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Living Local Proves Challenging

What to do when less costs more?

I’m over a month into my new year’s resolution and I’m beginning to become a bit disillusioned with my choice to go local.

Here are three disheartening things I’ve learned this month:

1.     Local stuff is expensive. Seriously, a half-gallon of whole milk and an approximately 8 oz block of Colby jack cheese cost over $12.00 during my last run to the market. I’m a girl with a car payment and rent to take care of each month, and only a few part-time jobs to get by on. I don’t have a lot of cash to throw around and as a result I’m spending the same amount of money on things as I used to and receiving about half of the goods and services. That’s not to say that it’s not worth it, just that it’s difficult to manage.

2.     Old habits die hard. I’m one of the least interesting vegetarians known to man, enjoying a steady diet of pasta, breakfast cereals and frozen meals. For the past month I’ve been very reliant on the things still filling my kitchen cabinets. Despite telling myself that this is a great opportunity to finally learn to cook, my giant vegetable cookbook remains unopened and my vegetables mold more in the crisper with every passing day.

3.     Convenience mostly goes out the window when you have standards. Farmers markets only operate on certain days of the week in certain parts of town. Shops owned and operated by lovely people who believe in what they do aren’t open as late or as long as stores fueled by corporations. The stores I like are far away, adding gas to my already long list of expenses, and don’t always seem worth the trip. Research is required when I want something, like an old movie, that I haven’t planned for. It’s just more work than I’m used to for simple things (but then, that’s part of the point, so I really can’t complain).

Honestly, I miss walking to Giant in the morning and buying a four-dollar gallon of milk, a price which once seemed exorbitant. Now I pay more for less; I gain better taste and quality, but it's a difficult trade-off.

As I watch my stockpiles of non-local foods dwindling, I find myself staring helplessly at the fresh items in my fridge. In my desperation I've actually started talking to them. I'll pick up a squash and ask: “What on earth do I do with you? I’m extremely hungry and your tough outer shell is squelching my dreams of sweet casseroles!” But of course no squash can respond to my demands, and so instead of cooking it I think about how I am running out of money and food and don’t know what to do with the things I do have. As a result, I've been skipping meals and things are getting a bit dire. Hopefully, hunger will force me into some new solutions soon.

This is the first time I’ve really gotten discouraged about the project.

Conceptually, I'm quite pleased. I’m putting more thought into my purchases and feel good about supporting smaller businesses. Some of this – the research, the driving all over town for things – will get simpler with time as I learn more and discover better options than what I’m currently cobbling together. Some things, like the cost of local produce, I’ll just have to get used to. Eventually this will all get easier, or so I tell myself. But for now, I'll just keep asking questions and doing my best to get by.

Emily February 23, 2011 at 02:59 AM
I also am a vegetarian and try to buy local foods as much as possible. I've realized that the only way to do it economically and eat well is to be willing to plan out your meals for the week, focusing on produce that is currently in season, and then take the time to cook them. Fresh veggies bought locally are a little more expensive than in the grocery store, but when they are in season, can be priced very competitively. It limits options, but I find this to be very helpful...less options can make for easier planning. Good luck with your resolution!
Grace Kendall February 25, 2011 at 03:09 PM
Thanks so much for the luck and the advice! While it's a bit of a challenge now, I think living locally will be much easier this summer.

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