We’ve all heard it again and again: “eat local, eat local, eat local, go green, eat local”. But sometimes we need the constant reminders. After all, our earth has seen better days, and eating locally sourced food is truly a great way to reduce our carbon footprint with the added bonus of increased nutrition. So how do you do it? And what if your income doesn’t give you much wiggle room?
1. Start in your own yard.
When we say local, we mean local. As in, your front yard. You don’t need much space for a raised bed or two. No yard? How about a few pots. Literally no outside space of your own? If you have any window with direct light you can probably keep an herb box alive. Herbs at the grocery store are expensive! This is a start.
2. Now let’s shimmy into the kitchen.
Ok, let’s keep it super local and mosey into the kitchen. Bake your own bread. Brew your own cold brew. Experiment with fermented veggies. It’s all fun, and SO easy. I bought a groovy (pricey) jar of kimchi and then researched recipes. Reaction: “MAANNNNN!” I was robbed.
3. Take that kimchi and swap it.
Now, take that dope kimchi and swap it for your neighbor’s eggs. We don’t all need to do it all. Reach out to friends, neighbors, farmers, etc. and see what some good ol’ fashioned bartering can get you!
4. Join a CSA.
But join a CSA that fits your taste buds and budget. Before jumping on board with the first CSA you come to, do some research. Many of us are familiar with the common CSA story titled, “My Share Was 40lbs of Beets And Now I Can Never Eat a Beet Again.” If you’re not into canning, maybe a CSA with this structure isn’t for you. Instead, look into “debit style” CSAs. This allows you to pick what you want, when you want. Rather than paying to add 2 tons of cabbage to your weekly diet, you can stick to your normal go-to veggies. This means you’re replacing your normal grocery store items with local food, not spending money on a ridiculous amount of something you don’t like. Some farms will “match” your investment. For example, you invest $300 and get $18 extra for a 6% match. Some farms even offer “pick your own” shares for a lower price. Check it out! Ask questions.
5. There are CSFs too.
Ever heard of a CSF? Yeah, I hadn’t either, until last spring. CSF stands for community supported fishery. Sign up/pay for however many weeks you’d like to participate, and the number of pounds of fish you’d like each week. Simply pick up your fresh, filleted fish at one of many convenient pickup locations and get cookin’! Support your local fisherman, eat fresh favorites as well as “under-utilized” species (they’re tasty too!), all without spending much more than you would at the store. In fact, if you buddy up with a friend and split the share, you may even beat your grocery store’s price.
6. A good farmers market will have it all.
If there’s a product your CSA doesn’t offer, farmers markets are a great way to fill gaps. If you’re looking for something popular that sells out immediately, like eggs, be sure to get there early. Otherwise, hitting the end of the market hours is a great way to score some sweet price markdowns. Regardless of when you go, a good way to keep your spending controlled is to only bring as much cash as you’re willing to spend. Most farmers markets are cash only, and if not, pretend it is!
7. Eating out is fun.
Let’s face it. Sometimes, even when pinching pennies, we find ourselves at a restaurant. That’s cool. Enjoy it. And if possible, find a place that sources local ingredients. Most restaurants with local fare are pretty proud, so a quick trip to their website should give you an idea of where they get their food.
So get out there! Get your hands in soil. Kneed some dough. Befriend your neighbor. Get to know the farmers and fishermen in your area. Eat what you want. Know where it came from. Enjoy.