Food on a Budget Tip #3: Join a CSA

I joined my first Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) a couple of days ago! Chow Locally, is a subscription based service that serves the Phoenix area. It offers a box of certified naturally and organically grown local food, available for weekly pick-up. All of the providers are located within 150 miles of Phoenix, which is one way to support the local economy.

So what is community supported agriculture? Community supported agriculture, commonly called a CSA, is a way for consumers and farmers to take on the benefits and risks of producing food on a farm.  The consumer pays upfront for a share of the farmer’s production and in return receives a weekly or bi-weekly share of produce for a season. Because the farmer receives upfront payment for produce, the farmer is able to purchase seeds and other materials needed to support the farm. Both the farmer and the consumer assume the risk that it might be a poor growing season. Despite this risk, many are joining CSAs because it fosters community, supports the local economy, and promotes healthy eating. Often, a stipulation is that the consumer volunteer for a couple of hours; this further fosters a sense of community. All depending on the CSA, they offer a variety of options: fruits, vegetable, eggs, meat, etc.

CSAs made the food on a budget list  because when I broke down the numbers, took into account the quantity and quality of food received, and the social and economic benefits; it is worth the cost.

My subscription is 23.97 a week (including tax), which comes out to 95.88 a month for a box of packaged produce. Chow Locally, does not operate like a traditional CSA in a couple of ways. The company offers service year-round, in comparison to most CSAs that operate seasonally. Chow Locally, also offers the option to pause or cancel subscription anytime without a fee, in comparison to most CSAs that do not offer an option to opt out. Chow Locally, also does not require volunteer work, in comparision to most CSAs that suggest a couple of hours a season spent volunteering in some capacity. However, like most CSAs, Chow Locally, does offer recipes that coincide with the weekly share.

The great thing about CSAs  whether it is a traditional or hybrid model, is that there are many ways to lower costs. You can split a share with a friend and many CSAs are based on income.

Because of my new subscription to the CSA, I actually have been able to reduce my food budget by 40 dollars. Instead of operating on a 200 dollar per month budget, I now will be on a 160 dollar per month budget. After the costs of the CSA, I am left with $64.12 a month to spend on miscellaneous items, like grains, eggs, fish, etc. For the month of September I will test out if I need to go back to my original budget.

Next time you go to the grocery store, ask yourself if you would rather know the origins of your food and pay a low cost for it or spend more money on food that traveled international waters from a farm you don’t know.

If you decide to try out a CSA, check out Local Harvest or Organic Consumers Organization to find a food subscription option in your area.


An urban planning PhD student finding peace in creating a balance between the mind, body, soul, & environment.

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Photo Credit: Chow Locally

School is in session! 15 back to school tips

I had the Billy Madison “Back to School” song stuck in my head as I prepared to start my first day of classes last Thursday. I reflected on my academic career and thought about resources I wish I had known about prior to graduating.

The first day of class can be daunting and if you are a first year student, you often are clueless about the resources available to college students.

I decided to pull together a brief list of resources and articles I thought could be helpful to new or returning students.



Often times you are living off a stipend or refund check. Creating a budget and finding a scholarship can be useful ways to save money while in college.


You are in school to succeed professionally, socially, and academically. Make the most of all the academic resources available on campus


To me a campus is like a small town, so it is important to be mindful of the environmental impact of all the students, staff, faculty, and facilities.

Social Media 

You wrote or posted something silly on social media and quickly deleted. All clear right? Not necessarily. Screenshots have the been demise of many. Before you hit send or take a wild photo, make sure it is something you don’t mind digitally following you and being attached to your reputation.

Graduate School 

Entrance into graduate school means the level of expectations is high. Take the time to learn the ropes.


Depending on your major you will write many papers. Even if you do not have a major that requires significant writing, I suggest learning the basics.


Being organized has helped me tremendously in my life. Find something that works for you and stick to the plan; it will make things go smoothly.


In addition to studying and planning your career, remember to laugh and enjoy yourself.


Any great resources or articles you would add to this list?



An urban planning PhD student finding  peace in creating a balance between the mind, body, soul, & environment.

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Photo Credit: Maryam



Food on a budget Tip #2: Make a budget

I realized I jumped ahead of myself and didn’t even mention that before you can eat food on a budget, you must make a budget!

Where do you start? One good resource is the USDA Cost of Food at Home database. This database dating back to 1994 lists suggested per week spending on food. What I like about this guideline is that it breaks down cost per week, year, age, sex, and spending style (thrifty, low, moderate, liberal).

Use this guideline as your starting point. I try to keep my cost level at thrifty/low, meaning  as of June 2013 statistics,  for my age and sex, I’m spending roughly $162 – $203 per month.

I also add on an additional $20 for going out to eat per month and $10 per month for household items.

Budget wisely

If I reach my budget limit for the month, that is it! I need to either ‘borrow’ money from another one of my budget categories (only when you really have nothing to eat)  or eat P&J for the remainder of the month.

On the other hand if I don’t reach my budget limit, I roll it over to the next month or I transfer that money to one of my saving goals like travel. I prefer to just take that money and put it towards my travel goal because I really want to travel. But, it is a month by month decision. For example, it might be beneficial to keep rolling over money for those circumstances like hosting friends for Thanksgiving or brunch.

Just some other  money saving thoughts:

If you don’t keep a budget and you just spend money on the fly, I suggest using the website You Need a Budget (save $6 with this link). It has been useful to me and I recommend it for those who need a nudge in the right direction.

If your goal is to increase your net worth, than you need to learn how to save, spend wisely, and of course earn money. In order for me to reach my financial goals, I needed to evaluate my spending habits and strictly adhere to a budget. That may mean you have friends that side eye you when you say you can’t go out for happy hour 5x in a month, but at the end of the day, it’s your money and your comfort level not theirs.

Make a budget and stick to it. If you get a promotion at work and increased pay, great! But, be wary of increasing your spending habits. You won’t get wealthy by increasing your material goods every time you make more money. Stay within your old limits and stack that new money.

Food is one area that is easy to spend out of control and I hope that with these tips, you will be able to eat healthy and well on a budget.

These are the two Food on a Budget segments:

1. Food on a Budget Tips. This will be weekly. I’ve been brainstorming and I’m up to 25 tips, but please feel free to send over any thoughts, questions, and ideas, and I will answer them. Be sure to subscribe to this blog to stay updated.

2. Food on a Budget Pictures. I will post pictures on various social media sites(make sure you are following me). I will also share the cost per serving, what I purchased, and what I spent on groceries for the week/month.

Food is a major interest of mine, so I’m happy my cousin suggested I share my strategies!

I hope I am helpful.



An urban planning PhD student finding peace in creating a balance between the mind, body, soul, & environment.

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Photo Credit: Tax Credits

Time travel and other road trip reflections

Hello from Arizona!

I arrived safely in Arizona on August 5th after taking a week long road trip from New York to Arizona and making stops in Atlanta, New Orleans, and El Paso.  I finally feel settled in, comfortable, and ready to start blogging again.

It was a wonderful experience to drive through the United States and take in the culture and environmental landscapes of various states.

Time Travel

Driving through all the different time zones made me feel like Marty McFly from the Back to the Future Series. It really started to mess with me while driving through the LONG (not Lone) state of Texas. When I turned to my brother to ask him the time he told me 2 a.m., when I turned to me brother again for the time he told me 2 a.m. We hit 2 a.m. twice and reality hit;  the GPS time of arrival was not based on where we left, but where we were going. I think it was at that moment it sunk in for both of us that we really were driving from New York to Arizona with only gravel, darkness, and beautiful stars as our surroundings.


The United States is beautiful. As we left the metro areas of  New York and Atlanta and started to venture into Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Texas, the sky began to look clear. As we approached El Paso, the sky was so breathtaking that I was distracted. The brightness of stars and the clarity of the sky showcased the world beyond Earth. When it is just you and the road you start to reflect on life. That backdrop of the  clear sky and stars had me thinking. The best part of my trip was seeing two shooting stars while driving through Texas. It was amazing and it felt like validation that I am on the right track. I recommend a road trip be added to everyone’s bucket list!




Mississippi was pretty, but the bridge structures were scary to drive across, especially in the rain. The people were friendly and I had some comic relief at the rest stop; talk about perpetuating regional stereotypes!

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New Orleans

My brother and I ate a lot of food on the trip. A lot of food I normally would never eat, but it was worth it. The best food hands down was New Orleans. Is it weird that I still think about one of the meals?!  I don’t enjoy oysters, but my friend told me to try this charbroiled oysters with parmesan cheese and bread. Wow! It was amazing. My brother was adamant that he wouldn’t try the oysters, but in the end he ate more than everyone!

The city has a 19th century feel to it and has beautiful architecture. We were able to drive around the city and see the areas that were hit by  Hurricane Katrina. It was interesting to see that years later that homes were still damaged. It was also interesting to see the new homes that were built, were nice, but seemed out of place in the neighborhoods.

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Arizona is beautiful and hot. I am getting used to the neighborhood, but so far I am enjoying myself. I am a frequent guest blogger on ‘On the Brink’, check out my post that I wrote about my new city and sustainability.  I have plenty of pictures and thoughts about Tempe and Arizona State University, which I wrote about over on that blog.


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Riding in a vehicle for a long period of time is not for everyone. Driving a vehicle for a long period of time is not for everyone. You really need to have patience, a sense of adventure, and stamina. I love to drive because it is just me, the radio, the road, and my thoughts. I want to take another road trip, traveling through the midwest and the up the west coast. But, after driving about 3000 miles, I am ready to just sit back for several months.

Up Next

My first class of my urban planning doctorate journey starts this morning! I’ve been working on a schedule and I hope I will be able to blog at least once  a week on various topics, but bear with me if you don’t see a blog post. Do stay connected with me on social media, even if I don’t have time to formulate a full blog post, I do often post images or short thoughts on FacebookInstagram, Pinterest, and Twitter .


An urban planning PhD student finding peace in creating a balance between the mind, body, soul, & environment.

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