How To Eat Locally On A Budget:Tips from 4 Locavores

Temra Costa,Deborah Madison,Jessica Prentice,Leda Meredith

San Francisco is on the leading edge of the locavore movement.  It’s also one of the most expensive cities in the U.S.  No wonder the Commonwealth Club program at the Port Commission room at the Ferry Building housed a sell-out crowd this past Wednesday night. The topic: how to eat locally on a budget. The speakers, all passionate locavores and sustainable food advocates, have huge locavore credibility:

Temra Costa’s  just released book, Farmer Jane: Women Changing the way We Eat tells the stories of 26 women leaders that are working to create a more holistic and nurturing food and agriculture system. Prior to writing her book, Temra worked for CAFF – The Community Alliance for Family Farmers on the Farm to School and Buy Fresh Buy Local programs. Temra resides in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Deborah Madison opened Greens, a vegetarian restaurant in San Francisco that is still popular after over 20 years, and went on to write several cookbooks about vegetarian cooking: The Greens Cookbook and Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone amongst them.  Her latest book celebrates fruit in all it lusciousness: Seasonal Fruit Desserts From Orchard, Farm and Market.

Leda Meredith is a passionate locavore and urban gardener. Her most recent book:  The Locavore’s Handbook: A Busy Person’s Guild to Eating Local on A Budget is full of practical, down-to-earth advice about incorporating locally grown foods into daily meals. She wrote The Locavore’s Guilde to New York City and teaches classes on urban gardening.  Leda resides in Brooklyn, NY.

Jessica Prentice is a professionally trained chef and expert in sustainable agriculture issues. She worked as the Director of Education Programs for the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market and founded Wise Foods Way in 2004 and Locavores in 2005. She is a worker-owner in a CSK- Community Supported Kitchen in Berkeley called Three Stone Hearth. In her book, Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger For Connection Jessica champions locally grown, humanely raised, nutrient-rich foods and traditional cooking methods. Jessica lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The discussion ended up being about much more than budgeting tips. All the women expanded upon the psychic, health and political  benefits of creating community around food. As Deborah Madison put it “When you get involved in local food you’re getting a lot more than food, you are getting community.” Leda Meredith got us thinking about community in a whole new way when she said “I never eat alone….I have a whole family on my plate.”  All of the women are advocates of developing personal relationships with the people that produce the food we eat.

Jessica Prentice spoke eloquently and deliciously about creating nutrient-rich meals out of simple ingredients such as beans and rice. “Bone broths with beans and rice and a bay leaf – simple, delicious.”  Jessica has a great sense of humor.  When espousing the cost savings in choosing mutton over lamb in dishes like lamb stew she said…”you really can’t tell the difference in taste – mutton just has a p.r. problem!”

The conversation always circled back to the expense of eating locally. All of the women on the panel are budget-conscious and offered some excellent ideas for saving money while eating locally. Here are some of the best:

  1. Volunteer for your local CSA or farmer’s market – many will offer trade in food for work.
  2. Eat seasonally, prices come down when food is in plentiful supply, i.e., strawberries in the spring, tomatoes in the summer.
  3. Use all parts of the vegetable: fresh organically grown beet, carrot and radish greens are delicious.
  4. Choose grains and beans over meat and create simple inexpensive meals using bone broths and vegetables.
  5. Preserve seasonal fruits and vegetables by freezing or canning.
  6. Choose cheaper cuts of meat and make stews that can last all week.

As I was writing this post I got an email from Britt Bravo, a social change consultant/coach based in Oakland who attended Wednesday’s panel.  She wrote a truly comprehensive list of tips for eating locally on a budget gleaned from the discussion. Here is the post on her blog:  Have Fun * Do Good – 25 Tips For Eating Locally on A Budget.

Thanks Britt!

Happy Eating!

P.S. Zuzy from Cooking 4 the Clueless also weighed in on the panel discussion:

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