With our Local Bite Challenge behind us by over a month already, I’ve been putting off writing this post for a variety of reasons.
For one, how does one properly reflect on something so simple and yet so profound as a change in diet and perspective?
Also, time. As in…where does the time go these days? In between chasing around our sweet Sprout, starting my own small business, and now gearing up for an unplanned move, I’m beat!
However, believing that reflection is important, this post has remained on my list to complete and now is really as good a time as any, isn’t it?
So, let’s get down to business!
We set the intention of spending no more than $100 per week on groceries from our local Farmers Market and co-op, which was a shift from our normal spending of $250 every two weeks at mostly big-box stores. This proved fairly easy most weeks, though the $100 mark wasn’t perfect in that some weeks we had to stock up on honey ($20 a quart) and other staples so we surpassed our budget a bit, while other weeks we wouldn’t spend it all. In the end, it all evened out and we were able to spend on average, a little less than $100 per week.
Now, I want to recognize here that $100 per week is quite a large budget and one that many cannot afford. Without getting into the politics or some of the huge social issues this raises, I simply want to acknowledge that we are blessed to be able to afford a local, mostly organic, whole foods diet.
The original intention for this challenge was to source as much of our food from within 100 miles of Santa Fe, supplementing where necessary with items sourced from within the state of New Mexico.
Doing the majority of our shopping at our local Farmer’s Market allowed us to be confident in where our food was coming from, even if a few of the vendor’s stretched into the far east and/or west because, 100 miles aside, every single item had been grown and/or processed within the state of NM. This was awesome and offered a peace of mid that was not found at our local co-op.
Our local co-op, as we learned pretty quickly, defines “local” as anything sourced within 300 miles of us. Well, those parameters stretch all the way into Colorado, Arizona and Texas! Now, most items did have a little tag on them that did state if a “local” item was actually from New Mexico, however, many did not. Unfortunately, many of the staff had no idea where an item was sourced from when asked and it took some patience on our part and some time on their part to track the information. We became “those” PITA customers who ask all these crazy questions 😉
Beyond the “local” items, most things are labelled with the state or country of origin with many items sourced from California and still more items sourced from thousands of miles away. I found this to be super frustrating at first, but quickly learned to accept that some items would just have to become exceptions from time to time (the occasional purchase of rice from California) to mix up our diet a bit. We did, however, fall in love with local cheeses and have a new appreciation for all things blue corn related (flour, corn meal, atole, polenta, posole…)
While the challenges at our local co-op were frustrating, they were incredibly insightful and taught us so much about our perceptions and assumptions of who offers what and how far it may have traveled to get our locally focused co-op!
Everyone has a different definition of “local” – As mentioned above, we have learned to read labels, ask questions and make exception where necessary given our budget, cravings and meal plans.
Our shopping habits – Changing our shopping habits from bi-weekly, massive trips to weekly, smaller trips has allowed us to actually eat what we have and pay closer attention to our meal plans. This is not a perfect science yet, but our level of intention around the food that we have on hand vs. the food that is calling to us from the market stands and store shelves is a little more balanced now than it was before this challenge.
Change is hard, but not impossible – It is so very easy to just run down to the corner store, grab items off the shelf and simply not think about who produced it, how many miles it traveled, or how that single product affects our larger environment and, more specifically, our health. It’s what we’ve done for years, both personally and as a larger society.
We’ve found pride in convenience, in instant gratification…but neither are sustainable when you take the time to really look at them.
So, instead of running to the nearest big-box store, we are learning to take our time, to visit our local farmers, ranchers, and artisans at the Farmers Market on Saturdays and to appreciate the food on our plates differently and more profoundly than the mac & cheese out of a box or the frozen french fries in a bag we’ve always had on hand as “staples”.
We wait anxiously for the tomatoes to ripen and the jams to be made and the pork to be slaughtered. We find ourselves more in rhythm with the changing seasons. We see the pride on our neighbors faces when they hand over their hard won beets and damage free kale.
We hear the word “appreciate” a lot…as in, “I appreciate you…” because the vendors truly do…because our business means they have a business. And what a cool business to have, right?
Beyond the local relationships we’ve built, and continue to build steadily, I also want to give a little shout out to the almost 300 people who joined the Local Bite Facebook group and who followed along here regularly for all 100 days! It was so very inspiring to chat with people all over the world who are doing their very best to be more intentional about eating locally, one meal at a time. So, thank you, each of you, for you time, intention, and pure awesomeness!!!
OK, to be honest, there isn’t an official “plan” aside from doing our best day in and day out. Some days our best includes mac & cheese out of a box made with local butter and milk. Some days our best includes a fresh salad from the back yard paired with a locally raised hamburger on purchased buns. Some days our best includes an omelette made with homegrown veggies, local chile, local cheese and eggs from our own chickens.
I’ve begun looking at our meals in fractions…as in, “This is about 1/2 local” or “Ha! 2/3 local! Sweet :-)”. So, the plan is to try our best to stay at the 50% mark or above for most, if not all, of our meals. It’s not a perfect science, it’s an awareness and an intention.
And that was the whole point of this whole crazy challenge, wasn’t it?
How’d you do with your own personal Local Bite Challenge? Are you still at it? Have you shifted back towards some of your old habits? Please share your experiences in the comments below! I’d love to hear about it all 🙂