Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Giving Up The Grocery Store

Welcome to the August 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Farmers' Markets
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about their local farmers' markets.
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The challenge is on this summer: can I give up the grocery store and buy almost all of my family's food through local farms, CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), and our city's daily Farmers' Markets?  Yes!  I would estimate that this summer I am purchasing over 90 percent of our food products directly from local farms and farm collaboratives, completely bypassing the grocery store and its often heavily processed, industrialized food.

With bountiful summer harvests, convenient Farmers' Markets, and the growing buzz about buying and eating local foods, I thought summer would be an ideal time to examine our family's food habits and begin to introduce more farm-fresh, local foods into our diet.  Fresh fruits and vegetables are available daily at one of our city's nearby Farmers' Markets, along with fresh seafood, meats, eggs, nuts, cheese, wine, breads and baked goods, local honey and maple syrup, grains and dried beans-- more than enough food to feed our family a local, well-balanced, mostly organic diet.  I round out our Farmers' Market fare with weekly trips to our local organic CSA farm for supplemental produce and meats.  I find this local farm partnership to be an essential part of our learning, offering my children a greater understanding of where their food comes from, who is producing it, and how it is grown and harvested.  Finally, I get our milk and other foods delivered weekly from a Vermont organic farm collaborative, and I try to visit the raw milk dairies in my state whenever I can.


So what's left for the grocery store?  I can't seem to fully give up on oatmeal, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, peanut butter, and bananas and oranges, but I am finding that we are eating less of these staple foods as a result of our effort this summer to eat more local, farm-direct foods.  I also buy baking and cleaning items, namely vinegar, baking soda, baking powder, butter, yeast, and salt, but these are things to stock up on occasionally and eliminate the need for regular grocery shopping.

As the colder New England months near and the farm-pickings grow slimmer, I will likely increase my visits to our neighborhood grocery store, but I will do so as sparingly as possible, relying as much as I can on my fall and winter CSA partnerships, the summertime foods that I am learning how to freeze and preserve, and the local farms that will continue to offer us grains, and beans, and storage foods throughout the year.

Most significantly, this "giving up the grocery store" summer challenge has led my family to think much more critically about the food we eat, and how and where it is produced.  It has helped us to change our eating habits, replacing, for example, morning oatmeal with homemade cornbread and fresh berry jam.  It has given us a much greater reverence for the food we eat, for the farmers who grow it, for the soil that nurtures it.  It has made us appreciate connecting with our food in a deeper, more meaningful way, under bright sunlight, not fluorescent glow.  And it has made us much more committed to supporting local, sustainable agriculture in both words and actions.

What about you?  What might a "giving up the grocery store" goal look like for your family?  Could you commit to buying half of your family's food items directly from local farms or farm collaboratives? More than half?

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon August 14 with all the carnival links.)
  • 10 Simple Ways to Make the Farmer's Market More Fun for Kids — Lorie at Reading Confetti shares ideas and books to help kids get the most from the farmers market experience.
  • 10 Things I Want To Teach My Daughter About The Importance of Shopping at the Farmer’s Market — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares the ten lessons she hopes to impart to her daughter about the importance of shopping at local farmers markets.
  • Charmed by Two Small Town Markets — Shannon at GrowingSlower was charmed by two small-town farmers markets while on vacation.
  • The Olympia Farmer's Market (and a giveaway!) — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes and family took a trip to their state capitol to experience a new market. See what they saw, and enter to win a book written about that very market.
  • On the Hunt . . . At the Farmer’s Market! — Exploring the farmers market by Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy writing at Natural Parents Network — with a scavenger hunt!
  • Exploring the Market ... Alphabet StyleThat Mama Gretchen is in the midst of creating a learning tool for her toddler and it's all about the market!
  • Unschooling at the Farmers Market — Megz at Aspen Mama loves building memories as a vendor at the Market.
  • Montessori-Inspired Vegetable Unit — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares links to Montessori-inspired vegetable printables and activities to help your family get the most out of a trip to the farmer’s market.
  • Markets — How sustainable mum has fitted a monthly farmers market into a weekly food shop.
  • The Farmers Market In Under An Hour ("Carl Style") — Andrea and family at Tales of Goodness adapt their farmers marketing approach to make everyone happy.
  • Tales Of a Troubled Gardener — Sam at Love Parenting writes about her dream of self-sufficiency and her lack of gardening skills!
  • A Few {Of The Many} Reasons Why I Love Our Farmer’s Market — Even though the experience can sometimes be less than peaceful, MomeeeZen shares why she enjoys taking her family to the Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings.
  • Experiencing the Farmer's Market from a Different Perspective — Emily at S.A.H.M. i AM had a great time letting her toddler lead the way at the farmer's market...
  • Ask A Farmer's Daughter — Abbie at Farmer's Daughter answers questions about her life growing up on a small family farm in New England.
  • Giving Up the Grocery Store — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling shares her family's summertime challenge to eliminate trips to the grocery store and rely almost exclusively on local, farm-fresh foods.
  • Urban farming and fresh food in the city — Lauren at Hobo Mama takes trips to farms, gardens, and markets within reach of a big city.
  • Market Tip: Get to Know Your Farmers — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger finally gets up the guts to talk to her farmers and learns she is among ardent food lovers.
  • New Farmer's Market Find — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is excited to make a new find at her new farmers market.
  • "The Real World" Grassroots Edition — jessica at instead of institution takes some time out to write a love note.
  • 9 Insider Tips for Farmer's Market Newbies — Dionna at Code Name: Mama chatted with a few farmers to bring you some insider information on how to get the most out of your local farmer's market.
  • The Place Where I Can Say "Yes!" — Erica at ChildOrganics gives you a tour of her favorite vendors at her local farmers market and discusses the benefits of creating community through the market.
  • Raw Local Milk — Jorje shares her family's field trip to a local dairy. Learn what you can appreciate from a small town farm at Momma Jorje.com.
  • Italian Secret Vegetable Soup Recipe — Alinka at Baby Web convinces an Italian Farmer & Cook to reveal a precious minestrone recipe and shares it with her readers.
  • Where do our eggs come from? A visit to Sucellus Farms. — Carli at One Fit Mom takes her family to meet the chickens that have been providing their daily eggs.
  • Beyond the Farm — Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy and her family enjoy looking beyond the food at the local farmer's market to see the wares of the over vendors.
  • Magic at the Market — Do you ever take time to really look at the food you eat? Amy at Anktangle enjoys marveling at the beauty (and the utility) of the foods and goods available at the farmers' market.
  • Farmer's Market Discoveries — Laura from Pug in the Kitchen reminisces about the discoveries she's made at the Farmer's Market throughout the years.
  • Are You Getting the Most out of Your Farmers' Market? (My List of Not-So-Common "Musts") — Sheila at A Living Family shares some uncommon ways to squeeze even more joy and connection (and yumminess!) from your local farmers' market experience.
  • Pick Your Own And Eat It — Luschka from Diary of a First Child shares their trip to a PYO farm and the journey from picking to eating her favourite food
  • 24 comments:

    1. I get our meat year round from a farmer and veggies in the summer from our csa and farmer's markets. I joke that in the summer the only things I buy at Whole Foods are processed foods! (mostly gluten/dairy free items due to my allergies and avocados and lemons which I can't live without!)

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      1. Amy, I love this! It's so nice to hear that others around town use the grocery store so little!

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    2. Wow, I am so impressed! What a cool experiment. I'd love to give something like this a try, but it will take some doing for us. Thanks for sharing!

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    3. I rarely go to a regular grocery store. We are members of the Lexington Co-op Market and we also go to a Farmers' market in our neighborhood.

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      1. Liz, this is a good nudge for me to join our local co-op market for those remaining grocery items. Thanks for the reminder!

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      2. This is a good idea Liz! Thanks for sharing. I haven't heard of the Lexington Co-Op before despite living next door in Arlington but will definitely check it out. We are challenging ourselves to make our own English muffins since they are one of my grocery store weaknesses. Thanks for the inspiration!

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    4. I am so impressed. Are the prices at your FM pretty good? They are not so great at our local FM. We have not been able to figure out how to go cheaper. My kids snack 100% on fruits and veggies -- which is a great thing -- but it is very costly.

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      1. Paula, thanks for visiting. I wrote a post recently about my commitment to prioritizing farm-fresh food and allocating a much larger percentage of our family's net income to farm food. It's costly but feels right:

        http://cityhomeschooling.blogspot.com/2012/07/prioritizing-fresh-sustainable-food.html

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    5. Your grocery staples are more or less the same as ours. I want to start making my own pasta but I have yet to find a pasta roller in good shape on my thrifting excursions. And I do get milk at our co-op (we belong to the same one as Liz's family) because I haven't found a local dairy that sells milk directly. (We had a lovely dairy farm in Connecticut that we visited when we lived there & I miss it!) Most of our shopping happens at the co-op and the farmers market, and hopefully next year we will be able to harvest most of our produce from our own garden!

      As far as farmers market prices go - I think they are a little more expensive than the grocery store & about the same as at our co-op. BUT (and this is a huge but, I think) when you buy from the farmers market you are often buying produce that was harvested that morning or the day before. Because it is so fresh, it lasts much longer. (Just an example - in my refrigerator right now I have the remains of a quart of grape tomatoes I bought at the farmers market more than two weeks ago, and they are still ripe and fresh. The same tomatoes from the grocery store usually start to shrivel up after a few days.) I think the higher price is money well spent because there is less waste.

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      1. Meghann, thanks for visiting the blog! As I replied to Liz, I am going to make an effort to join our local co-op market for those remaining grocery items. And I too am trying to make my own pasta. We try not to eat it very much, but I was thinking if I could make a big batch, maybe I could freeze portions for later! And so true about how fresh farm-direct food is!!

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    6. Looks like we buy the same items at the grocery store that you do! Although you're right that New England winters make it tougher to find fresh local fruits and veggies, but that's when I use my local budget to explore cheese and other locally made items and buy my veggies at the grocery store.

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      1. Yes! Our city has a Winter Farmers' Market that showcases these other year-round items you mention. So fun!

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    7. You're very lucky to be able to buy such a large part of your groceries at the market! Our market is very small and we can get a few things each week but we still have to rely heavily on the stores!

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      1. Emily, I hope your area's Farmers' Markets gain breadth as demand for them keeps growing!

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    8. Awesome challenge, I admire your tenacity :) I don't think I could give up oatmeal, PB, or bananas either, but I agree that my grocery store shopping has drastically decreased this summer since we've been doing Door to Door Organics and farmer's markets. What a win for all involved!

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    9. I love this challenge. It is exactly the kind of thing I would love to try. Do you have any advice on making it more affordable?

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      1. Hi Shannon, as I mentioned above to Paula, we have made a concerted effort to allocate much more of our family's net income to farm-fresh food. I wrote a post recently about how 100 years ago, American families' spent about 50% of their disposable income on food, and today that number is at 10%, so I am making this a priority for us. I also believe firmly in the "Food Is Medicine" mantra, and would much rather pay up front for farm-fresh, organic food than later for health-related issues.

        Thanks so much for visiting the blog!

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    10. Sounds like we both took up the same challenge! I didn't really think of it consciously like that, but when I stopped wanting to go to Whole Foods I realized I didn't need to go anyway. Between the farmers' markets and the CSA we get the produce we need in the warmer months. Our year round coop, though, gets us great prices on all the things you're getting at the store. I can even buy in bulk, just like the folks at Whole Foods, and order cases to freeze/preserve. I can get all the skin care products and supplements like flax oil and even spices from the coop. Seriously, I didn't got to the store for months this summer. My daughter doesn't even go to the store for food when she plays. She always goes to the farmers' market! What a blessing you are giving your children, to have a stronger sense of food outside of being shipped here there and everywhere, a closeness to their nutrition. Thanks for sharing your insights and experience.
      sheila@alivingfamily.com

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      1. Love it! It's great to hear that you have undertaken the same challenge--just instinctually instead of overtly! And I am definitely going to take advantage of our local co-op market to buy remaining grocery items in bulk.

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    11. Hi Kerry, this is really inspiring! We recently moved to Boston and I feel a little lost without my garden. I need to look into all these great resources, thank you!

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      1. Kelly, welcome to Boston! There are so many great CSAs, Farmers' Markets, and local farms in the area that you should have no trouble at all settling in to fresh eating here!

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    12. Well done. Like you, we try to get our produce from local farms in the spring, summer and fall. Winter is a bit of a wonder still, but I'm hopeful we'll get there. Of course, there's always the odd dash to the grocery store, but it's nice to get the proportions right: 90% market and 10% grocery store is amazing. Congrats!

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    13. Freezing and preserving is definitely a great way to keep up a healthy food supply through the winter. Its also a lovely thing to do together with children and enables them to get more involved in learning about their food! Well done for succeeding at your challenge!

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    14. Living in the city, I don't think we could completely give up on the grocery store, but we are fortunate that many grocery stores have relationships with local farmers and are able to carry local products that they buy directly from the farms. Even though I am always happier to see 100% of the profits go to the farmer, it's nice to know that the supply chain is short, and that farmers are able to leverage these retail relationships to move a greater amount of product and (hopefully) make a better living.

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