It’s August and our July Locavore Challenge is officially over, but not much is changing around here. Eating locally has officially become our lifestyle. What was our biggest takeaway? Everyone should eat at least one more local meal per week. Why? I’ll give you my top ten reasons.
(1) You’ll Help Save Our Planet
When I read Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I was blown away by a fact that she shared: “the average food item on a U.S. grocery shelf has traveled farther than most families go on their annual vacations.” It takes a lot of fuel to create our “everything available all the time” convenience stores. When you buy local foods, you can help reduce CO2 emissions, preserve green spaces, and reward farmers who use fewer or no pesticides.
Our government is doing a lot of pretty scary things right now when it comes to environmental policy. If you don’t like it, you can support the people who are treating our planet right.
(2) You’ll Support Your Local Economy
When you purchase from locally owned shops, farms, and individuals you put money directly back into the wallets of people in your community. You help create more jobs and wealth in your local area. When you support local farmers today, you help encourage more local farmers to do business in your community tomorrow.
(3) You’ll Eliminate Empty Calories
When I walk into a supermarket now, I’m blown away by how many aisles I can’t even venture down if I’m trying to buy calories that are going to deliver true nutrition. Junk food isn’t just a slang term — these processed, high-calorie, low-nutrient foods are truly junk. You should not buy them; they are not worth your investment.
When you buy local foods, you’re buying things that add value to your body. We snacked on things like berries, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and cheeses. When we had desserts, we had them in small quantities and they were packed with nutrition — like peach blueberry pie made with freshly picked produce or zucchini bread prepared straight from the garden. If we wanted dips, like pesto or bruschetta, we were going to have to work for them (which we did — because yum!), so we savored every bite and watched our portion sized to spread the love over a couple days.
(4) You’ll Waste Less Food
Before we started eating locally, I’m ashamed to say that we wasted a lot of food. Things would get lost in the back of the pantry, resurfacing months later uneaten and perished. Bread would often go bad before we could eat it all. Fruits and vegetables that we bought with the best of intentions would often spoil before we could finish them all. We definitely weren’t buying on purpose.
When you harvest foods from your garden or buy the freshest ingredients from local farmers, you find that you have to use (or can!) many of them quickly if you want to get the most out of their flavor. It shifts your mindset as a shopper from purchasing habitually every week things that you may or may not use soon to purchasing intentionally for a specific purpose. This leads to little (if any) waste.
(5) You’ll Vote with Your Dollars
Every time you make a purchase, you’re voting for something. Are you disturbed by the way chickens, pigs, cows are treated, but can’t go vegetarian because you love chicken wings, bacon, and a good, old-fashioned burger? Find a local farmer that treats animals how you think they should be treated and buy their products. Do pesticides freak you out? I’ve got a garlic and potato farmer who shared a story in a newsletter a few weeks ago about how she ran some city workers off her property because they were spraying near her produce and she simply wouldn’t stand for it. Do you think Monsanto sucks? There are seed companies that save and sell their seeds sustainably. Purchase from them.
(6) You’ll Learn About Your Food
Before I started gardening, I knew very little about how so many of the foods I consumed regularly were made. Peanuts grow underground? Who knew? Black beans grow in pods that require shelling. If you let your cilantro keep growing all summer long, it’ll eventually flower and produce seeds, which are also known as the spice: coriander. Asparagus takes three years to harvest if you grow it from seed — and the plants look like Charlie Brown Christmas Trees. Potatoes form under the ground, but above the ground they grow bushy plants that flower and eventually die back when the potatoes are ready to harvest. Strawberries and mint will grow and spread like weeds if you let them — be careful.
Whether you do it yourself in your own garden and talk to the people growing and selling you your food, knowing how your food is made and where it comes from adds an ingredient you can’t find on any grocery store shelf to every meal.
(7) You’ll Connect with Your Loved Ones
My husband has always done the cooking in our household, for good reason. My son congratulated me once on successfully microwaving a bag of popcorn the other day. But growing our own food has cultivated an interest in food preparation within me and I find myself in the kitchen more and more regularly. In fact, as soon as I finish writing this post, the whole family is going to participate in making some homemade marinara and a batch of pesto.
I’m thankful for the time that my family and I spend together in the garden, at the market, and in the kitchen. Food has really bought us closer together.
(8) You’ll Have More Fun Shopping
I don’t like going to the grocery store. I hate competing with lines of people searching for the exact same products. I hate the lack of diversity when I go into the store. It’s the same products week after week after week. There’s very little human interaction — it’s a get in and get out kind of deal.
I go shopping three or four times a week now. Sometimes I go to the Farmer’s Market. Mostly I visit my favorite local food shop, whose owner is truly passionate about the work she’s doing. I visit a bakery on my way to work in the morning once or twice a week to pick up baguettes that are sliced and baked to create the perfect dip companion or tomato & cheese server. We’ve got a spot where we buy beef jerky, which makes a perfect lunch on hot summer days working in the garden, and a spot where we get the best ice cream ever as a family once a week. Sometimes, we go straight to the farms where the food is produced to pick our own berries or get a tour. Grocery shopping has truly shifted from a chore to a hobby.
(9) You’ll Meet Some Great New People
I’ve met a lot of really cool people since we began eating locally. One of the farmers that makes amazing chicken sausages actually offered to show us around the farm, no questions asked. The owner of our favorite local produce store is inspirational. I look forward to seeing familiar faces at the market each Saturday. We follow along with newsletter and social media pages of several of our favorite farm — they are just fascinating.
(10) You’ll Treat Your Taste Buds
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again — local food tastes amazing. A friend of mine recently posted on social media about how she always thought she hated tomatoes until she bought an heirloom variety at the farmer’s market last weekend. The difference is that big! The aromas and flavors of fresh produce are amazing and worth the additional cost. Plus, when you eat what’s in season, you’re more likely to try a wider variety of foods with a huge diversity of flavors.
There’s nothing like cutting open a cantaloupe straight from the garden and eating it on a hot summer day. I don’t eat blueberries or blackberries unless they are straight off the bush. Pesto made with fresh basil is infinitely better than what you’ll find on supermarket shelves.
So tell me — what local meal will you be making this week? I’d love to see your recipes in the comments!