At least in Bloomington, Indiana it is! Almost everything is coming into season now in the Midwest, which means tough choices–what do I want to get, versus what do I need to get? If I get this, can I eat it in time? Will it go bad? How do I capture the freshness of summer through the winter and spring months?
I brought $50 to the market this morning, planning on spending it all to demonstrate how easy it is (with a little planning and thought) to eat local and fresh year round.
Here’s what I got with my $50:
6 squash blossoms ($2)
One cantaloupe ($3)
One pint of oriental eggplant ($1.50)
One pint of yellow cherry tomatoes ($1.50)
One pound of pork burgers (4 burgers, $6)
6 ears of corn ($2.50)
One round of plain goat cheese ($8)
One pound of clover honey ($4.50)
One pound of fair trade, locally roasted coffee ($10)
2 pounds of peaches ($5)
2 bags of tender leaf lettuce ($5)
1 small bunch parsley ($1.50)
1 large bunch cilantro ($2.00)
1 pound whole wheat pastry flour ($4)
Three peacock feathers for cat toys ($0.30)
Two nice peacock feathers to make a hair fascinator ($2)
Not counting the feathers, I spent $56.50 (I had not planned on buying the pastry flour, but the Icelandic Sheep farmers who usually sell it hadn’t been to market in several weeks and I didn’t want to miss my opportunity to buy it while it was available!). Keep in mind, too, that about half of what I bought was organic, too.
Granted, I bought several luxury items, like the squash blossoms and goat cheese, and the typical family of four on a budget probably would pass buy such items. However, if I were feeding a family of four, a dinner consisting of 4 pork burgers, 4 ears of corn, and fresh salad would cost that family $11 total, or $2.75 a person (including adding fresh tomatoes to the salad, and using pantry items to make a fresh vinaigrette for the salad).
Now, let’s shop at Kroger.
1 pound ground sirloin ($3.15)
2 bags Dole prepared salad ($5)
4 ears of corn ($1)
For a similar meal, it is cheaper to shop at Kroger, but just by cents. The Kroger meal would cost about $2.30 per person. With the economy in the crapper, adding up the savings on every meal, those cents do turn into dollars of savings. If you were to use the prices I came up with for the two meals, do all the math, the savings between eating every meal local and every meal from Kroger adds up to about $40 a month. Which can be the electric bill, or a cell phone bill, or the internet bill………..
HOWEVER, the excuse of local not being affordable is a bunch of hooey. Most anything is affordable if you take the time to think about what you’re buying, how you can save something for later (buying a dozen ears of corn from the local market for $5 and freezing some, for example), and how your purchase fits into your overall budget and outlook on life. Also, look at the quality and the rarity of some of the things I got today. Hand made cheese? Baby oriental eggplant? Squash blossoms!? I can’t get that at Kroger. And there is something to be said about Bloomington honey, too. It actually tastes like Bloomington. As if you were to walk outside on a breezy day, and close your eyes, and take a deep breath, and then translate that to an edible good. I would not want to bottle the taste of Kroger air, as that would be a startling mix of stale cigarette smoke, fish guts, and freshly baked bread. But you see my point.
Just for fun, I’m going to post all week long about the dishes we’ll be creating from our market harvest, just to show you how far that food will go (I like coffee, but that pound will last us 2 weeks if we drink some every day–and the flour? That’ll last awhile too), and how delicious and fresh and wonderful everything will taste.