The days are slowly getting warmer and visions of weekend farmers markets keep flashing through my mind. We already got news that our local markets would kick off in June instead of the usual May, because of COVID-19. This is sad but understandable. If you look forward to your local farmers market, you may be sad about yours getting postponed, too. But, did you know that many food producers will also work with consumers directly? You don’t necessarily have to wait for your farmers markets to get your local meats and produce fix!
We’ve been buying from local farms and ranches for many years (throughout the year) as a supplement to our “regular” grocery shopping. Doing so allows us to get the pasture-raised meats and eggs we want, plus other products we can’t easily find in a store. So while COVID-19 has made trips to the grocery store a sad experience (e.g. tape marking “one way” paths, everyone in masks, empty shelves for some products), our grocery purchasing has remained mostly unchanged thanks to the variety of sources we purchase from.
As I thought about this the other day, I realized that others may not know about these opportunities in their own geographies. Depending on where you live, the grocery store may not be your only option for high quality meats and produce.
We tend to buy meats and other animal products from our vendors (think pasture raised beef, chicken, pork and lamb). We buy organic produce and other kitchen staples from the grocery store. Pastured eggs come from both sources, depending on when we’re ordering from the farms or going to the store. Our strategy during COVID-19? Pretty much the same, just more frozen veggies than fresh ones right now. And the best part? The local producers deliver directly to us!
This may be something to look into for yourself. Here’s why:
- You are supporting your local farmers and producers (and economy), who are the backbone of our food industry and need our help now more than ever!
- You are likely to get higher quality products. The reason we began buying directly from local farms was that we could be assured the meats were pasture-raised, using organic practices, which are better for you (and our environment) than conventional meat and produce. All it takes is asking some questions and learning about their processes.
- You start to build relationships and connections with the food you’re eating because you know the people behind the operation. It allows you to have more appreciation for the work that was put into raising the animal or growing the produce.
- You will have more appreciation for the healthier, happier life your animal may have lived and the nourishment it is providing you.
- You can often get products that aren’t sold in stores, or buy products in bulk or at a lower price. For example, we purchase chicken feet and marrow bones to use in bone broth, which we can’t usually find in stores. This week, we got some beautiful locally grown oyster mushrooms that normally would have cost much more in the grocery store.
- Many producers will deliver to you for free or a nominal fee, saving you a trip to a public place.
So how can you get started expanding your grocery shopping strategy? Here are some ideas:
- Do a simple Google search for the type of product you’re looking for and your state (i.e. “pasture raised beef Nebraska”). You can try your specific city, but it may limit your results, or mainly show you grocery stores in your area. Searching by state will bring you more results. This requires some sifting and reading, but you may find what you’re looking for more quickly.
- Check out eatwild.com and their tool for identifying local producers in your state.
- Visit the website of your local farmers market and look for a list of vendors. Usually, the list will include contact information for each vendor that you can use to learn more.
- Ask your friends on social media. Your social network may have great tips for where they get their products. Or they may connect you with others who might be good resources.
- Contact the producers you’re interested in. Not all producers sell directly to consumers so you’ll need to find that out first. The ones that do will have their own processes for selling and delivering their products. One vendor we work with delivers every Wednesday. Another vendor delivers every Thursday, but not to my city, so they deliver to my mom. Some vendors will need your order a week before delivery while others may only need your order 48 hours before. Some have an ordering minimum, so we might ask other family members if they want to purchase anything and put in one big order for all of us. Yes, getting groceries from a variety of sources requires a little front-end planning time, but the benefits justify the effort, by far!
I hope this post provides you with some ways to expand your current grocery strategy. Building relationships with your food and the people that produce it for you provides so many benefits! Now is a wonderful opportunity to expand your resources and support local farmers and producers. Let’s be grateful for healthy food supplies in various realms!
P.S. I can’t wait to return to our farmers markets and grocery stores once COVID-19 has passed! Grocery shopping is one of my favorite activities. A ritual my mom and I have is to go to Whole Foods on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, grab a glass of wine from the little in-store bar and carry it around with us in the store as we peruse the fresh produce and other products, talking about the meals we planned to make that week and just life in general.
I remember meeting her there on a weekend in early March when the impacts of COVID-19 were just starting to emerge in our state. We headed over to the combo coffee/bar for our glass of wine, looked up at the menu and only saw coffee products listed.
My mom says to the worker, “Hi there! Um, where’s your wine list?” and the worker responds, “Oh, we aren’t serving alcohol right now due to the virus.”
We both turned to each other wide-eyed and maybe a little embarrassed. Were we crazy for thinking we could still get our glass of wine? Were we the only ones who still wanted a little “normalcy” in an abnormal situation?! Mind you, this was BEFORE tape started marking the floors for social distancing, BEFORE the 10-person gathering limit was put in place, etc. so please don’t judge us too harshly here.
Anyways, I burst out laughing every time that memory pops in my head now. Little did we know that trips to the grocery store would become even sadder in the coming weeks!
Needless to say, it will be a happy day for all of us when we can shop nonchalantly again!