Many of you already mentioned this important money-saving tip in the comments section of Part I, but I felt it was such an important point it deserved its very own post: eat foods that grow near you.
1. Eat what's in season.
What food grows where you are, and when is it at its peak? Produce is generally cheaper when it's in season in your area, even if you buy it at the local supermarket. It usually tastes better, too! For example, our own grocery stores are flooded with the most delicious local melons at the end of summer; it's almost a crime to eat them any other time of year. And I'll never forget the amazing artichokes we could get when we lived in California; I haven't seen a single fresh baby artichoke since I moved here.
2. Visit Farmers' Markets.
This is a no-brainer, really, and if there is a farmers' market in your area I bet you’re already going there. But did you know that you can sometimes score a really good deal right before the market closes? Workers usually don’t want to pack up and haul home all that unsold produce, and they might make you a deal if you stop by a few minutes before close.
For example, my mom stopped by our local market last week when the sellers were packing to leave and bought two bunches of organic baby beets with greens for $1.00 each, and someone I met at a party told me he always shows up at the market at 12:15 and picks up produce for a steal. In fact he had just bought over 10 pounds of Rainier cherries for $9.00 (they are normally $4.00 or more a pound).
Heck, it’s no sure thing, but it's certainly worth a try!
3. Join a CSA.
A lot of my friends are trying out Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), where they pay a fee and become "shareholders" in a local CSA farm. They then receive a box of fresh produce every week all through the growing season. It's an adventurous way to eat, as you never really know what's coming week to week; you may end up discovering foods you never thought to try before, like Jerusalem Artichokes, say, or green tomatoes.
If you have the money to pay upfront for a CSA share, it can be a great time and money saver. For example, my cousin's CSA cost $480 for 15 weeks. That sounds like a lot of money, but it comes to $32 per week for as much fresh food as he can possibly eat, without having to go to the grocery store or market.
For more information on CSAs or to search for one in your area visit Local Harvest. (Thanks, Zach!)
4. Roadside Stands.
Keep your eye out for small fruit and vegetable stands along the roadside or in front of local farms and orchards. If you don't see any, you might try checking the classified ads in your local paper for "Produce".
5. Pick Your Own.
In addition to farm stands, check the classified ads for "U-Pick" farms and orchards. It's usually less expensive and it's a wonderful way to spend the afternoon with the kids. I'll never forget the fun of picking fruit with my family at local orchards, sitting on the tailgate with friends eating Red Delicious apples as big as our heads, or making ourselves sick on cherries.
6. Grow Your Own.
Do you have a yard, patio, porch, or sunny windowsill? If so, you can probably save some money by growing some of your own vegetables or herbs.
Here's a picture of our own work-in-progress. We have a very large yard and are continually ripping up lawn and putting in more garden beds. This year, with the rising cost of food and fuel, we got serious about fruits and vegetables and planted five large beds. So far we have 15 tomato plants, a pumpkin patch, cantaloupe, strawberries, basil, zucchini, peas, garlic, grapes, sweet corn (in the foreground, hopefully "knee high by the Fourth of July"), a raspberry/blackberry patch, an apricot tree, rhubarb, herbs, and flowers (I never want to run out of space for the flowers.)
How about you? Do you have more tips on saving money, exploring your own region, and becoming not just vegans but localvores as well?