Whole Living Daily

The Real Cost of Eating Like a Locavore

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If you've been paying attention to the foodie movement at all in the past few years, you've heard it before: organic is good; local is better.

We're encouraged to buy local produce, milk, and meat to support our local foodshed and our local farmers. It's incredibly important to do so, especially as our national food system is so broken, as climate change threatens our food supply with drought and other extreme weather conditions. We must support our local food producers to ensure that they will be there when we really need them.  But the truth of the matter is: local can be even more expensive than organic.

But how expensive is it?

I wanted to figure out if it was realistic for my family and I to become locavores, so I did some serious Internet research and number crunching to find out what it would cost here in Colorado—if you want to see all the details of how I came up with my numbers, you can check out the in-depth discussion here.

I priced a CSA for fruit and vegetables, a quarter-share of beef, chicken and other meats, eggs, milk, cheese and other dairy, and various other products that I knew I could find produced locally, like flour, honey, and locally roasted coffee.

It turns out, to eat local, my family’s grocery budget would have to be more than double what it is now.

The other cost of going local is time; one would have to invest time in driving around and finding local products.  And, unless you live somewhere people can grow food year-round, one would have to invest a relatively large chunk of time preserving food for the non-growing season.

It’s a pretty sobering conclusion: Without a serious lifestyle change, it would be impossible for my family to afford to be 100 percent locavores.

Luckily, as with most things in real life, eating locally doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. I still believe it’s incredibly important to support my local food producers, and researching what’s available in our area has given me some new ideas on how to do just that.

Here are four real-world suggestions for increasing the amount of food you buy locally—without going broke:

  1. Do your research. Sometimes a little knowledge is all you need. For example, I found out I can buy milk from a local dairy coop at my regular grocery store, so it will be my preferred brand from now on.
  2. Choose to buy local products when they’re available at your regular stores. Here in Colorado, local products bear a “Colorado Proud” logo, which makes them easier to spot.
  3. Shop at your farmer’s market. Pretty obvious, but the more you can patronize your local farmers, the better off we’ll all be. Try to buy your staples there, like onions and potatoes, as well, and not just specialty produce.
  4. Learn basic preserving techniques. You can actually save a ton of money buying produce at its peak and preserving—canning, freezing, pickling or dehydrating—it yourself.

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Comments (5)

  • Being a locavore is the best option. It's tough when you live in the heart of a city.

  • The cheapest way to be a locavore is to plant your own garden and have chickens in your yard (if the town/city allows)

  • We've found that shopping at the farmers market and building a relationship with the farmers comes with a lot of perks including free food. We get extra for being "good customers" and even free food at the end of the market that they don't want to take back home with them. We certainly don't TRY to do this, it just happens. Really the point is to build that relationship and become a "business partner" with the farmer: it is highly valued by them.

  • Another option to consider is dining at establishments that procure their veggies, meats, fruits, etc. from local vendors. If you are going to splurge and go out to eat, it makes sense to support your local restaurants that support the local farmers, etc.

  • Great suggestions, everyone! Thank you!

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