Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Inventory of the Cellar

As the harvest/preserving season wraps up for the 2013 season, I organized the cellar and freezer and took stock of how much food we’ve produced and put by for the year. I was a little more detailed in my record keeping this year than I have been in the past, as I work to figure out how much food we actually need, how much it costs and how much I save, etc. 

These records are purely for my own information, but I’m posting them in case anyone is interested (and also, because if they are on the blog, I won’t lose them.)

In the cellar:
246 jars of food (fruit, vegetables, jams, sauces/salsas/condiments, syrups, soups.)
16 delicata squash (each will provide one meal)
6 large pie pumpkins (will equal approx 20 cans of pumpkin)
22 lbs fresh-stored carrots (with more to harvest)
12 lbs fresh-stored beets (I canned half the beet harvest as pickled beets)
17 lbs potatoes (with more to harvest)
? dried beans (haven’t shelled them yet. Maybe 5 lbs? Not much.)
62 heads of garlic (enough for planting this fall, too.)
75 onions
several bunches of dried herbs (dill, parsley, basil, thyme, oregano, lavender)
8 quarts of dried fruit and tomatoes
24 sheets of fruit leather (equals about 96 “fruit roll-ups”)
In the freezer:
5 lbs carrots
2 lbs broccoli
5 gallons of soups
4 quarts of chopped green onions
2 lbs chopped bell peppers
7 cups of spaghetti sauce
14 cups of pesto
I chose to can most of our food this year when it was possible, since freezer space is limited.

These totals don’t include the fresh veggies we’ve eaten through the summer, beginning in May and lasting about 5 months. Most meals were planned around what was coming out of the garden.

16 chickens
3 turkeys (yet to be butchered)
1 goat (yet to be butchered.)
(hoping this will total about 40 meals’ worth of food, plus broth for soups.)
(There is also hope still for one -or two- elk this year, which would provide a full year's worth of meat, and enough to share.)

Dairy (year totals)
About 50 gallons of milk (I don’t keep daily records. This is a close estimate.)
About 45 dozen eggs (again, this is an estimate. They slow down in the winter, but produce 3-4 dozen per week during the summer.)

I wish I had the numbers to put a value to all of the food in this house right now, but I’m not that organized yet.

But the total cost of all of it?

$175 in locally, farm-purchased fruits and vegetables that I didn’t/couldn’t raise myself.
$60 in garden seeds
$60 in meat birds
Approx $120 in meat chicken feed
Another $120 in egg hen feed (not including the feed cost of the show birds.)
$240 in grain for goats

Not sure of the cost of jar lids, bought about $24 of canning jars this year, plus spices, sugar, etc. that I didn’t keep records of. Estimating about $75 in those supplies.

So total cost for the above listed foods? $824

Also, figure at least 250 hours of work. At least. Honestly, it’s probably a whole lot more, but sometimes it’s hard to decipher work from play around here.

The amount seems enormous, but when it's spread over 6 months or so, it's not terrible... and if I make the effort, I could cut our monthly grocery bill down to about $100 for 5 or 6 months.  That puts us at roughly $233 per month, eating healthy, organically grown vegetables, pastured meat, raw milk and fresh eggs. I realize some folks live on plenty less than this each month, but seriously y'all, we eat really good food!
So is it worth it? Absolutely.

 Raising meat chickens is utterly uneconomical, between the cost of the birds and feed, the amount of work required in the raising and butchering of them… if we could find a way to hatch our own meat chicks and raise our own feed, it would make more sense. (I’ve heard you can raise chickens almost entirely on clabbered cow’s milk. I’m not opposed to trying this when our cow is in milk) Turkeys are a much bigger bang for your buck, even when raised from poults. Goats can be expensive, since grain is a requirement, but the milk they provide for drinking, cooking, plus yogurt, cheese, etc. is so worth it… and goats provide a lot of fun, too. (Most people pay more for a monthly cable bill than we do for our goats, and goats are far more entertaining!) We also raise all the hay our animals will use, and they graze pasture during the spring, summer, and fall. This cuts down significantly on the cost of meat and milk production. It’s hard for me to estimate the value of the egg chickens vs. the cost of their feed, since most of our chickens are show-breed bantams that The Oldest raises for fun (and are therefore worthless when it comes to laying.)

The garden is amazing, though. The sheer number of pounds of food produced with just $60 worth of seeds in incredible. Fresh vegetables all through the summer months and well into the fall and winter. The fertilizer is provided by the menagerie in the barns, the water comes from our irrigation, and the man-power is provided by Two Little Girls and myself. (Bonus: gardening and other farm chores also provide a great daily workout, omitting what some folks pay in gym memberships.)What doesn’t get eaten provides extra feed for the animals. 

Are we anywhere close to self-sufficient? Not at all. Until I can grown my own wheat and oats, we'll still be making monthly trips to the grocery store. Though I have started looking into the details of raising sugar beets, just as an experiment...

When I sent Littlest One down-cellar the other day for a jar of pears, she came up with them and said, “Do you know what I thought when I went into the cellar? I thought, ‘I’m so proud of my mom for putting all this food in here for us to eat.’”

So is it worth it? Yep, you betcha. And it's even kinda fun, too. :-)

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