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Money Mondays - Buy Local and In Season

It's almost June now, which means for most of the country farmer's markets and local farmers will be beginning to have some crops ready for picking! This is great news for both your wallet and your stomach! I love summertime. It is by far my favorite season of the year, not only for the fresh produce but that does definitely add to my favoritism.

Eating in season (and even more so, eating locally) can save you lots of money. Because local farmers do not usually have the overhead of packaging, marketing, advertising, and extensive transportation costs of conventionally grown and sold produce, they are able to pass that savings on to you in the form of lower prices on things like meat, eggs, dairy, and produce. Often times, local farmer do not have the time or resources to get USDA certified organic, but do use organic growing methods, so you are able to get organically grown produce for far cheaper than the local supermarket. Not only is it organic (which is obviously important to me, but not the be all end all of what constitutes healthy), but it is local which means that it is picked when it is actually ripe instead of being picked weeks before it ripens and then having it sit in an 18 wheeler while it is taken across the country, or even halfway around the world. I recently bought some organic pears from my local Safeway, and I was bummed to notice once I got home that the pears were actually from Argentina. Although I love having organic produce, I'm not sure that a pear grown organically and then transported from Argentina to Colorado is really a step up from, say, a pear grown in California (although I will always opt for organic, but ideally I could find an organic pear from at least the West Coast, if not the state).

Eating locally also allows you the benefit of getting to know your grower. This way, you can ask about the growing methods, how to use an obscure vegetable, and whether or not they use chemicals in their processing. Simple Organic has a great post on questions to ask at the Farmer's Market.

Another way of saving money on produce during the summer season is by joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Basically a CSA is a local farm that has consumers buy shares of their produce for the season. You usually have to pay the cost of the share up front, which provides the farm with a little wiggle room in case their crops happen to be bad that season (which is a risk you should be aware of when joining a CSA).  After you sign up and pay, once a week (or however often your CSA does it), they deliver the produce to you. There are obviously different factors to consider when you are thinking of joining a CSA, such as the size of the share, how many weeks they deliver it to you, whether the pick up site is convenient for you (if you have to drive an hour each way to pick it up, and you drive a Hummer, it may no longer be cost effective for you), if you are willing to experiment with foods and eat the variety that is presented, and the total cost. In my research on CSAs, it seems like the weekly cost of a share varies between $12 or so dollars to upwards of $22 or so. Obviously this would be something that would need to be taken into account individually, but CSAs can be a great source of lower  prices produce. Local Harvest has a website that you can enter in your zip code and find a CSA close to you. If you want to read more about CSAs, the Frugal Green Family has a great post on the pros and cons of joining a CSA.

Here are some additional resources if you want to look for farms and farmer's markets in your area.
  • Eatwild.org  that has a clickable map of the United States where you can find local farmers in your area and map them out to see which ones are closest. 
  • Rodale Institute's Farm Locator allows you to find farms in your area that sell directly to consumers. 
  • The USDA has a Farmer's Market search that you can use to find farmer's markets in your area. 

What are you doing to save money during the summer months? Have you joined a CSA or started shopping at a farmer's market? I would love to hear your experiences!

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