Spring is an ideal time to begin to shift your family’s eating habits to more locally grown food. How do you make this shift without driving up your food expenses? Even before the bounty of the growing season begins to trickle in, you can take action now to save later. Here are seven tips to help you eat local on a budget. The benefits ripple out from you and your family to our whole local economy!
Make a Budget
This first tip may seem obvious, but establishing goals helps you empower yourself to make a change. Create an entire food budget for a week or a month. Then, set a goal for how much you plan to spend on locally grown and locally produced food. Start small. As you gain experience and success (and the season progresses), shift more of your spending to local food.
Pre-order Your Food
Community Supported Agriculture, better known as a CSA, works like this: an individual or family pre-orders a share of the harvest from a farmer before the growing season begins. This model provides farmers with cash upfront to help pay for seeds, compost, and other needed supplies for the coming growing season. As a CSA member, individuals receive more value for their dollar and cultivate a closer connection to a farm. Members also broaden their palette for local food, trying different types of produce in new ways thanks to recipe suggestions from the farmer and fellow CSA members. Find a CSA Farm near you.
Explore multiple CSAs at the upcoming Monadnock Region CSA Fair on Sunday, March 8, from 2:00 – 5:00 p.m. at the Monadnock Food Co-op’s café in Keene.
Try What’s On Sale
Find out how your favorite grocery store or market labels locally grown and made food and then check to see which of these items are on sale. The Monadnock Food Co-op makes it easy to eat local on a budget by labeling local items on their “MFC Deals” Sales Flyer with a bright orange icon. You can see their latest sales flyer.
Eat in Season
Starting in April, visit your local farmers’ market and farm stands see what’s abundant. As specific fruits and vegetables become more plentiful, prices tend to go down for that type of produce. Talk to the farmers and local food vendors and ask them what’s the best value of the day. On days when there isn’t a market open, keep what’s in season in mind as you make your purchases at local grocery stores. Find a farmers’ market near you. Put the first Farmers’ Market Opening Day in our region on your calendar: The Peterborough Farmers Market at the Peterborough Community Center starts on April 1 from 3 – 6 p.m.
Grow Your Own
Have something that your family just can’t eat enough of? Your own yard may be a great place to grow something your family loves. Like with your budget, start small with a modest plot or container. Herbs and sprouts are great first options. Check out UNH Cooperative Extension for gardening resources at extension.unh.edu/gardening-resources Sign up a free Seed Starting workshop on Saturday, March 7 from 2 p.m. – 3 p.m. at the Keene Public Library.
Cooking in batches and freezing meals for later is a critical strategy to eat local on a budget. Find a cookbook or online recipe site that features seasonal fruits and vegetables. My favorite resource is Farmer John’s Cookbook by John Peterson and Angelica Organics. Recipes are grouped by season with storage tips and culinary uses for each type of produce. One of my favorites recipes, hands-down, is Spiced Parsnip Cake.
Reduce Food Waste
You’ve spent well-earned money on fruits and vegetables that are grown and processed with lots of love and care, now make sure this food lasts. Find out the best way to store and preserve your food.
A 50% Discount
Here’s a bonus tip: If you or someone you know receives Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, please be sure to check out the Granite State Market Match Program and the Monadnock Food Co-op’s Double Up Food Bucks Program. These programs double the purchasing power of participants’ SNAP benefits – providing fresh fruits and vegetables at a 50% discount! Learn more at granitestatemarketmatch.org and monadnockfood.coop/doubleup.
Here’s to your success – and the success of our local farmers, food producers, and local economy as we all shift to eating more locally grown and made food.