This post originally appeared on Alicia’s blog, Cape Breton Local Food Adventure. She has kindly allowed me to republish it here.
Well, once again the market season is here, and everyone is thinking about buying local! This year perhaps more than other years, people are also thinking about food costs.
With rising prices of not only food, but electricity, oil and just about everything else, some people are asking if they can afford to buy local. I talk a lot about keeping money in our own communities and supporting our local economy, but we must be practical and look at the personal economic aspects of buying local, I realize. Buying local has to be practical and accessible to everyone!
My experience with eating local food is that it actually saves our family money now that we have developed some strategies and changed the way we view meat and think about cooking. I was asked to speak at a Frugal Friday event last week at our local library in Baddeck and prepared the following handout for the event.
Frugal Local Food Ideas
Find Food! – In Cape Breton there are lots of great berries and other edibles to find in the wild. Turn a family hiking trip into a berry picking trip or start looking at dandelions as the first salad greens! Look for a book on wild edibles at the library.
Grow Food! – Whether it is container gardening, a plot at the community garden or something much larger, growing your own food is an effort that will be rewarded. Start off small with transplants and a few good books and in no time at all, your thumb will be green.
Make Friends with your farmers! – Sometimes farmers are willing to trade labour for food. This is a really great way to get kids involved in growing too. Come to the farmers markets and make friends.
Plan your meat! – Meat can be one of the most expensive parts of your meal and we don’t need to eat as much as we do. Cook larger portions such as a whole chicken on a day that you have more time; save portions for other dishes. Having cooked meat will make a week day meal much faster and easier to prepare. Develop a group of recipes that work together, scan some cookbooks for ideas!
Invest in a freezer! – It may seem like a big expense but it will pay off in the long run. Owning a freezer will allow you to save things when in season and buy in bulk. Look for good quality used ones that are not too old so they are energy efficient.
Buy in Bulk! – Buying beef and other meats by the side or quarter is a way to save a lot of money. It is also possible to work out deals with farmers to buy larger quantities of produce at lower prices sometimes.
Pick your Priorities! – If you want to buy more organic and local products you must expect that while the price of most vegetables will be close, some things like organic cheese or bread and free range eggs will be more. This reflects the true cost of delivering high quality. Remember that buying less junk food saves money too. One trip to the fast food place per month or a coffee a day can really add up!
These strategies have proven to save our family money and I think that everyone can create their own strategy. As an example, here is our last years beef order:
- 6 packages of hamburger (2lb each)
- 7 roasts of different varieties – no bones
- 3 large soup bones
- 4 packages of stew meat
- 27 packages of steak. (2 steaks per pack) – 6 of these were T-bone packs.
All of this cost $300, and we were able to tell our producer that we wanted mostly 2″ steaks and not much hamburger. It was also processed at a licensed abattoir and delivered in neat clean packages ready for the freezer. I am quite sure that we couldn’t have ate the way we did all winter without local food!
The other Frugal Friday posts on this blog: