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7 Tips for Eating Healthy, and Local, on a Budget

February 26, 2016 7:40 AM | TLC Monadnock (Administrator)

Originally Posted in Parent Express

Spring is an ideal time to shift your family’s eating habits to more locally grown food, as the bounty of the growing season begins to trickle in.  How do you make this shift without driving up your food expenses?  Here are seven tips to help you shift your spending to more local food.

Make a Budget
This first tip may seem obvious, but establishing goals are a great way to empower yourself to make a change.  Create an entire food budget and then a goal for how much you plan to spend on locally grown and locally produced food.  Start small by taking 5-10% of your total food budget and directing that spending to local food.  As you gain experience and success, shift 10% more of your spending to local food.

Eat in Season
Visit your local farmers’ market and see what’s abundant.  As specific fruits and vegetables become more plentiful, prices tend to go down for that type of produce.  Talk to the farmers and local food vendors and ask them what’s the best value of the day.  On days when there isn’t a market open, keep what’s in season in mind as you make your purchases at local farm stands and grocery stores. Find a farmers’ market near you at newhampshirefarms.net/explorenh.

Pre-order Your Food
Community Supported Agriculture, better known as a CSA, works like this: an individual or family pre-orders a share of the harvest from a farmer before the growing season begins.  This model provides farmers with cash up front to help pay for seeds, compost and other needed supplies for the coming growing season. As a CSA member, individuals receive more value for their dollar and cultivate a closer connection to a farm.  Members also broaden their palette for local food, trying different types of produce in new ways thanks to recipe suggestions from the farmer and fellow CSA members.  Find a CSA Farm near you at yardenofeatin.wordpress.com/csas/.

Try What’s On Sale
Find out how your favorite grocery store labels locally grown and made food and then check to see which of these items are on sale.  The Monadnock Food Co-op makes this easy by labeling local items on their “MFC Deals” Sales Flyer with a bright orange icon.  You can see their latest sales flyer at monadnockfood.coop/sales-for-all/.

Grow Your Own
Have something that your family just can’t eat enough of?  Try growing it in your yard or in a container.  I love strawberries -- so many parts of my lawn are carpeted with strawberry plants.  What I don’t eat goes into my freezer to enjoy during the winter months.  Like with your budget, start small -- herbs and sprouts are great first options. Check out UNH Cooperative Extension for gardening resources at extension.unh.edu/gardening-resources/.

Cook More Often
This is where I stumble, but cooking in batches and freezing meals for later is a critical strategy for eating local on a budget.  Find a cookbook or online recipe site that features seasonal fruits and vegetables.  My favorite resource is Farmer John’s Cookbook by John Peterson and Angelica Organics.  Recipes are grouped by season with storage tips and culinary uses for each type of produce.  One of my favorites recipes, hands-down, is Spiced Parsnip Cake.

Reduce Food Waste
You’ve spent well-earned money on fruits and vegetables that are grown and processed with lots of love and care, now make sure this food lasts.  Find out the best way to store and preserve each type of produce at extension.unh.edu/community-gardens/harvesting-and-preserving/.

Here’s one extra bonus tip:
If you or someone you know receives Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, please be sure to check out the Farmers’ Market of Keene’s Double Up Veggie Program and the Monadnock Food Co-op’s Healthy Food for All Program.  The Farmers’ Market’s program doubles the purchasing power of participants’ dollars, up to $10 per market day, while the Co-op’s program offers participants a 10% discount everyday when they shop. Learn more at monadnockfood.coop/healthy-food/.

Here’s to your success -- and to the success of our local farmers and food producers as we all shift to eating more locally grown and made food.

The Local Crowd Monadnock - Mailing Address: 63 Emerald St. #114, Keene, NH 03431

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