One Year of Eating Locally Challenge

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Last year I wanted to try to switch to primarily eating local, in-season, meals. Unfortunately, I was just so busy splitting my time between my "day" job and our business, that it felt too overwhelming to try and start something new. But, with May's change your life challenge of getting out of your comfort zone, it's time.

Some of you may be asking why and I wanted to give a bit of background on this.

I don't see myself as frugal, although I would like to be and strive to be, in many aspects of my life. One of those areas is groceries.  I previously shared with you that years ago, when I discovered the concept of meal planning, I also discovered it was a great way to help reduce grocery cost.

And it is!

Then, we went to a one-income household and I decided to challenge myself in reducing our food costs to $60.00 a week (dividing the annual cost by 52 weeks so that $60.00 is the average) as a means of ensuring financial success. Because that was a bit tighter than we liked, we then moved the bar to keeping our food costs under $100.00/week.

And now I've set a new goal.

Eating primarily locally grown and raised ingredients.


First was the book by Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which I read a few years ago. Then were the videos such as Food, Inc. I just finished the book Blessing The Hands That Feed Us, by Vicki Robin. In that book she referred to an article written by Rebecca Thistlewaite titled: Do You Have The Balls To Really Change The Food System?

All of this has made me think.

For so many reasons it just makes sense to try and buy as much from local farmers as possible. Some of them include:
  • To help maintain farmland (and green/open space) in your own community. If farms can't survive, the land may become strip malls, apartment buildings or developments. Purchasing directly from a farmer, rather than a faceless mega store, makes you think about and appreciate farmland. It's no longer invisible and someone else's responsibility. 
  • To eat fresher food. Local food spends less time in transit (it's usually picked the day of distribution and transported to a local farmers market or CSA drop-off) AND you're eating what's in season for your area.
  • To reduce oil consumption. According to Dawn Gifford of Small Footprint Family, if every U.S. Citizen ate just one meal a week composed entirely of locally and organically raised produce and grass-fed meats, eggs or dairy, we could reduce our country's oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week.
  • To strengthen your community by supporting your local farmers.
  • To eat food that is likely safer. It's provided by farmers you can meet, in conditions you can see for yourself. The safety of food continues to be a concern and I believe will only get worse. There's the worry of what is being put on/in the food itself to help it last in transit and look good, as well as the worry about salmonella or other dangerous bacteria coming into contact with your food and making you and your family sick.

  • To vote with your dollars and support humanely raised animals. If you're not vegetarian, taking a stance against the industrial production of meat.

There's also the concern about our current food system eventually collapsing. Vicki Robin says this about relational eating (eating locally and, therefore, forming a relationship with those who you purchase food from rather than it being a faceless producer):

Relational eating, being an "eater-in-community," can settle our fears about being fed on every level. When you have no relationship with food other than the megamart, you seem well supplied but are helpless without that store. When you stand in the middle of a living food system, growing some, trading some, buying some local and some from afar, you have more power to assure that you are fed - and fed well. Relational eating doesn't necessarily mean local food, it means that you, the eater, understand your place in the world.

Yes, I currently shop at the farmer's market, seek out local meats when I can and choose meals made with local ingredients, if offered, from the restaurants menus. But it's not enough. I'm not making it a point to buy as much as I can locally and then the remainder from other sources.

So that, my friends, is what I'm going to challenge myself to do.

I have no idea what this will cost us. Yes, food produced by local farmers certainly costs more than buying that which is industrialized. Once we raised chickens for meat for the first time ourselves, we certainly had a very good understanding of the costs. For those of you who grow a garden and deal with the planting, weeding, watering and lost crops, you understand the expense of fruit and veggies. The fees associated with certification and licensing can be enormous for small farms. All of this goes into what it costs to produce the food they bring to market.

But I also believe that if food is cheap, it makes it much easier to justify waste. According to Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland: "we don't eat 25% of the food we buy. We throw away $2,200 each year in uneaten food, from spoilage and plate waste". I can see how this is true - I have certainly noticed this with our own food patterns.

Eating locally, to me, is as much about supporting our local farmers which is investing more dollars in our local food system as it is about lessening the amount we spend to fund the industrial systems we don't agree with. It's voting with our dollars and every single person can make a small difference. By not purchasing ground burger, for instance, from the grocery store, and instead from a local farmer, you are choosing not to fund inhumane treatment of farm animals and the practice of adding pink slime (a slaughter byproduct added to some ground beef) to your meat.

Does that mean we will eat 100% locally? Nope.

There's too much that we choose to consume that is just not available and/or can't be grown or produced here. I like rolled oats for breakfast, rice with my meals, citrus fruit, bananas in my smoothies, coffee every single day, coconut milk as a non-dairy creamer, etc.

My goal is this: To continue raising and growing what we can. What we can't grow or raise, to purchase all of our food items locally, regardless of cost, first and then look to the rest with an eye out for regional items and fair trade, where applicable. This will absolutely change the way I plan menus as we still have a budget that I would like to stay in. It will likely include cutting down on meat and/or reducing the amount in a meal which will not go over well with my meat-and-potatoes-loving husband.....


Some of the items I know we can find locally year-round include:
- Fruits & Veggies
- Meat
- Seafood (it's regional not local as it's from the southern part of the state)
- Honey
- Maple Syrup
- Milk and milk products
- Cheese (cow, sheep and goat)
- Dried Beans
- Mushrooms
- Jams/Jellies and other preserved foods

I'll share with you what we purchase locally, the costs, and our meal plans.

Eating locally goes hand-in-hand with eating real foods. Thankfully, we do this, for the most part, on a daily basis. As you know, I make most things from scratch so this is one transition that won't need to happen.

How about you? Have you ever tried to purchase the majority of your food locally? Have you ever challenged yourself to eat, even for a week, what you can get at your local farmers markets?

I certainly anticipate some challenges in trying to eat primarily local grown/raised. One is trying to create recipes that don't use exotic or out of season ingredients. Another is trying to find many ways to use the little variety available in winter and spring. And lastly, thinking ahead to buy extra fruit and veggies that can be preserved to eat later on in the year when we need options. I also have no idea if it will be more expensive compared to what we've been typically spending.  I will share it all here.


How about you - have you tried eating locally?  If so, what were some of your challenges?



3 comments

daisy gurl said...

I would like to grow more of our food. It would be a great family project, but alas, I don't live with gardeners. So I do what I can. It is very rewarding to enjoy something you've grown yourself.

If anyone can meet this challenge, it's you. Eat well!

Grow Gather Enjoy said...

I've been slowly making the transition to eating locally. I'm still not there 100% but it's a work in progress. I love to grow and make as much as possible as this makes it a whole lot easier. My biggest challenge I think is not switching to auto pilot when it comes to food choices and shopping so that I'm keeping my decisions deliberate and keeping local front of mind. We also moved interstate 6months ago and I'm still working on sourcing of some items.
I look forward to following along with how you go.
Cheers,
Laura

Staci at Life At Cobble Hill Farm said...

Aw, thanks so much Daisy! Indeed it is gratifying to enjoy what you've grown. I so agree!

Laura - I completely agree! And that's what has set us back prior. Once things get crazy auto pilot goes on and before you know it, you're shopping where you've always shopped and buying what you've always bought. Thanks so much for sharing bits of your own story and for following along!