Monday, November 19, 2007

Buying local (ish)

Several weeks have passed since I decided to try and feed my family on foods bought at local shops only. Here's what's good about avoiding major supermarkets:
  1. Quality. The food is of superior quality in most instances—exceptions noted below.
  2. Local. Obviously, not all food sold at local stores is locally produced, but at least there is some local food available, and not only produce. Cville Market even sells locally milled flour, Wade's Mill—their white flour makes delicious bread and pretzels, although is perhaps a tad sturdy for my daintier baked goods. I bake a lot-- so much that I use a cannister that holds fifteen pounds of flour. I have no patience for wimpy canisters that can't even hold a full five pound bag.
  3. Less Waste. I've found that we waste less food because I am mindful of everything that I buy. At the supermarket, it's so easy to mindlessly load up your cart.
  4. We're eating more whole foods, fewer packaged foods, because of the problem of Cost—see below.
Here's what's bad about avoiding the supermarket.
  1. Cost. Food is much more expensive, particularly packaged food like cold cereal, cookies, etc.
  2. Time. Although I used to waste a lot of time at the supermarket, I find I'm making more trips to the store because there is no way I can buy enough food to feed a family of six people for a whole week at a small store, mainly because certain stores are good for certain things, and not so good for other things, so there's no one-stop shopping. For example, I prefer to buy eggs at C'ville Market, but don't like their meat selection so much. I have to drive all the way across town to Foods of All Nations for meat, unless I remember the butcher in the Main Street Market, which I usually don't. Produce is good anywhere you go, but I am not happy with the butter at any local store. You have your choice of super-expensive organic butter, or low-end brand inferior butter. Cville Market's butter comes in giant one-pound blocks, which you must cut into quarters yourself. Not that it's difficult to quarter a pound of butter, but then you have the problem of re-wrapping the pieces.
  3. Variety. There are some things I either can't get at local stores, or won't pay local-store prices for. Splenda, for example. Tuna—they do have tuna at Reid's, and probably Foods of All Nations too, but what is the difference between buying Starkist tuna at a local shop, and buying Starkist tuna at Harris-Teeter? Baking supplies are another issue. I've already mentioned flour and butter, but other baking supplies like chocolate chips, are either ridiculously expensive or unavailable in local stores. Again, why should I pay $4.50 for a bag of chocolate chips, when the same brand is on sale at Food Lion for $2.00? And chocolate chips are a staple in our house. If the kids are whining about having nothing to eat, I can whip up a batch of cookies and everybody is happy.
I'm thinking that I'll make a once-a-month trek to the supermarket and stock up on the types of things that supermarkets are good for, and the rest of the time stick to IY and C'ville Market.

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