By Nina, Contributing Writer
When I first learned about real food, I was already feeding my family on a very small budget. I allotted $180/month for groceries and we had 3 little ones at the time. So as I started reading food blogs and learning about nourishing my family, one concern kept coming up: how am I going to do this and keep our budget under control?
Thankfully, I had some great resources and also developed a plan. Today, my budget is higher, but it’s not outrageous. I can feed our family of six for an average of $525/month. Sometimes, it’s more, if we’re out of a lot of stuff, or I get lazy and buy stuff I could make myself, and sometimes it’s less. (I like those months. 😉 )
One key to keeping our food budget under control was to find local food … online.
Reach Out to Your Network
I’ve gotten some great tips about inexpensive local food sources by asking my network of friends if they knew where I could find it or if they had friends who might. The fastest way was to post a status update on Facebook, or send messages to friends who I thought might know.
Through friends on Facebook, I found a local food co-op that helped me save a lot of money on coconut oil. I was also offered the opportunity to get a free CSA share by delivering from a close town to my own town and found some sources I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. Putting the word out also let my friends know that I’m a “frugal foodie” and has rewarded me with gifts from their gardens or orchards when they have excess.
This doesn’t have to be limited to Facebook. If you’re part of a local group that has an online forum, join (if you haven’t already) and ask if anyone can share some tips with you. Chances are, you’ll quickly find some great food sources.
Google is Your Friend
I love to research, so one of the first things I did when I was on the hunt for local food sources was to Google it. Using your town name and local food/farms/CSAs, should point you in the right direction. You may find individual farms, or, in my case, websites that list the local food sources in your area.
Real Milk is a project of the Weston A. Price foundation that helps people find local sources of raw milk. I used it to find sources of raw milk in my area and found a great dairy that I purchased a herd-share through. I also found another farm that’s an Azure Standard drop point (which is actually pretty local for us), as well as another farm that provides butter, cream, yogurt, eggs, olive oil, and cheese, in addition to raw milk. If I was unable to find results using Google, I would have emailed the owners of these farms to see if they could point me in the direction of some good local food sources.
When I was researching CSAs, one of the first websites I found was Local Harvest. This website is designed to connect people to “the best organic food that’s grown closest to you.” I was skeptical when I first found it because I live in a small town in a pretty rural area, but I was pleasantly surprised.
Since it’s been a while since I searched Local Harvest, I did one as I was writing this. Our local options have grown! One quick search pointed me to 36 farms, butchers, farmer’s markets and CSAs. Did I mention it’s a free resource?
If you’re looking for something in particular, you can either search Craigslist (I start in the farm & garden section) or post an ad letting people know what you’re looking for. Be prepared if you post an ad because you might just get a flood of responses (real ones!) to your query. For instance, I put up a little blurb looking for sources of grass-fed beef one year and had 5 farmers email me within a couple of hours. This helped me find some good sources of beef and even pointed me to some new restaurants as they let me know which ones used their beef.
The internet is a great tool for saving money on real food resources, even when it comes to finding local food itself!