10 Ways to Start Eating Local Foods

How to Eat Locally

Eating locally has many benefits. But how can you get started? While it's easy and maybe more convenient to go to your commercial grocery shop down the street, you can cultivate a better lifestyle and get more involved in your community if you eat locally. If you're unsure of how to make this change, here are different ways to get started buying and eating locally.

  • 01 of 10

    Learn What's in Season

    Heirloom tomatoes in a bowl

    The Spruce / Molly Watson

    Knowing what's in season in your region will help you know what to expect at farmers' markets and help you know which items at other markets and stores might be from local or regional sources (and which ones most definitely are not).

  • 02 of 10

    Shop at Farmers' Markets

    Sante Fe Farmers' Market produce

    The Spruce / Molly Watson

    Shopping at farmers' markets that feature locally grown products is a fun, easy way to increase the number of local foods you purchase and eat. Not all farmers' markets have the same guidelines, so check to see if stands are required to sell products grown or produced on local or regional farms. Be very suspicious of any market that features bananas—unless you're in Hawaii or Florida, of course.

  • 03 of 10

    Join Community Supported Agriculture

    CSA box

    The Spruce / Molly Watson

    Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) connects participants to a specific farm (or, sometimes, group of farms). You buy a share in a farm and, in return, you get a share of the harvest. You get the freshest, best produce the farm has to offer; the farm has a set of guaranteed sales and money up-front for seasonal expenses.

  • 04 of 10

    Shop at Stores That Label Food Origins

    If you have a choice of markets, chose one that notes where it sources its products. In particular, look for signs marking the source of seafood, meat, poultry, and produce. Co-ops and health food stores are more likely to clearly denote the origins of the foods they carry, but conventional grocery stores are increasingly labeling their produce sections and meat and seafood counters.

    No signs at your local market? Speak to the manager or section managers. Express your interest in locally grown and produced foods. Ask that any locally or regionally grown items at the store be so noted. You'll be surprised at how much goodwill rises up to meet genuine interest.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Shop the Perimeter of Grocery Stores

    The aisles around the perimeter of grocery stores contain more ingredients than processed foods. Shop these perimeters for fresh produce, meats, and dairy—precisely those items that you can ask about their source and hopefully find some from near-by sources. Pay particular attention to the produce aisle: if you know your seasons, you may be able to find some locally or regionally grown items.

  • 06 of 10

    Plant a Garden

    Growing your own food is the ultimate way to eat local. From a simple herb garden to prolific raised beds designed to feed a family, there are lots of ways to grow your own food.

  • 07 of 10

    Visit U-Picks and Farm Stands

    For most city-dwellers, farm stands aren't an everyday food gathering solution. But when the opportunity presents itself, u-picks (where you go to a farm and pick your own produce) are a great source for large quantities of super-fresh produce.

  • 08 of 10

    Choose Restaurants That Source Locally

    Frequent restaurants that buy from local and regional farms, growers, and purveyors and continue your support of local farmers and producers even when you eat out.

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  • 09 of 10

    Frequent Locally-Owned Food Producers

    Continue your support of a local food system by buying from artisans and locally-owned food producers such as bakeries, butchers, and coffee roasters for foods you don't cook at home or which aren't grown locally.

  • 10 of 10

    Buy Family Farmed or Fair Trade Products When Local Is Unavailable

    Don't live near dairy cows? Buy milk from dairies that buy from family-owned farms. Live in the contiguous 48 states of the U.S. but find yourself unwilling to give up coffee? Buy coffee grown in sustainable ways by people who pay workers fairly.

    Eating local foods is certainly about eating food grown closer to home, but it is also about being more aware of your food and how it gets to you.