Guest Post by Noelle Tarr
Everyday – my husband used to take an apple with him to work as part of his lunch. It’s not that he had any sort of serious love affection for apples, but it was easy, convenient and available at grocery stores year-round.
Then, I read this article about how most apples in the grocery store are over a year old. Um… WHAT? Seriously America? We’d both been following an ancestral diet for 2 years, but how could we not have know about this whole “year-old” thing? Needless to say, I made an impulse decision to completely overhaul the quality of the food we consumed and limited our produce to only organic, whether part of the “dirty dozen” or not, and our meats and eggs to the highest quality available in-store. No exceptions.
And $500 (extra) later… I quickly found out that wasn’t going to work in the budget.
Simply put – eating local and seasonal means purchasing foods that are grown in or around your area, and changing the foods you consume based on what’s in-season where you live. When you eat local and seasonal, you not only save money on the foods you purchase, but you also get foods that are more nutrient-dense because they are grown in fertile soil with little to no exposure to pesticides. You also get to try new, more exotic foods that require a bit of research and creativity to prepare – which makes you look very impressive to dinner guests (score!)
To show you just how easy and “cheap” healthy, pesticide-free eating can be, I’ve compared my most recent farmer’s market “haul” with the prices I would have paid for similar quality foods at the grocery store.
Here’s the breakdown. I spent $28.80 on 9 Sweet Potatoes ($1/lb), 1 Large Kale ($2.50), 1 Large Butternut Squash ($1/lb), 4 Zucchini Squash ($2/lb), 9 apples ($1.79/lb), 1 peppers ($2.50/lb), and 8 Tomatoes ($2/lb). The nutrients are rich, and the produce is pesticide-free.
On a trip to my local grocery store, I would have spent:
- 9 Organic Gala Apples @ 2.59lb = $11.65
- 1 Large Organic Kale @ 2.99 each = $2.99
- 4 Organic Zucchini Squash @ 2.99lb = $6.57
- 1 Organic Butternut Squash @ 1.69lb = $5.07
- 8 Organic Roma Tomatoes @ 3.49lb = $9.42
- 9 Large Organic Sweet Potatoes @ 1.69lb = $15.21
- 1 Organic Pepper @ 2.99lb = $1.50
Total Cost = $57.48
I saved 28.68 (almost 50%) by getting more nutrient dense, local foods that support my local farmers instead of supporting conventional monoculture farming with Monsanto’s influence! Three cheers for the Maryland farms!
I used two separate grocery stores for the prices above – the first being my local discount grocery store, followed by my local organic market for items I couldn’t find organic like sweet potatoes and butternut squash.
In fact, I also did some research on conventional produce prices at this time – and the local zucchini squash, peppers, and tomatoes that I got at the Farmer’s Market were the same price as the convention, non-organic ones at our “discount” grocery store. Not only that, but items like “grass-fed” beef and “free range” eggs were MORE expensive then the $6.00/lb and $4.99/dozen I paid for local pastured beef and eggs at the farmer’s market.
Finding Your Farmer’s Market
There is NO excuse for not venturing out to your local farms or farmer’s market and finding local, fresh, delicious produce, fruits, and pastured eggs and meats for CHEAP. Yes, I said cheap. Where I currently live in Maryland, we have THREE separate Farmer’s Markets throughout the area – all on different days hosted by different organizations. Sometimes, it can be an hour or more drive – but using techniques (see my secrets below!) can add up to BIG savings!
Not sure where your local farms or Farmer’s Markets are? I found the most success using Mr. Google to search “Farmer’s Market” + my city, state. You can also use search tools like LocalHarvest.org to find both Farmer’s Markets AND the local farms in your area that may sell directly from the farm depending on the season.
IMPORTANT: When you do a search – it will list the markets by most recently updated. So, the closest ones to you may be further down the list. Also, once you find a few farmer’s market options near you, do a separate google search with the name of the farmers market and the exact location/street it’s on. You’ll typically find their primary website where they will have the most recent/accurate info regarding hours of operation.
- Discounts and Sales DO Exist. Local farms rarely charge you their tax on the food and products they sell. Also, because they are small operations, they “round down” when weighing and selling items. If something is $7.35 – they’ll charge you a solid $7 because they don’t want to mess with change. In fact, I was short on money one Sunday and the owner of Agiberry only charged me what I had for a carton of fresh peaches. One of our local animal farms, Springfield Farm, does a 10% special on a certain item each week. Last week, it was 10% off all pastured skirt steaks, which took our steak from $17 to $15 (in this case, they rounded the discount “up” of course!) They’ll also work with you and give you special discounts on bulk orders because they have the flexibility and CAN! So, dress cute when you go and bring special presents.
- Ask About Their Practices. Don’t be turned off by the fact that your local farms don’t tote the “organic” label. The organic label is extremely expensive and not cost effective. Many small farms use Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a process that involves using sustainable practices like crop rotation, insect traps and utilizing beneficial insects that control the bad “pests.” Chemical sprays are always the last resort and the farms always consider the consumer, growers, plants, and insects in all practices to keep the crops healthy. Ask each of the vendors at your farmer’s market how they treat their produce, animals, and how they run their farm. They’ll be more than happy to explain it to you – and I bet they’ll probably invite you to their home/farm to see what they do personally!
- Purchase in Bulk. If you have the space, I highly recommend purchasing an extra freezer (as little as $150) and purchasing in bulk. Larger farms like Polyface Farm in my area do poultry, beef, and pork “larders” which offer a larger portion of meat for a cheaper cost per pound. Also, some farms can do a half or whole animal for a set cost per pound, making more expensive cuts affordable and accessible.
- Ask for Local Drops. Talk to your local farms about doing a “drop” to your city throughout the winter when Farmer’s Markets close for the season. Sometimes – these “drops” aren’t advertised publicly or farms don’t consider it unless people show interest and ask for it to happen. There will be a small shipping surcharge, but for us – it’s totally worth it to have it delivered to a specific location near us than driving an hour each month.
- Get Out of Your Comfort Zone. Since committing to shopping locally, our lives and the foods we consume have grown richly. Not only are we healthier, stronger people – but we have a new appreciation for the food we consume and the community we live in. I personally enjoy the art of cooking and flavors more than I ever have in my life. There is a time of adaption to new foods and how to prepare them, but you know what they say – “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” And if you’re wondering – yes, my husband now does love his rotation of berries, peaches, apples, oranges, and nectarines in his lunch (depending on the season, of course.)