25 Tips for Eating Locally on a Budget

BlogHer Original Post

Even though I know that eating fresh, local food is good for my health, community and the environment, I don't always do it. It's challenging enough to find time and money to shop and cook in a healthy way, but adding eating locally into the mix feels like an overwhelming challenge.

That's why I recently attended a panel about Eating Locally on a Budget with Deborah Madison (Local Flavors, Seasonal Fruit Desserts), Leda Meredith, (The Locavore's Handbook), Jessica Prentice, (Full Moon Feast ), and Temra Costa (Farmer Jane) with the hope of finding suggestions for how to eat locally with limited time and money.

I've compiled 25 ideas for eating locally on a budget from their discussion, and I hope you'll share your own tips in the comments:

Change your mindset

1. Reframe thinking about spending money on fresh, local, and organic food as an investment, rather than a luxury.

2. Prioritize spending money on food over other things.

3. Embrace limits. Have more expensive food for special occasions, not every day.

Change your shopping habits

4. Every fruit and vegetable has a season. Within that season there is a peak season, which is the cheapest time to buy them.

5. Create purchasing criteria. Prioritize which foods you will be flexible with, and which you will always buy when they are organic and local.

6. Walk around the farmers' market before you buy anything to compare prices.

7. Make a list before shopping to prevent impulse buys.

8. Don't go shopping when you're hungry to prevent over-buying.

9. Get over "meat prejudice." Stewing cuts are cheaper than steak and hamburger. Whole animals and cuts with the bone in them are cheaper than, for example, a boneless, skinless chicken breast. Mutton is cheaper than lamb.

10. Find out if your farmers' market takes food stamps. (Some do.)

Change your cooking habits

11. Plan your menu around seasonal fruits and veggies.

12. Eat the whole vegetable (e.g. beet and the beet greens, chard leaves and stems).

13. Use bone broth when cooking to get inexpensive nutrition without having to add meat to the dish.

14. Embrace rice and beans!

15. Use a slow cooker.

16. Use a pressure cooker (apparently they don't blow up anymore!).

17. Always cook enough to have leftovers.

Change your lifestyle

18. Grow your own fruits and veggies. If your yard is sunny and your neighbor's is shady, grow the appropriate plants in each of your plots and trade.

19. Can, freeze, pickle, and dry fruits and veggies by yourself or with others while they are in season.

20. Join a community garden.

21. Raise your own chickens and/or bees.

22. Volunteer at farmers' markets and CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) in exchange for free or discounted produce.

23. Buy, cook, and share food with friends and neighbors.

24. Create, or join a CSK (Community Supported Kitchen).

25. Eat nutrient-dense foods. You'll need to eat less, and won't need to buy vitamin supplements.

What are your tips for eating locally on a budget?

Two of mine are to check out Sustainable Table and Local Harvest. They are great resources for finding farmers' markets, CSAs, food co-ops, and other sustainable food resources.

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Photo of heirloom tomatoes from the Temescal Farmers' Market by me.
Britt Bravo, also blogs at Have Fun * Do Good.

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