Thursday, July 9, 2009

Shopping local can save you money

Shopping sales and clipping coupons is an easy way to save some cash when planning your weekly meals. But here's a secret: The biggest sales aren't in stores.

Sure, you can scour the weekly ads trying to do the mental math as to who was the best deal on ground beef or milk or pasta that week. And you can quickly spend hours scanning the Web for coupons and other hot deals. But I'll be honest. It makes me crazy. And all too often those ads and printed-off coupons lay untouched. I'm not alone in feeling, frankly, burnt out.

Want the truth? The farmers market is where it's at. In our area, we've got another three months of locally grown produce to enjoy, and I'm all for that. Why wouldn't you hit one up? It's easy. It's fast. It's healthy. It's got easy parking. The "checkout" people are friendly. And you get better bargains and variety than you would at your supermarket, where it's been shipped from who knows where.

Take last weekend. For less than $10, we came home with:
  • a bunch of garlic
  • a cantelope (which I'm proud - or scared, not sure which - to say my 18 month old insisted on carting around the market!)
  • 3 zucchini
  • a foot-and-a-half tall basil plant (I didn't want to strip my poor ones at home bare for a recipe).
  • 3 kolhrabi (which I've been curious about trying)

Compare to the grocery store:

  • $4 for a bunch of garlic. It's a little larger, but not significantly
  • $3 or so for a cantelope, trucked in from who knows where
  • $1 or more per pound for zucchini, depending on when you hit a sale
  • $4 for a few old stems of basil, wrapped in plastic and wilting
  • and I've yet to see kolhrabi.

The trick with this is watching the seasons. While you can save by shopping seasonally at the grocery store, the savings increase even more when you buy local. Sure, I could pick up a bell pepper at the store for the $1 each they're on sale for right now. Or, if I wait a few weeks, I can buy them often for three for $1 at the markets.

The next time you shake your head about the sales or wonder about what coupons to clip, set the stress aside and eat local instead!


City Girl said...

I LOVE this post. What I love about it is the simple, easy to see, comparison between local food & the big supermarket. Do you read Bitten (Mark Bittman's blog on the NY Times)? A couple days ago they had a post regarding cooking from fresh food vs a box ( It was shocking to me the number of people who argued money as a reason to prefer cooking from a box. In my opinion, being a member of a CSA this year, has been saving us LOADS of money on groceries. AND I get a chance to cook with way more variety and nutrition than before.

Robbie said...

Exactly! Here are a few other related articles:

Not much convenience in “convenience foods”

The Revolution Will Not Be (Petrochemically) Fertilized