Buying Local On A Budget – Learn Your Local Options

This is the third post in a short guide to buying local on a budget. Part one is all about affordable local switches and part two is about maximizing the use of your local finds. You can read it here.

In part three, we’ll talk about learning your local options. If you don’t know what grows here, what’s made here, when it is available, and what stores carry it, buying local takes on a whole new level of difficulty. Here are some steps you can take to arm yourself with the knowledge you need.

What Grows Here?

Select Nova Scotia has a great list to help you discover some of what grows here and when it is in season. You may be surprised with just how much is available in the province. Learning what is available here is a key first step in adding more local products into your life.

And buying local isn’t just about local produce. Taste of Nova Scotia keeps a list of some specialty products like preserves and coffee.

Finally, our annual Local Wishlist highlights a number of local artisan goods, home goods, and specialty food made in Nova Scotia. These are all good places to begin to get a sense of what is available here in the province. If you have other helpful links, please share them in the comments.

How Can I Get It?

There are a growing number of places and ways to source local food, and how you source it sometimes affects how much it costs. Some of the most affordable options include CSA’s, U-Picks, and roadside stands where you’re buying direct from your farmer. We’ll talk more about CSA’s below, but you can find a list of CSA’s in Nova Scotia HERE.

Farmers Markets are a great place to find a wide variety of seasonal produce and specialty products in one place. Shopping at one of the many markets in Nova Scotia is also a great way to discover even more locally grown items, as well as local artisan goods and jewelry. Farmers Markets of Nova Scotia have a handy map with a list of markets across Nova Scotia (below). The market can be an enjoyable place to buy local food, connect with local farmers and artisans, and many even visit the market as an enjoyable and relaxing part of their weekend routine, meeting with friends and family as they shop.

FMNS Map

Grocery stores have increasingly expanded their local offerings, making it more convenient for some in the province to have broader access to local foods. Many Sobey’s locations, for instance, will post the number of local items in store during the summer and fall, and prominently indicate which items are “Atlantic Fresh”.

Then there are independent community markets like Withrow’s, Gateway, Farmer Clems, Local Source Market, and the Community Carrot. 

Finally, a few local companies now deliver specialty items to your door. Buying a juice (or ice pops!) subscription from Lemon Dogs, or a monthly subscription to Made With Local are an easy and delicious way to keep your cupboards stocked with a few specialty local items.

How Do I Prepare It?

Select Nova Scotia has a recipe guide on their website which is sorted by season. Browse some really fun recipes like salted caramel apple poutine!

The Farmers Markets of Nova Scotia include seasonal ingredients and recipes in their bi-monthly eNewsletter. Sign up and have seasonal ideas delivered to you every second month.

Another great place for ongoing inspiration is from local food bloggers. We have a vibrant local food blogging community here in Nova Scotia, many of whom feature lots of local, seasonal produce in their recipes. Check out the Halifax Food Bloggers Pinterest Board for drool-worthy and always updated ideas for how you can use the harvest.

And of course, the internet is a great resource to quickly find a use for a local product you have a lot of or for local produce that is extra affordable at the moment. Simply type the product into google and add the word recipes. We’ll talk a little more about basic recipes in a future section of this guide.

Or, start with what you know! If you have an existing recipe you love to make, take a fresh look at it now that you’re armed with more information on what grows here. During our presentation at Saltscapes, audience members shared their go-to recipes and how they added a little local to them, like substituting some of the ingredients that make up broccoli salad for local equivalents (ex: broccoli, bacon, cheese and onion). Another suggestion was adding a local accent to a dish, like a dash of Terra Beata cranberries to a quinoa salad!

Talk to your Farmer!

Ask about alternative cuts of meat (i.e bacon ends are cheaper than store bought bacon, jowl is a cheap cut of meat that can be made into a number of delicious dishes). Inquire on how to prepare affordable new-to-you veggies. Ask about buying in bulk, or talk to them about what local staples might fit your budget. Our farmers are often experts when it comes to local food and can point you in the right direction.

Identify Your Food Style:

Being realistic with how you source and prepare food can play a big role in reducing food waste and saving money while still supporting the growth and resilience of our local food security.

For someone who loves to be creative in the kitchen, who has a bit of time for prep, or who loves to try new things, a subscription to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) can be a great option. With CSA’s, you are essentially buying a share in a farm for the season. In exchange for your subscription, you receive a box of produce from that farm each week. You get to support a local farm while gaining access to a range of affordable local food.

Vegetable and fruit CSA’s are the most common, but some farms offer meat, eggs, bread, herbs, and even flowers. What is in that food box varies from week-to-week, depending on the harvest.   It’s like a black box challenge every week!

But CSA’s aren’t for everyone, and that’s okay. There are other options to explore. For example, places like Little Red Kitsch’n make balanced, oven-ready meals made with local meat, fish, and cheese that range in price from $5 – $20 per meal. They even cater to allergies.

Start exploring what options are available and be honest about what will fit best into your budget and lifestyle.

In part four of our mini-guide to Buying Local On A Budget, we’ll talk about building a pantry of both local and non-local items and how it can help you when it comes to preparing more affordable local meals.

About the author

Gillian Wesley

Since getting together six years ago, we have given away our television, begun weekly DIY nights, experimented with urban homesteading, challenged ourselves to drive less (100 days car-free in 2013), and have learned more about food security. We have experimented with a range of budgeting strategies, all of which involve consuming less stuff. We buy food with reducing packaging in mind. We got a dog. We have been doing these things for a variety of reasons: financial, social, environmental, to achieve a better work-life balance. It has resulted in us enjoying an increasingly simple and satisfying lifestyle. We’ve been influenced by a lot of people we’ve encountered and things we’ve read about along the way, notably the Transition Movement, the Antigonish Movement, and, more recently, traditional Acadien living. And we’ve learned that we are by no means alone. There are many, many people who are taking steps to downshift their lives. Sign up for our eNewsletter, and we’ll send you a round-up of our new and upcoming projects once a month.

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