September 1, 2013

Locally Grown and Special Deals

The most common way to save money on the monthly food bill is to use coupons and take advantage of sales. This is no secret. But how aware are you of other food options that might be available to you? Some options can not only save you money but may also result in healthier, fresher food.

One option is to buy locally whenever possible. Foods that are grown and sold in your area will be fresher, (usually) cheaper, and they will have been grown with less chemicals than those transported across the country or even the world. Check for Farmer's Markets. Often they are run by a small group of people with limited resources. You need to find them because they don't have a large budget for advertising. Check local papers and classified ads for announcements. Watch for private trucks selling fruits and vegetables (use common sense. Not all of them are cheaper or quality. Don't feel pressured to buy something just because you stopped). Check the greenhouses in your area. There is a good chance they sell product right there for less than you would ever pay at the store.

Another local resource are farmers who sell their own milk, eggs, chickens, beef, pork, and more. Local means you can go and check the living conditions of the food you will buy. You can ask questions about the animals and the practices used to raise them. In general, the smaller provider usually has healthier, tastier product than that sold in a store. These products are not always cheaper. Shop around. Check your local paper and online classified ads.

Meat packs can be a way to save on your meat budget. Usually they are found in privately-owned grocery stores. You won't see them at Costco or Superstore. Basically when the smaller stores have meat that does not sell, they have the choice of throwing it out or freezing it before it's past expiration. We do this ourselves when we bring meat home and put it in the freezer. Some stores will make up mystery meat boxes with the frozen meat packs. (like a grab bag of meat). You won't know the contents but usually the savings will be very very good. We once bought a box of meat that cost $25.00 and the content prices totaled over $75.00. This is a great choice for people with limited budgets and no specific diet concerns. They often sell out fast and are only put out a few times a month. Ask the butcher at your local store if this is something they do and if so, when.

A little known option is a food association. Again, these are normally run by a small group of volunteer people with limited or no sponsorship. You might need to search them out. Food associations will have options like bulk buying - a small membership fee is required and then you get a box of produce for a set amount each month or every couple of weeks. The produce is bought locally in bulk for a reduced price and the savings are passed on to the members. 

Another option offered by food associations are community cooking workshops. These workshops gather the interested people in one location to cook a number of meals together. The meals are portioned and everyone takes some home to freeze. Again, items are purchased in bulk and the savings are passed on. Additionally, this one provides the convenience of ready-made meals.. 

Look for workshops that teach canning or other food saving methods. Not only do you learn a new skill, but you'll return home with a sample or two.

Does your community have a food forest?
Maybe it's time for one. Suggest it to your town/city council.

Check for barter groups, farmer's markets, u-pick farms, sellers and sale pages on Facebook for your area. More and more, Facebook is becoming a site that is used for marketing. Use this to your advantage.

And finally, the cheapest way for you to acquire food is to forage and grow your own. If you don't have a garden, check for a community garden and see if they have a plot you can use. If that seems like too much, try to grow on your balcony or in your window. Even a pot of lettuce or maybe some fresh herbs will contribute to your overall budget and food supply. Keep a pot of strawberry plants as a centerpiece on your table and enjoy the odd sweet treat.

Do local bylaws permit backyard chickens? This is a great food resource. They also reduce the bug population, and eat table (vegetable and fruit) scraps.

Do you know about wild berries that grow in your area? Berries of all kinds grow in the wild and make fantastic jams, jellies and syrups. 

So I have to ask, do you know what is available in your area? If your answer is "nothing," then I highly recommend you really check around to be sure this is true. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Tomorrow I get into the nitty gritty of menu planning and how I make it work for me. In the meantime, what money saving tips or tricks have you learned with regards to food purchases?

See the whole series:
Menus and Meals
The Pantry
Locally Grown and Special Deals
Let's Plan Supper!
Breakfast and Lunch
Snackin and Munchin
Meal Plans: Putting It All Together (free printables)
Shopping and Prepping

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