HOW TO::buy more local veggies without breaking the bank

>> May 3, 2010

My last post was all about becoming a vegetarian and not shaving your legs ever again.  Just kidding... I know all good PWs shave and get their nails done at least once a week!

Actually, my last post was about being a better steward of our earth by eating meat more eco-consciously.  In our home I've successfully added more veggie-based protein meals in our diet.  But that's not the only way to save money and be a better friend to nature.  It's important to include happy veggies in our diets, too.  I don't mean drawing smiley faces on your carrots with a Sharpie, but I am suggesting that you think a little before grabbing that bagged salad shipped from 2,359 miles away. 

We all know that buying local veggies and fruits (which isn’t always practical in Minnesota in JANUARY - where we live) is the eco-friendly way to go. But how do we do this?

Do you have to grow your own garden or move to a farm? Well, you can -- but that’s not the only option. A few years ago my PH Craig, and his über-green friend Keegan, decided to grow an organic garden in our driveway a few summers ago.  It was a dismal failure.  If “driveway” doesn’t scream D.I.S.A.S.T.E.R in LED headlights to you, then you need a vacation away from church/kids/housework even more than I do!
So how do we buy local?  How can we afford organic veggies for our families? Here are a couple ways we can be better friends of the earth -- and save a little money doing so:

find a local farmer’s market
Even our small town has a farmer’s market open during the spring/summer/fall months on Saturday mornings and Wednesday afternoon.  If you've never frequented a farmer’s market, you are missing out on a wonderful microcosm of American culture. 

There's something amazing about buying cucumbers from the hands that grew them. You might also discover a community of people and friends you didn’t know existed. As my kids are enjoying their honey sticks and cupcakes, we often run into friends and vow to meet up for a play date or a grill out later in the day. In our family we are ALL OVER building relationships with the community where we live. Farmer's markets are a super easy way to do that.

I guess you could do the same thing in the produce section at SuperTarget, but there is something definitely more earthy about chatting about how big the kids are getting between the locally made cupcake table and the young high-schooler selling beets from her family’s farm.

support a CSA
I bet you have no clue what the heck a CSA is!  No, it doesn't stand for the Club for Sunday-haters Anonymous, it stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  Usually, it means you buy a “share” in a local farm.  The actual dollar amount can vary a lot depending on where you live, what produce the farm is growing, length of growing season, etc.

In return, you get a box of produce every week during the summer months. Done. You are buying locally, supporting local farmers, eating what’s in season, and building a better community.

Sometimes CSA's can be an expensive option up front (one of our local farms charges $640 for a share for the season) but you will save money in the long run.  Sometimes these farms also have the option of you actually working for your food.  In lieu of cash, they will let you actually put in time on the farm helping them grow their veggies.  Most of these farms are very eco-conscious and use very few- if any chemical pesticides and herbicides.

For more information, check out

buy what’s in season
This is one of those things that’s really tricky for me.  I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s when you just ate what you wanted when you wanted to.  Nobody really cared about organic things or being “green.” If it was the middle of the winter and you wanted tomato on your burger, you just got one from the grocery store, no matter how pink-ish it looked or how flavorless it tasted.

Its sad, but I never really thought about what was in season or not, or even how those factors affected the food's taste.  That is, until I moved to Italy to do an internship when I was 21.

I never really liked fruit until I tasted fruit in Italy. It was fresh. It was amazing. It was full of flavor. It didn’t taste like the inside of a cardboard box. I'd never thought about how food could really taste if it wasn’t ripened while sitting in the back of a semi truck. I still long for juicy tomatoes, luscious peaches, and basil grown on an Italian balcony.

So back to eating what’s in season.

First, get a subscription to a good food magazine.  My favorite is Everyday Food (it’s a Martha Stewart publication, check out for more info). It has a section in every issue that tells what’s in season and how to cook it. Not only will you have yummier tasting fruits and veggies, they will be a whole heck of a lot cheaper.

Secondly, buy things when they are in season and stock up.  You can freeze things, or if you are really daring - can them!  (I'm a canning pansy but secretly I want to learn this lost art.)  We make freezer jam from strawberries and raspberries.  I make lots of tomato sauce in the summer.  I even found yummy things to do with squash in the fall!   

I hope this helps you think a little bit more about how we PWs can become better stewards of this amazing world God has given us, and set an example for our parishioners as well.  If it all seems overwhelming, just remember that anything you do helps.  Take it one “bite” at a time!        

Got a HOW TO question for Jenah? 
Ask her to post about it by sending her an email with the SUBJECT "HOW TO" at clutchtalk (at) gmail (dot) com. 

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Tanya May 3, 2010 at 1:05 PM  

Jenah, you crack me up! Love this. Good info and humor, too!

Craig Hensel,  May 3, 2010 at 3:24 PM  

My wife rulz! The farmer's market in Winona is the stuff!

jenah May 3, 2010 at 3:32 PM  

thanks tanya! i like to keep things cool, you know. ;)

aww craig... thanks. our farmer's market is the stuff.

Heather May 3, 2010 at 3:51 PM  

I'm doing CSA the first time this year! I'm super jazzed about it.

joannmski May 3, 2010 at 7:42 PM  

Jenah, ur great! Thanks for the tips. Time for this old dog to learn some new tricks.

jenah May 4, 2010 at 9:53 AM  

heather, that's so great! i really wanted to this summer- we've been talking about it forever, but we just can't front the $640! yikes! i have a friend who's working at one though, so i suspect we'll get some goodies from her. ;) i'm excited about that though, because i would love to spend some time out on the farm with her. our farmer's market is so great, that i won't miss getting veggies from the csa.
joann- good for you. i am slowly learning too. the "in season" thing is still hard, although, fruits just don't taste good when they are not in season!

Heather May 4, 2010 at 4:52 PM  

we are just doing the half share. small steps towards eating veggies. small steps.

jenah May 5, 2010 at 10:59 PM  

heather- i always think about a half share too, but then i just pansy out and visit the farmer's market which is just fine too. :)

Heather May 6, 2010 at 9:29 AM  

i really just think it's a good way to "commit to veggies". i have this EVERY week. and i don't buy fresh veggies every week. a dozen bananas at kwik trip is as close as we get sometimes.

jenah May 10, 2010 at 1:14 PM  

heather... awesome. it sounds like me sometimes, "the jam on their sandwiches counts as a fruit, right?" haha!
and it looks like i better commit, too... i am not only gluten free, it looks like i'm dairy free too. just shoot me now.

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