Save Money with Local Food
Many people believe that local food is more expensive than food from the grocery store. However, I firmly believe that everyone can save money with local food.
You can save money with local foods with a bit of planning. Here are nine ways you might be able to save money with local food, getting superior nutrition for less money.
These first options work best if you have a good relationship with your farmer. So talk to them, plan it out, and they might start giving your better prices or save things for you!
1 – Save Money with Local Food by Buying a Lot
Buy large amounts of produce in bulk, with a plan to preserve it. Talk with your farmer and see if you can buy things by the bushel or box. Then freeze, can, or dry the excess. Farmers are usually happy to give you a good price if you buy a lot.
2 – Save Money with Local Food by Buying Ugly
Buy ugly produce! Ask your farmer if they have ugly options, or leftovers like beet greens, that other customers don’t want. You may get unsellable produce for free!
3 – Save Money with Local Food by Buying at the End
Buy at the end of the day, by visiting the farmers market towards the end of the market day. You won’t get the best produce, but farmers may be willing to work with you on price rather than take their leftover produce home.
4 – Save Money with Local Food by Buying in Season
Buying in season is cheaper. If all the farmers have a lot of tomatoes, they may be willing to lower prices because they can’t sell them all.
Buying in season also means it costs less for the farmer to grow their food, as they don’t need greenhouses, or shade cloth, or extra heat.
5 – Save Money with Local Food by Cooking
Cooking your own food is always a win. The more you cook, the more you use ingredients before they go bad. It’s easy for a non-cook to believe it’s expensive to cook if they don’t already have what they need at home.
The more you cook, the better you get at doing it. The more you cook, the more likely you already have what you need at home rather than having to buy a bunch of ingredients at once.
Going to a farmers market or using a CSA regularly will mean more cooking. That local food may appear more expensive than conventional food, but it has superior flavor and nutrition. Compare your home cooked meal to a nice restaurant, and you’ll definitely come out ahead.
Ultimately, the local food you will find will taste better, so you will waste less. It will be fresh, so it lasts longer, also reducing waste. Less food waste means less money wasted!
6 – Save Money with Local Food by Trying a CSA
CSAs can be cost effective if you do the math. At the farmers market it’s easy to overspend because there is so much to choose from and you spend cash without realizing it.
If you join a CSA you pay up front, but it gives you the chance to better estimate how much food you’ll get for your money. Start with the smallest shares to ensure you’ll eat it all.
CSAs might offer volunteer days, allowing you to get a discount on your food.
To get the best deal on your CSA produce, plan for it ahead of time. If you plan to use up the most perishable produce first, you won’t waste any of it, saving more money.
There is a wide range of quality and prices with CSAs and farmers markets. Make sure you pay attention to pricing and quality and make the best choices for you and your family.
7 – Save Money with Local Food with the Envelope Method
When headed to the farmers market, try using a modified envelope method. Plan to use cash only, and only take what you can afford to spend. Buy what you need first, and then if there is money leftover, you can buy some wants as well.
8 – Save Money with Local Food by Using SNAP
If you qualify for SNAP, you may be able to use it at your farmers market. Sometimes you can get more food for your SNAP dollar, depending on market and farm.
In 2018, over 7000 markets across the country accepted SNAP EBT, and $24 million was spent on local foods at farmers markets, out of $70 million overall. Better access to fresh food is great for everyone’s health, and improves the health of the community overall.
9 – Save Money with Local Food by Foraging
Likely foraging for local edibles will be the cheapest option for you. If you are time rich but cash poor, foraging might be a great way to save money on local food.
There are many wild edible books and web pages out there to help you learn to find local foods. I love sharing foraging with my kids and trying new wild foods.
10 – Save Money with Local Food by Growing Your Own
Having a garden or some chickens can be a low cost option for obtaining the freshest local foods around. As with foraging, it does mean learning new skills. Gardening also requires some supplies.
Growing your own cheaply can be as simple as a few pots containing foods that are expensive to buy. Herbs are easy and cheap to grow, but cost a lot for a little at the market. A lot of veggies can be grown in pots on a balcony.
If you are interested in growing your own but lack sufficient space, you can find many resources for ideas on recycled pots, cheap growing mixes, and the best vegetable varieties for your growing conditions. Even in low light you can grow leafy greens.
Save Money with Local Food AND Help Your Community!
Spending your hard earned money on local food can make a real difference in your local community as well, improving it all around. You might not see a direct benefit to your wallet, but it’s there.
One of the expenses and barriers to entry for meat farmers is the lack of small and local slaughterhouses. When you buy local meat, the demand for processing facilities increases, potentially leading to more options for processing.
If more options open up for animal processing, then your local farmer may have cheaper options for getting your meat prepared for you. Over time, costs may lower.
Also, the more demand for local food means more competition for farmers. That may also help lower prices.
Finally, the multiplier effect of a local business is two or three times more than a non-local business. More money stays in your community when you buy local. It gives more jobs, improving your community, and giving you more options for your money!