Monday, September 22, 2014

5 Ways to Shop Locally on a Budget

So, local shopping is good for our local economy, but how do you fit it in to your budget? It's nice to talk about the benefits shopping local but if it seems to expensive for your family then all of that doesn't matter.

Writing and images by Marily.
Most of us don't have unlimited dollars to go around each month. Personally, I would love to only buy food at the farmers market and spend $8.00 on Arizona-made pasta sauce all the time. But, let's be real--it's expensive. Local merchants can't compete in price to large corporations with automated factories and cheap-o ingredients.

However, even if you are like me and can't always spend $8.00 on pasta sauce, there are things you can do to support local businesses and still stay in your budget. Here are my tips.

1. Think Local First. When it's time to buy something new or spend money going out, think about local places first. If you are having trouble finding out which locations are locally-owned you can look through Local First AZ's list here. These are not all of the local businesses in the state, but include lots of options. You can also go directly to a company's website and find the corporate address under their contact information to see where that company is located. If they don't have a website, that is a good sign they are locally owned!

Fun at the Arizona Science Center. 
2. Buy local gift cards. Are you purchasing a gift card to give away? Think about getting one from a local restaurant or store. In fact, Devour Phoenix sells restaurant gift cards that are good for eating at over 30 local restaurants including Cibo, Joyride Tacos, Green Vegetarian, Churn Ice Cream, and more.

Support local restaurants!
3. Designate a percentage of your food budget to local farms.
For September, I have committed to buying locally all month long. But typically, I aim for about $30.00 a week to spend at local farms. I know this is not a lot of money out of our budget, but it gives me something to spend at the Farmers markets or to order from The Backyard Farmer. Find an amount that works for your family. Simply purchasing a CSA membership is a great way to start. Once you have a budget for it, you can also fit in some amazing $8.00 pasta sauce every once and a while.

Our bounty from The Backyard Farmer
4. Visit ethnic grocery stores. You can find great prices on food if you are willing to branch out and try a new ethnic grocery store. The plus is, most of these places are locally owned.

There is much more than seaweed and cooked octopus at your local Asian grocery store. 
5. Eat seasonal food. Many grocery stores such as Fry's and even Walmart are starting to sell more produce from local farms. If you are buying what is in season--which is also usually the things that are on sale--you will be more likely to find foods that are grown locally. Look for signs in the grocery ads and around the produce section the next time you are at the grocery store to find locally-grown items.

Enjoying a meal at Superstition Farms farmers market.

An update on our shop local month.

This month, my family has committed to doing as much of our spending locally as possible. We are three-fourths of our way through the month. Birthdays are over and last week was much easier to stick to the goal. Actually, it was the first week we spent 100% of our money locally. Much of that was because I didn't do a lot of shopping at all last week.

I did make it to Bashas' during the week and to the Gilbert Farmers Market last Saturday. Actually, as a result of our local shopping month I had to find a new Bashas' to shop at. The one that use to be by my house closed down a few years ago and the closest one is now miles away. Once I looked up the store, I realized it was only 1 mile from where I take my boys to piano lessons every Thursday afternoon and is actually pretty convenient to start going to regularly.

As I was finishing up at Bashas' with my two youngest boys the other week, I walked past a childcare center that I didn't know was there! Of course the next time I went, I definitely took advantage, I signed my boys up and did some shopping in peace. They were much happier playing with toys while I got the grocery shopping done. We will definitely be back.

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