Over a year ago, I read Barbara Kingsolver’s wonderful Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, which describes her family’s efforts to live as locavores for a year (that is, to eat only food produced, start to finish, within a 50 mile radius from their home). Kingsolver describes the importance of local food (supporting the local economy, better personal health, decreased reliance on nonrenewable resources, decreased waste) and includes recipes, observations, and wit along the way. It was a pleasure to read, and now I’ve got my husband reading it, too. Which means we’re in the midst of our own locavore experiment, trying to source as much of our food locally as we can. We’re fortunate to live within a reasonable distance from two large, vibrant farmer’s markets, in Carrboro and Durham, and even closer to a local co-op. We started by buying much of our produce at the markets, but lately, we’ve been branching out. The Farmer’s Market has become our main source of cheese, potted herbs for our patio garden, eggs, and bread, although I’m working on the fine art of baking bread at home. The Scratch Bakery stand at the Durham Market has become my favorite supplier of baked goods, in particular the donut muffin (which is to die for, I promise. If you ever in your life visit our part of NC, do yourself a favor and visit Scratch – read more about the bakery here).
My one concern, in spite of Kingsolver’s reassurances to the contrary, was that this experiment was going to break our budget. It seemed obvious to me that fresh fruits and vegetables, sustainable dairy and eggs were more expensive. After all, compare the “organic” produce prices at any supermarket to the factory-farm goods and you’ll be able to confirm that the good stuff costs double. Still, my husband and I decided that we were going to make local food a priority in our budget. We’d cut corners elsewhere, cut back on driving, buy less stuff. We were already trying to put all of that into practice anyway.
A couple of months into the locavore experiment, I’ve checked my budget spreadsheets a couple of times, and can definitively say: eating locally during the summer months shaved our grocery budget in half. Local produce, if you buy it in season, is cheaper, more sustainable, and perhaps best of all, tastes about a brazillion times better. Yes, a brazillion. I don’t think I really knew how food tasted, or looked, until I started eating locally. Kingsolver convinced me, but trying it myself turned out to be pure pleasure, and a good deed and boost to my budget to boot. Plus, it’s easy to get up early to head to the market when you know there’s a donut muffin calling your name.