Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

email: margalitc at yahoo dot com

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Eating Locally

Like so many other people, I've committed our family to eating locally as much as we possibly can. I mean, living in Massachusetts somewhat negates being able to eat totally locally as I need my bananas to function, and they sure don't grow here. But it isn't difficult to find locally grown produce this time of year.

Our farmer's market has expanded to twice a week to keep up with the demand for local produce. So many people from our community are dedicated to eating locally but unwilling or unable to garden, so they are great supporters of our farmers markets.

I'm trying to do both. I have a small kitchen garden with tomatoes, zucchini, lettuces, cucumbers, red bell peppers and a lot of herbs. I have space to grow much much more, but I don't have anyone willing to rototill up the lawn to prepare the soil. If I did, believe me I'd be growing a lot more food. We have raspberry bushes and blueberry bushes, but neither have produced much of anything. Besides, what they do produce, the wildlife eats well before I ever have a chance to pick the fruit.

We do shop in grocery stores, of course, because there are items that we absolutely can't get locally. Like detergent and dishsoap. I've changed over to a total Method household. If Method doesn't make it, I won't clean with it. They're great products, they are green, and oh they smell so good!

The thing is, although I do grow a good amount of our summer produce, it doesn't ripen until much later in the season, which means I have to purchase produce. I won't shop in Whole Paycheck because the prices are ridiculously high and I don't think the quality is that spectacular that they deserve my money. But I do shop in Russos, a wonderful produce store where the wonderful Julia Childs bought her produce. You can't get a higher recommendation that than for absolute freshness and great prices. Take a look at their web site and tell me you didn't get hungry! I don't mind shopping there because it's a local store, family owned and operated, and carries a lot of local produce.

But I do mind more and more shopping in a grocery store. I find that they are consistantly trying to fool the customer by changing sizes of containers and doing all sorts of sneaky sales. I hate that. With prices rising every single day, customers don't need to be cheated out of ounces of product by downsizing packaging. I also don't like the quality of so much of what is offered at the chain groceries. The more labels I read, the less I want to buy their merchandise. I find myself shopping at Trader Joes for the more run of the mill products and maybe hit the supermarket every other month for the big ticket items. But even then, every month I buy less and less. I just can't make myself buy food that is full of salt and white flour.

What I do question is how someone on such a limited food budget (we spend ~ $400/month on food) does as the price of food skyrockets. Produce is never cheap here, and items that we use a lot, like milk, cheese, yogurt and eggs have gone through the roof, pricewise. Milk has doubled, and yet my kids consume at least a gallon a week, if not more. I don't touch the stuff. But they both love milk. Since we don't have soft drinks in the house, seltzer and milk are the two drinks of choice. Oh, and tap water, which is what I drink!

Last month we ran out of food. I mean, the money we usually spend on food did not cover the last week of the month. We were living on pasta, tuna fish, and pasta. It was tedious, especially after I ran out of flour and couldn't make any more bread. The kids were miserable. They need to eat produce. They need fruit. They need food. But prices are so high that our budget just didn't cover the cost of needed food. That just irks me no end. I'm so careful about what I buy and how I shop. I get a lot of staples in bulk because it's cheaper. I don't mind buying store brands for most items. But the problem of prices escalating isn't going away. Even the local pizza delivery services are tacking on a $1.50 charge for delivery service. We make our own now. It's cheaper. Probably better for us, too.

How are you handling the vast increase in food prices? Are you cutting back on the extras? Has the increase affected how and where you shop? Do you have any shopping hints to share?

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Blogger Daisy said...

We use the freezer for bulk items and stock-up on sale. I grow some, we buy some at the farm market, just like you do. I've gotten better at cooking and baking from scratch, especially since Amigo's been sick. Coupons, too - we've gone back to clipping coupons. I hadn't done that in years.

10/6/08 9:54 PM  
Blogger DC said...

I agree; food prices are totally out of control. Even Trader Joe's has really tacked on the price increases. I miss my bargains.

I use a lot of coupons, and I frequent stores with a "double coupon" policy. But it's still painful to fork out so much for food. Grrr.

10/6/08 10:23 PM  
Blogger margalit said...

RE: Coupons. I know a lot of people use them and save money, but the thing is, we don't eat pretty much anything that ever has coupons, and even more disturbing, we don't buy most of the other stuff like detergent and toilet paper that have coupons. So the only reliable coupons we use are for Method products, which the lovely folks at Method send me (along with free samples) and occasionally for stuff like tin foil and garbage bags. Otherwise, coupons are pretty much a bust for our family. And doesn't that suck?

10/6/08 11:16 PM  
Blogger Ora said...

I heard a story about several Amish stores that mainstream people are now using. These stores sell out of date goods, that may or may not still be good; it's hit or miss. But I don't think that there are any Amish in your section of the world.

11/6/08 7:15 AM  
Blogger Rhea said...

I still go to Trader Joe's. Except for produce, I can get most of what I need. I used to go to Whole Foods (organic, for those who don't know), but I rarely go now because of the high prices.

11/6/08 9:12 AM  
Blogger Pam Brooks said...

We go through 4 or 5 gallons of milk a week. I buy it at BJ's. It's a dollar cheaper per gallon there. Bananas are also very cheap there.

11/6/08 10:42 AM  
Blogger BSumner said...

We also go thru about 3-4 gallons of milk a week. My twins are 2.5 years old and they get watered down organic (store brand) juice, milk and water only. We buy milk at BJ's.

I've been making my own "green" cleaning products. One thing I noticed about Method products is the laundry soap is about 3 times what we'd normally pay for a Purex... but since going green I decided to make my own laundry soap and I'm LOVING it! Let me know if you want the recipe.. it costs pennies to make!

I've also been shopping only sales, buying local farm stand produce (There's a HUGE local farm on Otis St. in Northboro). I make my own "mixes" instead of buying bisquick and pancake mix.. and we buy alot of bulk stuff at BJ's.. tuna for $1 a can there!

12/6/08 9:01 PM  
Blogger scribbler said...

I buy a lot of frozen fruit and vegetables. You can stock up when on sale, they don't go bad on you, and they're already trimmed/peeled, etc., so there is no waste. I feel a bit guilty about the packaging and the "food miles", but times are hard!
I also have a bunch of delicious bean recipes.

14/6/08 6:19 PM  

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