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5 Ways to Buy Local and Save

Visiting outdoor farmers markets is a great way to find local foods and goods.
Visiting outdoor farmers markets is a great way to find local foods and goods.
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You've probably heard the phrase "buy local" countless times and may have even seen the slogan emblazoned on store windows, but have you ever thought about what it actually means? You're buying local anytime you purchase something from an independent business, artisan or farm. Buying local can often save you money because there are fewer hands involved. For example, you'll likely save money by purchasing green beans from the produce stand on the corner because the farmer doesn't have to divvy up his profits between the packer, the transporter and corporate and store employees the way chain supermarkets do.

Buying local can also provide an economic boost your community. In fact, the New Economics Foundation found that when people buy local, twice the amount of money stays in the community compared to areas where people bought more imported and out-of-state goods. So, while you're getting a great deal on something, you're also doing good things for your community, and that's definitely a deal you shouldn't pass up!

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Read the next page to find out what type of chain stores often offer local products.

Some grocery stores have special sections that house foods that are grown in your community. You can find anything from fruits, vegetables and baked goods to meat and dairy products. Since it's cheaper for the grocer to buy the foods directly from the seller, you can save money. Also, due to the fact the goods are closer to the point of sale, the transportation costs are cheaper and there's less income wasted on spoiled food.

One of the best ways to find local foods is to look on the label to see if they notate a specific place of origin. Don't be shy about asking the store's employees where certain things are from, either. If they aren't sure, it's probably not local. If you know of a farm in your area, you can also check with someone who works there to see if they sell their products in chain grocery stores. You can then make a point to support the business while you do your regular shopping.

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Dealing with local vendors is a great way to get fresh, affordable produce.
Dealing with local vendors is a great way to get fresh, affordable produce.
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Eating in-season fruits and vegetables is one of the best ways to ensure that you're buying local, as they're most likely grown at a nearby farm. Plus, in-season produce is much less expensive than out-of-season varieties, which are often shipped in from other states and even countries.

All it takes is a little research to find out which products are seasonably available in your area. Some farms in your community might even allow you to come and pick your own produce for a lower price than what you would pay at your grocery store or farmers market. This is a great way to have the freshest, most delicious foods in your home during any season.

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According to the U. S. Department of Agriculture, there are more than 7,000 farmers markets operating across the country. It's a common misconception that these markets only sell produce -- in fact, many of them showcase local businesses. You can purchase artisan crafts such as pottery, jewelry, baked goods and even clothing. In most cases, you're buying directly from the craftsmen themselves. Because of this, they can sell their products at a low price since they don't have to pay a middleman. Most will have business cards with an address or Web site, so it should be easy to buy from them again, even if their spot at the farmers market doesn't last.

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A co-op is an organization formed by people who come together for a shared advantage. Food-related co-ops come in two different forms: co-operative grocery stores and food-buying clubs. A co-op grocery store is collectively owned its members, and it can be open or closed, meaning it's either open to the public or only members are allowed to shop there. Generally, anyone can become a member by paying a small fee.

The most common form of co-op is a food-buying club, which is a casual group of friends, neighbors and families who use their collective buying power to purchase food in bulk from different local food organizations. Members submit their orders to the club coordinator, who places the group order. Once the food is received, the goods are separated into each individual order or divided equally among members. You can usually get a great deal through buying clubs since you're buying food in bulk for a much lower rate.

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Regardless if you're looking for sweets, pastries, bagels or bread, you're sure to find something affordable and tasty at your local bakery.
Regardless if you're looking for sweets, pastries, bagels or bread, you're sure to find something affordable and tasty at your local bakery.
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You can get a delicious snack and help your community by purchasing baked goods at a local bakery. Better still, many small, family-owned bakeries buy ingredients and various products from other local businesses. They do this not only to support other small businesses in the community, but because it's cheaper. For example, the local bakery down the street will likely buy their blueberries directly from a nearby farm because it's easier and more cost-effective. Those savings are then passed onto you, the customer.

However, you're probably not going to see a huge difference in price between your local bakery (or any other small, community-based business) and a massive chain store. As we mentioned earlier, it's sometimes hard for local artisans to compete with large corporations and overseas businesses. However, buying locally-made goods will often save you some money, which adds up over time. And if nothing else, you can always feel good about contributing to your community, regardless how much you save.

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Sources

  • Act Now BC. "Buy Local, In-Season Vegetables and Fruit." (Nov. 29, 2011)http://www.actnowbc.ca/everyone/buy_local,_in_season_fruits_and_vegetables
  • Food Routes. "How to Buy Local." (Nov. 29, 2011) http://www.foodroutes.org/howtobuylocal.jsp
  • Jones, Sam. "More than 1,000 New Farmers Markets Recorded Across Country as USDA Directory Reveals 17 Percent Growth" U.S. Department of Agriculture. Aug. 5, 2011. (Dec. 5, 2011) http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentid=2011/08/0338.xml
  • Schwartz, Judith D. "Buying Local: How it Boosts the Economy." Time. June 11, 2009. (Dec. 1, 2011) http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1903632,00.html
  • Sustainable Table. "Co-ops." (Dec. 5, 2011) http://www.sustainabletable.org/shop/co-ops
  • Tozzi, John. "Buying Local on a Large Scale." Business Week. Feb. 12, 2010. (Dec. 1, 2011) http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/content/feb2010/sb20100212_832582.htm
  • United Buying Clubs. "About Buying Clubs." (Nov. 29, 2011) http://www.unitedbuyingclubs.com/AboutUs.htm

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