Monday, November 10, 2008

How to Buy Locally: 9 Easy Steps

I've been working on my post for the APLS Carnival for a couple days now and it turned in to me blabbing on about reasons why buying locally is good, etc.,etc. I decided to put together something quick and basic instead. I'll leave the philosophical parts to someone else.

Assuming you support the idea of buying local products here are 9 easy steps to get you started:

1. Get yourself some reusable bags.
Ironically, you may not find these locally. You could always make them yourself, or the organizers of you local farmers' market may have bags with their logo on them. My personal favorites are baggu bags, available on There are several options out there so if you can't find some locally look around online. It is still better than using plastic or taking new paper ones every time. Plus, a lot of vendors don't even have bags.

2. Get organized! Find a spare little notebook in your desk or find a spot in your PDA for "local" contacts. When you find the one guy in 100 miles that grinds flour, you don't want to lose his phone number! It helps if you have a place to store business cards.

3. Find out what's in season when. Google the information for your area and print it off. If strawberries are only in for 2 weeks, you want to know about it. When they're gone - they're gone. This will help keep you from getting the call that your 2 bushels of peaches are ready the day before your wedding (like I did). If you're really going to eat local, you've got to plan around the seasons.

4. Have a plan in place to preserve some foods for the off season.
This goes along with #3. Keep an eye out for recipes you like and store accordingly whether it be drying, freezing, or canning. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Someone's Grandma would love to teach you to can. See my post about apples to get you started.

5. Check out sites like Local Harvest to find farmers' markets and growers in your area. Most states have a website devoted to local companies and products. Search for "Michigan made" or "Michigan furniture", etc. There are tons of sites devoted to finding local goods. Also scan your local newspaper and check store windows for signs that advertise "Local Products Here".

6. Go Shopping! Seek out fair prices but remember that isn't necessarily the most important thing. You'll generally be saving on food anyway by buying raw goods and transforming them in to meals at home instead of buying processed meals at the grocery store. Remember to let the producers and artisans know how much you appreciate what they're doing.

7. Expand your horizons. Pick a couple things off your shopping list each week and try to find a local source for them. Ask around. Chances are it is out there, it just may not be the most efficient option for you. For example, I would love to have local dairy products but right now I can't stomach paying $7/gallon for milk. In those situations, just keep looking!

8. Consider making or growing your own of some things you use a lot.
You'd be amazed at how easy it is to grow potatoes. They are very forgiving. And so on.

9. Spread the word.
Give local products as gifts or share them at a special dinner. Chances are your friends didn't know there were so many great things available locally. Plus, who doesn't love pure maple syrup on Christmas morning pancakes.

I hope this helped get you started. If you're already buying locally, I'd love to hear what works for you! Check out the APLS Carnival for more on local everything!

Update: Heather over at SGF has a great post up now about how to eat locally. Check it out!


Marya said...

Thanks for the great list! I support buying local in Minnesota and think you list is great for anyone - keep up the good work.
Signed, envious of the farm!

Marya said...

I just realized my comment would list a different blog. Here is my buy local blog:

Jena said...

Thanks for the nice feedback! I'm glad you liked the post. Off to check out your blog...

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

I just found your blog and I am really enjoying it. This is a great post with lots of good information. I especially like the tip of writing things down. Twice this summer I wish I had done that. Once, there was someone with local strawberries and another with great local garlic, but I forgot the name of the stand and didn't get the name of the purveyor. So the next week, when the person wasn't there anymore, I didn't know who to ask to see if their produce was stocked anywhere!

Jena said...

Jennifer - thanks for stopping by! I'm glad you're getting something out of it. I know it is bummer when you can't get in touch with growers, especially during the off season. Hopefully others learn from our mistakes!

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

I'm new to buying local, so thanks for this great list!

Reusable bags are definitely a must. I was surprised to see so many plastic bags in use when I first started shopping at the farmers' market.

Local Harvest is a great website for locating farmers markets and such, but I wish there was a more extensive networking site so local eaters could give each other tips about where they find things. Have you seen any sites like that?

Green Bean said...

Thanks for the quick tips. I think these are so helpful for folks just starting to think about buying local. You can start small! And you show that.