Local for Less?

“Local Organic Food” What comes to mind? Perhaps it conjures an image of wealthy, posh, glamorous people with baguettes in their bike baskets. Salads every night, $50 chickens and never eating mac and cheese again. It doesn’t have to be, and most often isn’t.

In my efforts to eat as sustainably and locally as I can, I have noticed a positive trend. More often than not, local small scale producers and stores often have lower prices than big name grocery stores. I have compiled a list of few reasons that I think make the local food scene a little more palatable for most shoppers, especially those on a smaller budget.

Could supporting our local economy and food systems actually benefit our lives in all the ways we hope it does? I like to think that it can and it will continue to if we begin to support our local small scale producers to the best of our ability. 

Small Produce/Fruit Markets vs Large Grocers

This past winter I spent in Toronto. In my neighbourhood there was a plethora of local fruit market and one chain grocery store. My romantic notions got the better of me and I decided to shop at all the small stores. I felt that they were all fairly inexpensive, but felt that I should be fiscally responsible and head over to actual grocery store. I happily discovered that the fruit markets were actually so much more affordable. When I thought about it, the overhead costs of small places like these are minimal and there is no need to charge exorbitant prices in order for the store to make a profit. 

Given the recent strawberry season, this example is fresh on my mind. Local strawberries at the grocery store were $5.99. When purchased at a roadside farmer’s store they were $4.50.

Increased life span  

Buy lettuce from your local farmer and it will last much longer than lettuce that has been shipped in to your local grocer. The proximity to the producer and farm let your produce be much more fresh when you buy it, allowing it to last longer in your fridge. You can stop throwing away your greens that you keep promising yourself you are going to start eating 😉 

Eating Meat?

I recently bought a flank steak at the local farmers market that was big enough to feed four very hungry eaters for $15. I then went to a grocery store and saw a flank steak, a quarter of the size for $10. I got 4x the meat, from the farmer, who gave me cooking tips and I was able to feed more for less.

This being said, meat and dairy products are often more expensive when produced on a small scale in a sustainable manner. By increasing the quality of animals lives that are being raised and used for our consumption you inherently increase the cost it takes to raise them. Our current ideas of the value of meat have been greatly skewed by large scale factory farming. If we want to source our meat from farms that respect their animals, we must acknowledge and respect the farmers that put in the necessary work to raise healthy, nutritious animals.

Using the whole animal is another part of sustainable meat eating that is not a common practice in western culture. I hope to explore more funky recipes with various cuts of meat in future.

Shopping the four corners of town

The biggest challenge I find for eating local is the readjustment of shopping habits. We lead busy lives and appreciate the convenience and consistency of the grocery store. Our menus are already set and practiced in our mind, we know what isles we need to go to, and where to find all the sales. I will admit wholeheartedly that this change of pace is the ultimate challenge. Eating locally is less about the posh market experience and looks a lot more like this:

Thursday the organic milk in glass bottles come into ____ store. Must get milk Thursday. Shit, out of milk on Tuesday. Am I going to be super committed and wait until Thursday? Hmmm, in desperate need of milk in my coffee. I should support local right? My local coffee shop needs my support. Okay I’m a great supporter, “large latte please.” Damn, that latte cost the same amount as the whole bottle of milk would have. Never doing this again…one week later…

As frustrating as these episodes may be, I will continue this cooking and lifestyle adventure, encouraged and inspired by our efforts in this together. So many of our food sources have negative impacts on the health of our world and bodies. Living to the best of our individual abilities based on our own life circumstances is so important.

Cheers to us and a sustainable future (with that beer I definitely got from our local brewer and refilled my growler with…)!!!

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