What I’ve Learned from Eating Only Local Foods

We’re in the third week of the July Locavore Challenge and we seem to have caught our stride. It’s been a long time since I updated on the challenge and I think that’s because of how seamless the transition has been in our lifestyle. When I talk to people about what we’re doing, they often ask me what I found the most challenging. My answer is that challenge probably wasn’t the right word to describe this project — it’s been much more seamless than I expected. But some things have definitely changed.

What I’ve Learned From Eating Only Local Foods

We Shop Differently

When you eat only local, fresh ingredients, your shopping habits totally shift. I used to arrive at the grocery store with a thorough list in my hand and walk through the aisles until I found everything on it. Not so much anymore. I head to the market with ideas of the meals we’ll enjoy in the week ahead, sure, but nothing is set in stone until I see what is available. Take the dinner we had earlier this week, for example. We were walking through the market when we saw a vendor advertising pot roast. We hadn’t been thinking of pot roast for a meal this week, but we looked at the carrots, peppers, and potatoes we had already purchased and decided it would make a great meal. We purchased one on the spot. At the last minute, we threw in some lima beans that I had harvested from the garden and shelled earlier in the day — they were the perfect addition. This spontaneous meal was the highlight of our week.

As a local-only shopper, you quickly become familiar with what is in season right now and what will soon be gone. We bought plenty of strawberries to enjoy this weekend because it was probably the last chance we’ll have to get them this year.

You also have to get used to grocery shopping more often. We used to stock up once a week. Now, however, we visit one of several local stores, bakeries, or markets at different points in the week to make sure everything stays fresh. There are no more processed foods or long aisles in our routine — and I can say, I don’t miss them one bit. We’re getting to know our favorite shop owners and farmers and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Eating on the Go is Hard

Our family ate out way too much before we started the challenge. I would often find myself ordering a sandwich for delivery on busy days at work or stopping by Starbucks for a quick breakfast on mornings when I needed a little extra sleep. When everyone was in the mood for a quick and easy dinner after a day working in the garden, we’d just order something in. Super easy.

But when you’re eating only local foods, it becomes much more difficult to eat on the go. You have to be extremely intentional about it. It took me an hour to find a place to eat on the first day I forgot to bring my lunch this month. I couldn’t figure out where to get something that was prepared with only local ingredients. I found a bakery that served sandwiches on fresh bread they made and produce from a local farmer we’d met at the Farmer’s Market. I’ve visited a couple times this month and it’s the for a quick local lunch that I’ve found within driving distance of work.

My hope is that as more people become interested in eating local food, more farm-to-table restaurants will open up and we’ll all have more options. When people discover how great the food tastes, there will absolutely be a market for it.

The Food Tastes Really Good

I knew that fresh ingredients tasted good. But I don’t think I understood how good. A sweet corn cob straight from the garden tastes nothing like the ones you buy at the store. Heirloom variety potatoes from an expert local farmers have such a unique texture and depth of flavor. Grass fed and grass finished beef taste better — hands down. Omelettes made with farm fresh eggs and fresh vegetables from the garden are something to savor. Don’t even get me started on pies with homemade crusts and fresh, in-season fruit.

The food tastes so good that it’s worth the additional cost (I’ll do a separate post on cost at the end of the month!). I don’t miss any of the processed snack foods we used to eat — at all. And, I’m actually eating less food than I was before because each meal is more satisfying and nutritious.

The key takeaway here is that this has been a lifestyle change. And unlike other diets or ways of eating, this is one that is going to stick. We won’t be going back to our old eating and shopping habits come August 1st, although — we will be drinking some locally roasted coffee, that’s for sure.

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