Buy Locally to Save Money and Support Neighborhood Businesses Feeling the need to tighten belts against the economic downturn? Despite predictions of gloom and doom, there are ways to gather local support and help oneself and others through tough times. With every eye on the economy, it’s never been easier to save money on gas, food, childcare and more by pooling resources and buying within the neighborhood to support local economy. Local economy means the people closest to you geographically – immediate family, neighbours, nearby businesses, and anyone else who contributes to the economy in a neighborhood. Supporting local economy means choosing local retailers over superstores. It also means people supporting other people through systems like barter, carpooling, sharing childcare, and more. Buy Locally Grown Food One of the best ways to save money on food is to grow produce in a home or neighborhood garden. If that’s not possible, try farmer’s markets or stores that sell locally grown produce, meat and poultry. Organic local food is best, of course, because it supports local farmers and prevents the spread of pesticides and other chemicals into the environment – but if organic is beyond your budget, local produce alone is certainly a help to farmers near you, and will save money on gas and transportation to get fruits and vegetables to stores. Buy Fresh Rather Than Packaged Foods to Save Health, Gas and Money Packaged, processed foods not only cost more – they’re bad for health. Buy fresh produce, meat, and seafood. Cut refined, sugary, preservative-laden foods like packaged cereals, boxed cookies, store bought muffins, and other unnecessary items and make them fresh at home for half the cost and with healthier ingredients. Save Money by Carpooling with Coworkers It’s a tried and true solution to a tight budget: find out if people at work (or school) live nearby and arrange to carpool, saving gas costs and daily wear and tear on cars. It’s a relaxing way to save money and get to work on time. Create a Neighborhood Childcare Pool Daycare and babysitters are expensive, so many parents are turning to local childcare pools to help save money. All it takes is two or more families willing to take turns caring for everyone’s children. As a bonus, there’s a synergy in community childcare that can benefit kids who might be overlooked or bullied in normal daycares. Barter For What You Need Barter has a long tradition – older than money – that’s still going strong today. Sites like Craigslist or community message boards are a great way to learn more about local barter economy – or find out if a local tradesperson is willing to exchange goods or services. It’s impossible to know what someone might happily accept until you offer! Organize Potlucks or Picnics with Friends and Family Rather than eating out, try to arrange potluck meals with coworkers, friends and relatives. Potlucks are a perfect way to save money, learn new recipes and food traditions, and socialize in a warm, friendly environment. Support Local Businesses It might seem easier to run out to the supermarket or order items online– but think about the impact before choosing national or international businesses over local retailers. Small businesses give back to the community in wages, municipal taxes and purchases from other neighborhood businesses. During an economic downturn, buying goods from neighborhood businesses supports the entire community. Rent Out a Room Renting out a room at home isn’t for everyone – but it does bring in a few extra dollars and might enable someone with a lower income, like a student, or fallen on hard times to put a roof over their head. It’s also possible to offer a room to a self-employed or small business owner as an office, studio, or other workspace.
“Going green” and “eco-friendly” are just a few of the words describing our current, more environmentally conscious, society. These phrases are encouraging but where does the average person start? Do we have to install solar panels on our roofs or purchase a hybrid car? There are less daunting ways to live a “greener” life and visiting a local farmers’ market is a small step in the right direction. A farmers’ market is a designated place and time where farmers gather to display and sell their goods to the local community. Some operate daily while others are open on a specified day once a week. Around the world weekly market days are a tradition. When traveling, plan to visit the neighborhood market to get an authentic taste of local food and culture. Farmers’ markets are growing in popularity as people begin to see the many benefits of consuming locally grown, farm fresh food. Advantages of Shopping at a Farmers’ Market: Locally grown food is fresher; it hasn’t traveled as far as most supermarket produce. Fresher food means more nutrition and better taste. Produce is often organically grown which means there are more restrictions on pesticide and insecticide use. Livestock is often raised without antibiotics or growth hormones and is usually fed a healthier diet. Farmers’ markets keep money in the local economy and help family farms stay in business. By avoiding long distance shipping, locally grown produce uses less fossil fuel. Farmers’ markets skip the middleman and encourage relationships between consumers and producers. More Than Just Fresh, Locally Grown Food Fruits and vegetables are not the only items found for sale at a farmers’ market. Each market has it’s own unique selection of products for purchase which can include flowers, baked goods, seafood, honey and more. Local artisans and craftsman display jewelry, art and variety of crafts which typically will not be found at the local supermarket. Take some time to find out when your local farmers’ market is happening. There may be more than one in your area so check out the days and times that are most convenient. Consider bringing a reusable shopping bag to carry your fresh purchases home. If the location is close enough, think about walking to the market and saving the transportation cost. Talk to the vendors and get to know them and their products. As consumers become more informed about their food source options they are better able to make healthy, economical, society benefiting choices. This new year it’s simple to begin “going green.” Just start at your local farmer’s market.
Organic food can be very expensive, but there are ways to save money and make a healthy lifestyle easier to maintain. Most of these methods involve dusting off the skills of a previous generation, coupled with some modern conveniences to save a little time! Even a simple staple, such as five pound bag of organic whole wheat flour, can come at a dear price. Ready-to-eat organic foods are both worth every penny and simply not affordable for everyone. There is a solution – one that requires an investment of time and the purchase of some equipment, in order to save money long term. The benefit is the peace of mind that comes from knowing the family eats food that was not soaked in herbicides, pesticides, or strong chemical fertilizers. Buy From Farmers and Make it From Scratch In Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Food Cooperative allows local family farms to sell their goods directly to the consumer. This organization has created a state-wide farmer’s market that allows customers to order and pick up food on a monthly basis. Now, remember the price of a five pound bag of organic, whole wheat flour? For a little more than twice that amount, one of the producers in the Oklahoma Food Cooperative sells a twenty-five pound bucket of wheat berries. An electric grinder quickly pays for itself and over time reduces the cost of organic flour (compared to the store price) by more than half. With a little more labor, some of that wheat flour can be white flour instead, if light, flaky pastries happen to be on the menu in the near future. Milling flour and baking isn’t for everyone, obviously, despite the savings. The cooperative also sells frozen foods for those that desire local or organic food without needing to learn the mysterious art of cooking it. Buy in Bulk and Preserve Seasonal produce is always cheaper, for both organic and regular food. Look for local farmer’s markets or natural food suppliers to buy fresh, in-season produce. Buy produce by the bushel, if that option is available, and spend a weekend canning or freezing anything that can’t be eaten fresh before it spoils. It can even be a novel and fun experience for children to see how food gets processed. Stocking up for winter on summer’s cheaper prices – as families did for generations before the modern supermarket – can reduce the cost of food significantly for anyone willing to make the time investment. That hard work can also be turned into a source of income. Local food cooperatives will enthusiastically welcome producers of frozen and canned goods. The demand for such items often exceeds supply. To find local coops or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farms visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Organic Consumer’s Association websites. Buy Seeds and Plant a Garden Planting a garden is, perhaps, the simplest way to save money on organic food. It requires the most time and effort, but little in the way of actual equipment. It also requires a bit of knowledge about organic growing practices in order to keep from resorting to the rows of insecticides and other chemicals that line the shelves of the local hardware store. Gardening used in combination with canning and freezing saves the most money of all. If the amount of time required to keep up with a garden seems daunting, keep in mind that healthy food isn’t the only benefit. Planting and weeding burns quite a few calories – so that flaky pastry on the menu can be tasty and guilt-free.