herbs) we grow ourselves, barter with our local contingent of Freedom Gardeners  We have this little saying, “If it aint growing in our backyard we don’t eat it” – plain and simple.

Another thing you will notice is “dual uses items” – items that you can use both in the kitchen and around the household for cleaning like vinegar, baking soda and or making your own toiletries.

Why do we do this?

Well, we have this motto that our family uses a lot “What would the Ingalls do”  and we try and transcend that in our everyday life (sometimes successfully and sometimes unsuccessfully)

By eating down the list we opt to eat more from our backyard/frontyard or homepreserves in our pantry with a little “help” from the general store.

Eating locally and with the seasons it brings about a whole new meaning to the saying “give us this day our daily bread.

How has you or your family eating habits changed, care to share?

Are you connnecting with your community via barter, swaps, etc?  Are you growing more, preserving and making things from scratch?


  1. Monika says:

    We recently visited an old griend of mine from high school while his family was sugaring and swapped some of my raspberry syrup and raspberry jalepeno jelly for local maple syrup.

  2. Kate@LivingTheFrugalLife says:

    We’re eating more and more out of our backyard, and seemingly without having set any explicit goal to do so. I noticed the produce we were still buying from the store last year (beets, onions, parsnips) and made an effort to plant more of those this year. We also made the investment in long term perennials this year. We won’t be eating our own cherries, pears, asparagus, grapes, elderberries, or blueberries for a few years yet, but they’re all in the ground and growing. We may get some of our own raspberries (black and red) this year. We do have a mature apple tree that we cherish too. So I’m planning to experiment with grafting some scionwood from it next year.

  3. thyhandhathprovided says:

    I really enjoyed this post. For two reasons, especially. First of all, your grocery list looks very much like ours- no produce whatsoever- just spices, baking supplies, dairy (except for eggs), vinegar and other non-produce, non-meat, non-canned items. Secondly, our son is reading through the Little House books (for the second time) and is often bringing up little stories of how The Ingalls lived and ate. I love your question, “What would The Ingalls do?”:-) Not only regarding food, they are a great family to emulate.

  4. Ruthie says:

    Yay! I do this and find it very helpful. It would seem that I have more variety than you, but actually I just enjoy a variety of beans and a variety of spices, and put them all on my list, not just “beans, spices”.

    Sometimes it is still green and frugal to have a variety. 🙂

  5. Paula says:

    I grew up reading and rereading the Laura Ingalls Wilder books! I lived in FL but spent summers on my grandparents’ 200 acre farm in Michigan, where I weeded, picked, froze and canned all summer long and fantasized about living a “Laura” life. I treasure those memories so much.

    Now that we have taken down some dying trees in our very shady Washington state front yard, I finally have the sun to plant a good sized garden. I am planting a variety of veggies and fruits to see which are successful here. I have also planted 3 dwarf fruit trees this year.

    I have bartered veggie seeds and starts with family and friends. I have traded for a friend’s abundant rhubarb harvest with my herb starts and homemade rhubarb sorbet I made from her stalks! I trade and share tools with family. I am intolerant of gluten and dairy, so I have been making more homemade breads and snacks since the store ones are so pricey. I make homemade applesauce from the culled bruised apples I get for free from my job at a organic health food store, and also bring home all the veggie “garbage” for my compost piles!

  6. Jan says:

    We too have a very short grocery list. We have to buy pasta, oil, vinegar, milk, cheese, peanut butter ( working on that with peanuts growing), yeast ( baking supplies, flour, spices, sugar).

    We tend to buy something and think, how can we make this without buying it?

  7. Stacy says:

    While I get my gardening up to snuff, I’ve joined a CSA that provides me produce grown in state. While my crops are heavy I can opt out of individual weeks. I can’t tell you the last time I had a banana (but typically I find I’m not a huge fan of tropical fruits in most cases, pineapple being the notable exception). It’s also forcing me to learn how to cook things I otherwise wouldn’t have bought for myself – more asparagus, artichoke, and rutabagas than I’ve ever eaten before, I think, not to mention green garlic and spring bulb onions. Having salad greens and fresh peas from the back yard was awesome this spring. We’re also starting to incorporate blueberries and squash from out back. We even had a potato one night!

    I’ve also found a local source of backyard eggs – how did we ever survive only having one color of eggshell to choose from?!

    We are cooking more at home from scratch, and I’m finding my tastes shifting into a form of food snobbery at recent potluck-y gatherings with friends. I’m working on not letting the elitism go to my head or turn into judgment. I’m also having to relearn how to be low maintenance/inexpensive when out with friends with these new-found tastes.

    Still working on building community and generating enough to swap/share.

  8. Angela Jones says:

    As a rabid LIW fan, I would recommend your family reading Rose Wilder Lane’s book, The Discovery of Freedom. Laura’s daughter did not believe in government “handouts” like Social Security. She equated “security” to a fully stocked pantry and an independent lifestyle.

  9. Fringey says:

    Hi- We eat a lot of eggs, especially this time of year, and chicken all year round. Never buy jam (or rarely) Like you all, eat what we can from the garden and scratch. Except fish…although I am pursuing research on aquaponics. Vinegar isn’t hard to make- but unless you test the acidity I would not use it for pickling -only cooking, dressings, and cleaning uses. All those apple peelings- put to good use besides the compost heap! Let’s push the limits putting stuff in place to push the limits next year for “shopping” at home! I guess that is my goal every year.

  10. Jill Moore says:

    My family is working on shortening our grocery list as well. I think the biggest savings so far has been making our own laundry detergent and cleaning supplies. I love having a window cleaner I can spray on salads!
    Did you know there is a Little House cookbook? I just found it at the library. I wish it were written by Laura herself, but the recipes are taken from the foods in the books.

  11. Jaimelee says:

    When my son was born 2 years ago I changed our lifestyle drastically which included shopping only at markets and our backyard during season. During this time (may-nov) we only go to the store for staples such as flour, spices etc. Ironically enough we actually have to go to Whole Foods to buy our local milk although I am looking for a farmer who would sell it directly. This year my goal is to preserve enough so we can keep this up all year during off season. One of our markets will be open all year around now and will offer cheeses and such. I have been looking for a good green house or portable crop cover to protect from snow and frost and try my hand at some more hardy crops like Tat soi and spinach for the winter.

    I love feeling like I can keep my family healthy and safe by growing my own food and I hope to become an expert at preserving!

  12. Christine says:

    We recently moved form S. IN to S.E. WY where we are learning a whole new way of homesteading. Because we are starting again and we moved in winter I concentrated on learning about duel use products like vinagar and baking soda this winter.

    Since we started simplifiing our life about 4 years ago we plan meals each week which helps us decided how to use up what is around the house from the garden and leftovers. It has been a big help.

    I’ve made a list before but would love to see your full list. Would you please post it somewhere.

  13. Chiot's Run says:

    We grow a good amount of our produce and we try to find local sources for everything else. I get any produce/fruit needs we don’t yet grow at the farmer’s market. Our raw milk, eggs, poultry and beef comes from a local farm. My dad hunts a lot and provides all of us with at least one deer and usually 2 along with many other kind of wild game for the freezer. We also forage for wild mushrooms, berries and other greens throughout the spring/summer/fall.

    I do buy beans & other staples locally if I can find them, if not from my co-op.

    Our diet is much simpler than it used to be. But since I let all of my cooking magazines expire, I don’t need to try all latest and greatest recipes with exotic ingredients.

    I find myself however really missing tropcial fruits. Growing up in South America we had a papaya tree in our back yard and a banana plant in the front. We had an endless supply of fresh tropical fruit from friends. MMMM, I occationally have to buy a mango from the store.

  14. Blythe says:

    I read all the “Little House ” books also when I was young and loved them. I often thought back to them over the winter when work was very slow and we really had to cut back to make ends meet. I cooked almost everything from scratch and stuck to basics and it helped a lot. I recentlybecame vegetarian and I realized that when you give up meat that there is so much more variety in fruits and vegetables.

  15. Julie says:

    I grow lots of veggies, but not many fruits. Started some blueberry bushes this year, but will have to wait to enjoy their fruit. If I move during the next two or three years, I plan on digging them up and taking them with me! I can and freeze so I can enjoy during the winter months. I visit the farmers markets and farms for the fruits and other produce and cheese that I don’t have. I have not heard of any official “barter or swap” meets in my area, but that may be something I need to further research, or even begin. I try to make as much meals as possible from scratch – as I like to know what is in the food I eat. Saves a lot of money too.

  16. Brenda@Coffeeteabooksandme says:

    I often think of the Little House book “The Long Winter” and how they had to “make do” through winter months.

    We live in the country but we’re surrounded by neighbors. However, with nearly an acre of land at the edge of a forest, we decided this year we were building a raised bed garden in the part of our lawn that gets sunlight.

    We’re having lots of fun (and hard work) putting it together. Because of all the Midwest rains, we’re about two weeks late but still in time for this season’s planting.

    I also finally planted six rhubarb plants this year. I should have done it years ago.

  17. genevra mcneil says:

    We’re in an urban environment without so much as a scrap of land. We’re doing what we can with containers, but we’re doing most of our local eating from CSAs, coops, farmer’s markets, etc.

    One thing I noticed that you may be able to improve upon (if you want to!) is cheese! I’ve had good success with some of the simpler cheeses. I’m lucky enough to have a local organic dairy — we’ve got a three-year old so we don’t do raw — but I’ve discovered that with some work that’s no harder than preserving, I can make great cheeses. And, of course, yogurt. That knocked the dairy portion of my list from four or five (milk, mozzarella, yogurt, ricotta, and cheddar) to just milk and cheddar. (My homemade cheddars are not yet edible.)

    I’ve also had good luck with making vinegar from the apple cider my CSA provides in the fall!

  18. Wendy says:

    My friend came over for dinner the other night. We were making homemade pizzas, and when I opened the cabinet to grab the flour, she laughed, and told me that she loved looking at my cabinets, which are so different from when she met me several years ago. Back then, our diet was high in processed grocery-store foods, and there were lots of boxed and canned things. Now, it’s full canning jars that hold all sorts of things like dried beans, (real from the tree) homemade maple syrup, bulk nuts and sugar, but no boxes of Ritz crackers or Jell-O instant pudding mix ;).

    Our diet has changed drastically over the last few years, and like you (probably because of you ;), we don’t buy any produce, except apples and potatoes (but only if they are from Maine), from the grocery store. We don’t have a reliable cold storage, and during the winter, those two items are our stable for “fresh” food. Everything else, we either grow ourselves or get from the farmer’s market or a local farm stand in season and preserve.

  19. Lauren says:

    I’ve always feed my family mostly from scratch, but we are continuing to try and edit our store list too. Our kitchen garden continues to expand as we added strawberries, blueberries, three dwarf apple trees this spring. With greens and veggies and herbs, I’m hoping to have lots of surplus to broaden my preserving experience and have a wider variety of things to put up for winter.
    I’m really looking forward to enjoying some of the heirloom melon I’m growing this year.
    We often get our eggs from friends (though I’m really working on my husband to agree to a few backyard chickens!).
    Currently, I’m most excited about recently finding a local source for raw milk for drinking and making butter and cheese.
    Blessings for a good and productive year!

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