Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Grocery Shopping - Shop Local

Summer, for us, means local shopping at it's best.  Shopping at Farmer's Markets, local colleges, family gardens and in your own garden are all great places to "shop" to stretch your grocery dollars and have a little fun doing it.

The Farmer's Markets are all open after a winter hiatus and a trip to the market is one of our favourite ways to spend a Saturday morning. There are activities for the kids, goodies made by local artisans and of course all the wonderful breads, meat and produce available.

In the summer I try to buy most of our fruits and vegetables at the Farmer's Market. Everything is fresh and delicious and it also supports local producers and businesses.

The cucumber that costs $1.00 at the Farmer's Market may be $1.69 from the grocery store. That is a $0.69 savings. and those small amounts add up fast when you are shopping for groceries. We usually plan to spend between $20-$30 on fruits and vegetables when we go to a Saturday market and always come home with much more than we would have if we spent the same money at the grocery store. Click on the link to check out the Market at Red Deer or the Alberta Farmer's Market Association for markets across Alberta.

Farmer's Markets are also great if you like to do canning, dehydrating or freezing. You can buy big cases of in season, fruits and vegetables and take them home to make jam, preserves, salsa, dried fruits or to freeze to eat later in the season or during the winter. By the end of September our cupboards are full of delicious homemade jams and jellies, a selection of dehydrated fruits and our freezer is full of frozen vegetables and fruits. Buying the produce in season and preserving it is much less expensive than trying to buy it in the middle of the winter.

We also do some of our food shopping at a local college. The college is located in a rural community South of where we live and has a strong agricultural base. We get our eggs from a person who works with my husband there who has chickens on their farm. We use approximately 1 dozen eggs per week and save at least $1.00 per dozen which adds up to savings of approximately $52/ year. The college also has a meat cutting program and they sell the meat that the students cut. The meat is excellent and the savings are significant. You do have to get there early though because it is very popular. The college also has a horticulture program and sells the produce and flowers that are grown there. Excellent quality and great prices.

We love apples at our house; apple pie, apple muffins, apple butter, apple chips, apple tarts - you get the idea. My parents have a big apple tree in their backyard and a lot of apple trees out on the farm. The last several years they have offered us apples from the trees. We have a great time picking the apples and eating them too. Last year we made some delicious apple butter, dehydrated apple chips (my daughter's favourite), and froze bags of apple pie filling and grated apple for muffins and tarts. They gave us all the apples we wanted all we had to add was the labour to pick and prepare them and a few spices - which was totally worth it. Thanks Mom & Dad!

We also have a garden in our backyard that supplies all the peas, carrots and onions that we need for the year. We also try planting a few new things every year. This year we planted pumpkins, cucumbers and green peppers. If they work out we will probably plant them again next year. If they do not then we will try something else.

If you do not have a garden or know someone who can share their garden - look for a local U-pick garden or orchard. There are a lot in our area - our favourite is The Jungle Farm. We go every summer to pick baskets of strawberries for making jam, dehydrating and freezing and again in the fall for pumpkins and the Fall Fair.

Shopping local is a great way to support local producers and artisans and a great way to stretch your grocery budget too.