We're all feeling price increases at the grocery store. Short of turning your backyard into a mini-homestead, is there anything you can do to feed your family well amid rising costs? One way to get your hands on high-quality food is to look local for some of the things you would normally get at the supermarket out of convenience. But what’s the benefit of locally grown food? And where would you get it?
Benefits of choosing locally grown food when you can
Aside from supporting small farmers and doing the planet a favor, there are a lot of practical reasons to choose locally grown food.
Cost. The cost of locally grown food is typically much lower than the cost of food that’s been shipped across the country or even overseas. This is because local farmers don't have to pay for transportation costs, and they don't have to pay a middleman because they don't necessarily have to sell in big box grocery stores.
Quality. Locally grown food is typically fresher and of better quality than food that has traveled long distances. This is because local farmers can pick their produce at the peak of ripeness, and they don't have to worry about it being damaged or rotting in transit.
Taste. Locally grown food can taste fresher and more flavorful than mass-produced food.
The path from farm to table is shorter, smaller farms can give more attention to smaller, more manageable crops, and farmers with fewer resources need to grow in the proper growing seasons—all of which contribute to a more delicious result.
Where to find local vegetables, meat, and dairy
Sourcing locally-grown food can be tricky because farmers don’t always have a marketing budget or get the word out efficiently. Here are some places you can check for local food sources.
- Check your local farmer’s market. Farmer’s markets are a great place to find locally grown food. You can usually find a farmer’s market in most towns and cities, and they're typically open from spring through fall. Not only are farmer’s markets a great place to pick up some fresh groceries, but it’s also a great way to talk to farmers and get the scoop on where to get other local goods you’re after.
- Shop at a local food co-op or hubs. Co-ops are member-owned grocery stores that sell locally grown food, and food hubs are regional distributors that sell food from local farms.
- Sign up for community-supported agriculture (CSA). With a CSA, you pay a farmer upfront for a share of their crops. You then get a weekly box of seasonal produce throughout the growing season. The main benefit is you get the best of what's in season, right at peak ripeness.
There's a small chance certain crops will fail and you'll eat the cost, but if the farm grows a variety, it's more likely that you’ll follow a typical seasonal pattern where certain crops will thrive while others may have a weaker season.
Some CSAs only share vegetables, or only meat, or only vegetables with occasional eggs, etc. Others will share a little bit of everything. Check the season's offerings before you sign up so you know what you're getting.
- Grow your own food. Growing a few staples doesn’t take a ton of space. Consider dedicating a portion of your backyard or even a small patio to growing your own fruits and vegetables. Not only is it a great way to get fresh, local food, but it’s a great way to slow down and connect with nature.
- Look into bulk meat. Some farmers sell livestock by the ¼, ½, or the whole animal, already portioned for your freezer. It’s a significant expense upfront, so grab a friend or two to go in on a bulk meat purchase. You’ll likely save money in the long run, and the quality tends to be better when you purchase this way.
You don’t have to go full locavore. Swapping a few grocery trips for farmer’s market trips, going in with a friend on a bulk meat purchase, or setting up a small container planter is all you need to do. Start small, and add swaps for locally-grown foods as it makes sense. If you get creative, you don’t have to choose between saving money and eating well!