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Stretching Your Local Food Dollars

You won't find coupons for local food in the Sunday paper or weekly coupon mailings, but there are other ways to eat local and save money.  Whether you shop at a farmers' market or local grocery store, here are 6 simple ways to stretch you local food dollars.

Buy when in season, preserve for when it's not
Some fresh foods can be very expensive to buy when they are not in season here, and let's face it- tomatoes shipped from Florida or Mexico don't even compare to the tomatoes grown right here in our valley.  Keep that fresh flavor year round and save money by dehydrating, canning, or freezing your favorite local foods.

Buy in bulk
Imagine having a freezer full of local meats to last you the year or a pantry stocked with local flour, dried herbs and other preserved local goods. While buying in bulk requires more money upfront, it's cheaper over the long run and can reduce the number of grocery store trips you have to make.

  • Save big bucks by purchasing beef, lamb, chicken and other local meats in bulk- and even more by going in on a large order with friends and family.   Note: Although many producers sell year round, now (early summer) is a great time to order certain meats for fall availability.  View a listing of local meat producers
  • Do you need 20 pounds of tomatoes to make salsa for the year, or 10 pounds of fruit for making jam?  Luckily, many farmers are willing to make a deal if you buy produce from them in bulk.  It never hurts to ask next time you are at the farmers market.
  • Need local honey, pinto beans or other shelf stable products to last the year?  Instead of purchasing small amounts every few months, purchase a case or large bag from the farmers market or grocery store.

Shop savvy and find the best deal
Just as you may shop at different grocery stores to find the best deals, the same can apply to farmers' markets.   Take time to browse the entire market and compare prices before you buy.  And if you are shopping at a grocery store and see a local product on sale, take the opportunity to stock up.

Have a strict food budget? Keep in mind that the more savings you realize on "non-local" goods means more money to spend at the farmers' market. 

Eliminate the middle man and buy direct
Local meat, cheese, jam, salsa and produce can be found in some local grocery stores, but often these same items can be purchased for less directly from the grower or producer.  Although grocery stores are very convenient, sometimes all it takes is a trip to the farmers market, getting on the web or making a phone call to buy your favorite local products direct from those who produce them.  Additionally, you get to meet the people who produce your food!

Reduce your food waste
You are throwing money away if you never actually eat the local food you purchased, so follow these simple tips to reduce your food waste. 

  • If possible, have a plan or list before you purchase your food to ensure that everything you buy will be eaten.  As this is sometimes difficult to do given the seasonal availability of local foods, purchase only what you can consume in 1 week and plan to preserve what you can't.
  • Give your family full access to food, by putting fresh peaches, apples and other produce out on the table instead of away in the crisper drawer.  From the first bite, the local food will sell itself and keep your family coming back for more.
  • For food that has to remain refrigerated, keep tabs on what you have and note those foods that need to be eaten first.  Be sure they are in a visible location so you don't forget about them.
  • If you end up with leftovers from a meal, be sure to package it away for lunches or plan to eat it the next day for dinner.

Grow your own and be creative
Who ever said local food had to be purchased? 

  • One of  the most cost effective ways to eat local is to grow it yourself.   With minimal investment you can produce some (or most) of your own food and nothing beats grocery shopping in your own yard.
  • Don't be shy to ask your neighbor who never picks their fruit trees if you can pick the fruit for them (and save them the hassle of cleaning up the ground.)  Many residents with fruit trees are happy to share the bounty -especially if you give them some jam or applesauce you make in return.
  • Form a growing co-op with friends and family in which you grow different items to share among the group.  This way fruit, eggs and veggies can be split up (and you won't all be trying to unload zucchini on one another.)

If you have any other tips for stretching local food dollars, please email them This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



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