Want food that tastes amazing? You can’t beat local, in-season food. Besides tasting good, eating local means that you know where your food comes from, save fossil fuels, and support the local agriculture and economy. And it doesn’t have to be hard.
Lilly Steirer and her family experimented with a year of local eating, and found that eating only local foods wasn’t so hard, even with two small children. If eating local for a year feels like a stretch, could you eat more local foods than you do?
The biggest concerns about eating local are usually time, money and whether your kids will eat anything. Lilly found that their food budget stayed about the same but how they spent their money shifted. Less money went to restaurants, and more went to whole-food ingredients. She needed to plan and prep more, but even with a busy family the time part was doable.
Lilly’s family chose a year of local eating, because in-season food tastes better and because they recognize the impact that our current food system has on our planet.Yes, they missed some things. Her kids talked a lot about ice cream and Lilly missed avocados, citrus and cheddar cheese, but mostly they ate a lot of delicious food.
Knowing your “why” helps keep you committed to change when things get hard. Plus your reasons for eating local may affect how you approach things.
What does eating local mean?
So what does eating locally really mean? One common standard is food grown within a 100-mile radius of your home.
You get to choose if you make exceptions to your local-eating practice. You may decide that you’re not ready to give up your morning coffee or that you want to use up the sugar you have and then transition to local sweetener, such as honey or maple syrup.
You can also decide when you bend the rules. Lilly’s family chose to eat non-local food when they visited friends, because relationships were more important than being rigid in their eating experiment.
Go over your grocery list to find local alternatives
Start by making a list of items you buy regularly, and ask yourself:
- Can we get this locally?
- Can we replace this with a different food?
- Should we cut this out?
To find local producers and farmers, go where you already shop and see what local foods they offer. Then consider convenient farm stands/stores or farmers markets. Tell them that you are looking to buy more locally; ask if they can recommend anybody else who grows or produces specific things you need.
5 easy ways to eat more local food
Once you’ve figured out what eating locally means to you, you don’t have to eat only local foods. Here are five meaningful, but doable changes you can make:
1. Cut out processed food
Since most processed foods aren’t local, cutting out all processed foods can make a big impact right away.
2. Choose one type of food to only buy locally
Try adding one food at a time. For example, start by only eating locally grown greens. You could plant a patch of lettuce or pick up a variety of greens weekly at the farmers market. Once you get used to that, then tackle another vegetable or eggs or dairy or meat.
3. Make local food the norm
Lilly noticed that people often go to the farmers market for “special” food. Try buying your spring and summer veggies only from a local farmers market or farm stand.
4. Trade out one food for something local
Lilly learned that quinoa was grown near her, so that became a staple instead of rice.
5. Plan one local meal each week
Think about meals that are easy to make with local ingredients. Make an omelet with local eggs and veggies. Add local cheese or meat. Switch it up each week using different fillers and herbs. Soups and salads can be made with ingredients that shift as the growing season changes.
One thing is clear: You don’t have to go whole hog into eating locally to connect to your local food. You can take doable, bite-sized steps toward being a more locavore family.
Sara Barry is a freelance writer.