How To Shop Locally And Save Money

By David Bakke | February 01, 2012 AAA

There are many ways to save money on groceries, such as clipping coupons or buying generic brands in lieu of name brands. However, another way to cut costs is to skip the supermarket altogether to purchase locally grown food. (For related reading, see Is Coupon Clipping A Waste Of Time?)

Often, the food you purchase will be high quality, organic and better for your health than processed foods. Plus, you'll support your local economy. While you may believe that buying locally produced food is difficult, the option is available to you at numerous locations.

The Benefits of Buying Local
1. Taste and Nutrition
Locally grown food tastes better and is generally healthier than produce at national grocers. Because local fruits and vegetables are allowed to ripen before they're picked, they are richer in nutrients than the standard grocery store variety. Most grocery store produce is picked before reaching peak ripeness and sits in storage and transit for a week, if not more.

2. Cost Effectiveness
There are fewer packaging costs, and since the food travels less it can be sold at a cheaper price. Plus, there aren't any middlemen involved in the sale process.

3. Energy Conservation
By purchasing food locally, you are doing your part to decrease our nation's reliance on oil. Food purchased at grocery stores travels an average of 1,500 miles - and when the price of oil spikes, you eventually see a price increase at the supermarket.

4. Environmental Impact
In addition to conserving energy, forgoing the purchase of food that has traveled great distances for locally grown produce lowers your carbon footprint. Furthermore, local farmers typically use fewer pesticides. (For additional reading, see Cheap Steps To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint.)

Where to Find Locally Grown Products
1. Farm Stands
Some farms have roadside stands to sell their products, but you can also purchase fruits and vegetables from a pick-your-own (PYO) farm. You'll get the benefits of locally grown food, and enjoy being outdoors and picking the items yourself or with your family. Another option is to buy homegrown fruits and vegetables from a food cooperative, a grocery store owned and operated by its members. Co-ops typically have high standards of social responsibility, and supply local produce, as well as organic and fair-trade items.

2. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Farms
CSA farms are food networks made up of individuals who commit to support a local farming operation. By purchasing a subscription or share in a CSA farm, you will typically receive one box of seasonal fruits and vegetables per week during the farming season. At times, CSAs may also offer dairy and meat products.

3. Farmers' Markets
If you're lucky enough to have one close to you, this is probably the best option for acquiring locally grown food, especially if you're constantly on the go. Farmers' markets feature a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, and typically offer much more than your average grocer. The prices are competitive and the level of quality is equal to, if not better, than foods at the grocery store.

The Effect on the Local Economy
Purchasing locally grown food supports the farmers in your area. The Department of Labor reported 24 million jobs in the U.S. rely on food and fiber industry, so keeping farms in business is important.

Furthermore, when buying from a national grocer, only 18 cents of every dollar goes to the farmer, with 82 cents going to the middlemen. Spending your money locally pumps revenue into your state's economy, keeps dollars circulating in your community, maintains employment for local residents and can help to create more jobs.

The Bottom Line
In some instances, you will find that buying locally grown food is a little more expensive than food purchased at a national grocer. However, the extra costs are negligible when you consider that the benefits far outweigh slightly increased cost. Buying local benefits your health, your community, and the planet, and will make your taste buds happy. Plus, you can also develop a personal relationship with the farmer who grows the food that you and your family eat, and learn more about the process of food production. (For more information, see 22 Ways To Fight Rising Food Prices.)

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