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The Best Way to Eat More Local

Three How-Tos and Three Deep Whys That Will Revolutionize Your Approach to Eating Local



Thinking about eating local

Eating more local has probably been on your mental to-do list forever. And you do it, sort of. But you want to do better. And you want it to be easier. But you forget and fall back on convenient old habits.


Making the switch to eating local can have a profound impact on your health, community, and the environment. And the best part? It's simpler than you think. By following these three practical steps and understanding the underlying reasons, you can truly revolutionize your approach to food sustainability.


Do this first.

Before we even think about farmer's markets, CSAs, or growing your own food, there's a simple yet powerful activity that can alter your perspective forever. It's cost-free, and you can do it from the comfort of your kitchen.


Step 1: Prepare a piece of paper. If you prefer a visually appealing worksheet to guide you, you can download it for free here (it's in the worksheet section of the Ultimate Guide to Your Farmer's Market). All you need is a pen. This tool will give you a baseline and an achievable goal. You don't have to become a farmer overnight to be more local.

Looking in my fridge to see what food is local

Step 2: Open the fridge. Pick one ingredient at a time. Focus on the key ingredients that you use all the time. If you are really motivated by this, you can graduate to the condiments on the door shelves. Write down milk, for example. Now, assign it a category: local, not local. Then look at the carton and find out where it's from and Google the miles from your fridge to that city/state. This process of discovery and learning can be empowering. Do this for all the main ingredients.


Step 3: Put a star next to the ingredients that you think you can source more locally. I am pretty sure bananas and avocados will have to travel a bit to get to most refrigerators in the US, so focus on other ingredients.


Step 4: Circle three ingredients that you will take action on and let's get to work finding them in your community. Or closer than where you currently get them from.



Now the HOW-TOs

Now that you have a plan, what's next? To find more local items, the best place to start is at a local farmer's market. Here's the list:


1. Shop at Local Farmers' Markets

  • Visit your local farmers' markets to buy fresh produce, meats, dairy, and other products directly from local farmers. Here's more on the power of the farmer's market just to hammer it home!

  • Benefits: You support local farmers, get fresh, seasonal food, and reduce the carbon footprint of your meals.


asking my grocer what food is local

2. Buy from Local Grocery Stores

  • Many grocery stores and food co-ops prioritize stocking local products. Look for labels or sections dedicated to local foods. The best way to find local items at your grocery store is to ask. If they don't carry anything local, ask them to and follow up. They want you to shop there, and a good grocery store will work hard to please you.

  • Benefits: It’s convenient if you can find a wide variety of local products and you support local businesses and farmers at the same time.


3. Dine at Restaurants that Source Locally

  • Choose to eat at restaurants that prioritize sourcing their ingredients from local farms and producers. Many establishments will highlight this on their menus. If not, ask. Some smaller restaurants may have challenges sourcing locally (a big topic for another time), but ask and see if you can find out what the barriers are.

  • Benefits: You enjoy professionally prepared meals made with fresh, local ingredients and support restaurants that value local sourcing.



The Deep WHYs!

The how-tos are sometimes hard to hold onto if the reasons behind them aren't strong. The benefits of eating local can often seem like they are more about other people -- farmers, grocers, etc. -- than they are about you. But you are at the center of this equation -- 100%! I promised you three good reasons, but I am adding two bonuses to underscore your efforts at taking a deep look into your own refrigerator. Ok, here are even more... the benefits keep going and going!


1. Freshness and Flavor

  • Local food is typically harvested at its peak ripeness and sold shortly thereafter, ensuring it is fresher and more flavorful than food that has traveled long distances.

  • Benefits: Fresher food often has better taste and higher nutrient content, providing a more enjoyable and healthful eating experience.


2. Supporting Local Economy

  • Purchasing from local farmers, markets, and food producers keeps money within your community, strengthening the local economy.

  • Benefits: This support helps create jobs, sustains family farms, and fosters a robust local food network.


3. Environmental Sustainability

  • Local food reduces the need for long-distance transportation, which lowers greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel consumption.

  • Benefits: This helps to decrease the overall carbon footprint of your food and promotes sustainable agricultural practices that are often more environmentally friendly.


enjoying a meal cooked with local food and sharing it with friends

4. Building Community Connections

  • Buying local food often involves direct interactions with farmers, producers, and other community members.

  • Benefits: These connections can build a sense of community, foster trust in your food sources, and create opportunities for education about where your food comes from. Ok, there are also those fun bragging rights when you have friends over for dinner and can talk about the farm you got them from!



5. Seasonal Eating

  • Local food is typically seasonal, meaning you eat fruits and vegetables when they are naturally available and at their best.

  • Benefits: Seasonal eating can diversify your diet, reduce reliance on out-of-season imports, and enhance your culinary experiences with a variety of flavors throughout the year.



Final Tip!

Don't get overwhelmed by the idea of eating locally. Think of it as a game. And don't try to localize your whole fridge all at once. Just try one ingredient and see how it goes, then two.


For Overachievers.

I have done this Refrigerator Challenge with so many friends and social media followers, and everyone says it is really eye-opening. If you are into it, do the same thing with your pantry (flour, crackers, cereal, etc.) and then (drumroll, please) with your spice cabinet (or drawer). The spices are the ones that will really freak you out!


Have fun being more local. If you have a big AH-HA, email me here.


xo Dana


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Dana DiPrima is the founder of the For Farmers Movement. For Farmers supports American farmers by sharing their stories, replacing myths with facts, and providing them with mini-grants and other helpful resources. Dana is the host of One Bite is Everything, the podcast that helps you have a big impact on your health, your community, and the planet, through tiny, informed choices. She authors a weekly letter in addition to this blog. You can subscribe here. And you can join the For Farmers Movement to support your farmers here. You can also follow her on Instagram and Threads.

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