Farmers Market and gardening season are almost upon us here in Southeastern Indiana! That means NOW is the time to plan to eat local all year long.
I’ve created an easy 5 step plan to eat local all year long for our family. I’m sharing it with you in the hopes it will inspire you to do the same. I’ve made it really easy for you with spreadsheets and a printable document to help you get started.
Put your thinking cap on and lets dig in.
5 Step Plan To Eat Local All Year Long
Step 1-Make a List
Print out a copy of this list of locally available fruits, vegetables, grains and sweeteners. If I missed a few things, you can easily write them in on the back of one of the sheets of paper. This list is about 17 pages long.
If you don’t have a printer, you can make a list from scratch on paper or make a spreadsheet using Google Docs or Excel.
You’ll notice I didn’t include meat, dairy or eggs on this spreadsheet. Local meat (except chicken maybe) is available year round. And local dairy and eggs don’t store well for long periods of time. They are better purchased fresh and in small quantities each week.
Step 2- Fathom What Form
In what form does your family enjoy eating each food item?
Going down the list you just printed, ask yourself:
Do you only like to eat the food fresh or will you eat it frozen, canned, dried, fermented or all of the above?
Record you answers. Click here to see my family’s completed step 2.
Step 3- Calculate Quantity
What quantity of each food item does your family eat?
I am going to use broccoli as an example. Lets say you put down fresh and frozen in step 2 for the forms your family enjoys eating broccoli.
Ask yourself how many heads of broccoli you serve each week. Jot that number down. Then times it by 52 weeks in a year and jot that number down. And then, ask yourself if you need to add a few more heads to that total, to account for dinner guests and potlucks. You final number is a close estimate of how much broccoli your family consumes in a year.
My family eats about 2 heads of broccoli a week, which equals 104 heads of broccoli for a year. Sometimes I serve broccoli to dinner guests too, so I added a few more heads of broccoli to my yearly total. That brought my final total to 155 heads of broccoli per year.
Complete the same process for each item on the list. Some items may not be as straightforward as broccoli, like Honey for example. Just give it your best guess.
If you are mathematically challenged like me, you might need to grab a calculator. 😉
Here is my family’s completed step 3.
Are your numbers surprising you? I know I am totally amazed by the amount of food my family consumes in a year!
Step 4- Think Realistically
How much of your own food can you grow or forage?
Maybe you only have room for three tomato plants and some lettuce. Maybe you will plant a large garden. Or Maybe, you can’t grow anything, but you plan to forage for blackberries or mushrooms. Or if you’re really lucky, for tomatoes in your neighbors big garden (with permission of course).
How much time can you devote to processing (canning, freezing, fermenting or dehydrating) your own food?
If you don’t know how, it’s easy to learn. I will be posting tutorials this spring and summer. In the meantime, if you have questions about preserving foods, contact me and I will try and answer your questions and point you in the right direction.
How much storage space do you have?
Do you have enough freezer space to accommodate 90 heads of broccoli, 40 heads of cauliflower, 15 quarts of brussel sprouts, 25 quarts of strawberries, 10 quarts of blueberries………….?
Do you have enough room in your pantry to store 90 quarts of green beans, 150 quarts of tomatoes, 104 quarts of corn…………?
How much money can you budget to spend on local food each week during the growing season? Remember, if you plan to eat local all year long, you will be purchasing almost all of the fruits and vegetables that your family will eat for a whole year in the months of May through October. If you’ve never preserved and stored homegrown or local food before, planning to eat local all year long will likely cause you to look at your food budget in a different way than what you’re used to.
Using broccoli as my example once again, this is how I realistically thought about the foods on the list. According my family’s yearly broccoli consumption totals that I arrived at in step 3, my family consumes about 115 heads of broccoli a year. I plan to plant 25 heads in our garden. Broccoli is really quick and easy to freeze, so I have no processing time concerns. But, 115 heads of broccoli takes up a lot of space in a freezer. And I have some budget concerns as well. Depending on the price of broccoli at the farm up the street or the farmers market, I might not be able to afford to purchase all of the broccoli I need and still be able to pay for the variety of other fruits and vegetables that are ready and available that same week. I will plan to purchase 50 heads of broccoli, which won’t be enough for a whole year, but it will fit in my freezer and my hopefully my budget too.
Click here to see my family’s example 0f step 4.
Step 5-Take Action
Use all the information you have gathered in steps 1 through 4 to assist you in making your list for the farmers market each week.
Remember to have plenty of freezer boxes, bags and canning supplies like mason jars, lids and rings on hand at home to preserve all the homegrown or locally grown foods you’ll be feeding your family for the next year.