How to Easily Eat Local

We hear a lot about eating local. Eating local is good for the environment, your community and your health. But, it can be challenging to do. And, it can be expensive!

Eating local has so many benefits. Buying food from your area helps local farmers. Whether you live in a city, suburb or the country, supporting businesses closer to home helps your community grow and can help you feel more connected to your area. It can also be cheaper. We think of eating local as a privilege of wealthy people shopping at co-ops. However, shopping for produce that is in season can take a weight off your wallet. Imported raspberries in the middle of winter are much more expensive in the store than when they are in season in your region. A lot of that high price comes from how much was spent to transport it to the store. If you see peaches in January, you can bet they didn’t grow near you. If corn is selling at four for a dollar, at the height of summer, it might have come from your own county.

Moreover, eating local has health benefits. The shorter a food supply chain is, the less likely it is to come in contact with contaminants that could make you sick. You should always wash produce. But, if you miss a spot, it’s nice to know it’s probably cleaner than what you could buy that’s traveled thousands of miles. Local food also has many more nutrients than a lot of produce that has to be stored, shipped and kept cool for long periods before reaching you. And the food is tastier, which may encourage you to eat more produce. Fruits and veggies are often harvested before they are ripe so that they will keep longer in transport. Crops that are coming right from the vine have a lot more flavor.  

Farmer’s Markets are excellent — if you have them in your neighborhood. But, many of us don’t have that luxury. By joining a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program, you can have food from a nearby farm delivered to you. Even if you live in a city, it will be a farmer significantly closer to you than buying food imported to your supermarket from overseas. You pay upfront, and a box is delivered to you weekly. It’s great for you because you’re getting fresh food; it’s excellent for the farmer because they go into the growing season knowing their budget and yield goals. Many CSA programs have options to receive meat and some homemade things, like bread. There are drawbacks; some CSAs are expensive and, if you live alone, you may get far more food than you want. But, a Google search can help you find one that is right for you. If you are interested in meat exclusively, you can buy a meat share. They’re pretty much the same as a CSA but, instead of buying into the farm’s produce, you are supporting a single animal to get cuts of meat. You can freeze the cuts if it’s too much for you.

Shopping locally can be done at the supermarket with packaged goods as well through reading labels. We are big fans of reading labels because of the nutritional information on them. But, additionally, you can see where something came from. You might be surprised to learn that the tinned tomatoes you usually buy are from Italy while the ones sitting next to it on the shelf are from the U.S. Even if it’s not from your state, U.S.-grown veggies are better than ones that have been shipped for days on end from another country. Nowadays, fresh fruit and veggies often have labels as well, telling you the origin for the plant. If you live in an area with a short growing period, consider freezing fresh produce to use at a later date.

Finally, growing some food for yourself can be highly rewarding. Be it a vegetable patch in the yard, tomatoes in a window box or spices in your kitchen, you can eat as locally as your own home!
September 09, 2019

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