People often complain about the cost of organic and local produce, and rightfully so. It’s hard to buy them on many budgets. Since I’m working this month on buying local and/or organic produce for my family this month, I thought I would share some tactics for getting it for less.
Join a Co-op
This is where I’m getting my organic produce right now. The co-op tries for local as well, but that doesn’t always work out since they run year-round.
What I like about them is that since they are not attached to a particular farm they can respond to member preferences. There’s a thread on the member discussion board for people to ask for things they’d like to see in their baskets. You also don’t have to worry about crop failures. They buy what they can find from a variety of sources each week.
The challenge is in learning how to cook some of what is provided. This group provided my first experience with collard greens, for example. But that means more excuses to experiment with recipes!
Join a CSA
A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is a way to buy a share of a farmer’s production in advance. It’s much like the co-op I’m a member of, except that it’s attached to a particular farm.
You really don’t know what you’re going to get each week, so once again it’s an excuse to try new recipes.
Visit the Farmer’s Market
In my experience, some farmer’s markets have really great prices, others not so much. You may have to shop around a little to find the one that has the best combination of prices, produce and quality in your area.
Not all produce at farmer’s markets will be either local or organic, but you’re always free to ask. And even if the prices aren’t spectacular they can be cheaper than the prices for organic produce at the grocery store. Just know your prices well enough to be sure of what you’re getting into.
You can also check back late in the day to see if anything has been marked down so that the farmer doesn’t have to haul it back. This won’t always work, and of course it’s been picked over all day, but it can be worth a shot.
Start Your Own Garden
If you have some space, this can be a lot of fun. It can add up if you aren’t careful about the supplies you buy, but for organic gardening you shouldn’t be spending a ton on fertilizers and such anyhow. You’ll do far better if you can get a good compost pile going.
Gardening can be both delightful and frustrating. Sometimes you’ll get an amazing harvest. Other times you’ll get nothing, and of course everything in between.
If you live in an area with water shortages, gardening may not work so well. I found it harder to keep a garden really thriving when we had a lot of rules about which days and times we could water. Just kind of limiting and hard to deal with on the hottest of summer days.
Don’t forget to share excess produce from your garden with neighbors. Not only is it fun, if they have excess they’re likely to reciprocate.