Getting the Most for Your Food Dollar Locally

I live in a small town. It is a 25-minute drive to the nearest town with large grocery stores and specialty shopping. The drive costs me about  $6 in gas and wear and tear on the vehicle. I’m also a busy person, and that extra 50 minutes has a price tag of it’s own.  As a result, I do a lot of my day-to-day food shopping right here in town.

Many small town businesses are eager to keep local money local. The ”buy local” movement is strong in my area. I support it as much as possible because I want to be able to live in a freestanding town without having to travel long distances for basic needs. I don’t want to be living in a bedroom community or a suburb where most of us are strangers.

On the other hand, I don’t support unsustainable businesses or shoddy merchandise simply because it is local. I think it is reasonable to want a fair exchange of merchandise for money.  Here are the ways that I operate within this ethic locally in my food buying:

  • The farmer’s market. I buy from them if they have a superior product or one that I can’t or won’t grow myself. Most of the folks who sell at our local farmer’s market cater to a niche market of people who place the greatest value on organics, locally grown products, and atmosphere.
  • Honor-system sales. Local gardeners will put a cart or wagon at the end of their driveway with a locked money box and sell their extra produce for wonderful prices. They have all they need and are making a little extra money on the overflow. It is a win-win situation for both parties. I buy a lot of the fresh food this way. It is a great local system. There was a glut of squash and pumpkins last year. I bought giant butternut and banana squash for $1 a piece. I still have one butternut squash in my cool pantry waiting to be eaten.  I bought a year’s supply of green peppers for 25 cents each and froze them.  We will finish them at about the time this year’s pepper start to ripen.
  • Meat and vegetables purchased directly from the farm. Another win-win situation. The farmer gets more money for their product because they don’t have to package it (much), ship it (much), or share the profits with anyone else. I get a superior product for a fair price (usually less than at the supermarket). Truck farms with roadside stands, beef that a local farmer brings to a local locker plant, and honey from a local apiary (bring your own gallon jar) are examples of the types of food I buy.
  • The local grocery store. We have an independently owned grocery store in our town. They get a lot of their food from a large distribution warehouse that doesn’t get their food locally. Oh well, at least the store owners are locals! I shop mainly the weekly sale items and loss leaders. I use coupons to bring the local price down to what it would be if I had been shopping in a larger store or town. I also keep an eye out for discounted, near-date merchandise, which also makes the local store’s prices more competitive or cheaper than that of the bigger city grocery stores.

Have I missed anything? Growing your own food for the cost of the seeds and your time, gathering wild food, and bartering (I barter eggs for fresh goat cheese) for fresh foods is probably the most local eating you can do! Take care and happy bargain hunting. Begonia

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