Latte at the cafeShopping farm direct and purchasing your food in bulk can be a bit overwhelming and confusing at first. We have compiled these tips to help you change your mindset and inspire you to keep going as you transition away from the grocery store towards this way of shopping for food.

1. Enjoy the adventure!

All adventures begin with one step, and you’ve done that by joining Know Thy Food. This will be an adventure of discovery, and you can decide to enjoy it!

2. Empower yourself with knowledge!

Get to know the farmers who produce your food. Volunteer at KTF and meet the farmers when they deliver. Ask if you can visit the farm. Don’t be afraid to email and ask any questions you may have. Get to know the farmers and think of them as your friends, because that’s what they are. Get to know yourself and your family’s needs too.

3. Cook simply using basic foods.

Buy basic, whole foods, ie foods without much, if any, packaging or labels with long ingredient lists. Cooking from basic local foods is a great way to cut back on your grocery budget. You can learn how to prepare delicious dinners and make your own convenience foods and snacks, which will be much tastier and healthier than anything commercially manufactured, from scratch. There are many time and labor saving techniques you master to make things easier, such as using a slow cooker or cooking “planned overs” for use the next day.

4. Eat healthier with the seasons.

By eating according to seasonal rhythms we can add a lot to the quality of our lives. Seasonal produce is fresher, tastes better, has higher nutritional value, and is also often less expensive. It has not traveled across the globe, saving fuel and pollution. Try new varieties, and stay open to learning and experiencing new taste sensations.

5. Save for the future.

Take steps to learn about a few basic food processing techniques in order to take advantage of seasonal availabilities. Freezing and dehydrating are very easy ways of preserving the harvest. We can help you learn how to do this as well as how to do hot water bath and pressure canning, so that you can buy fresh seasonal produce in bulk and make your own jams, pickles, tomato sauces and more. If you don’t own a canner or dehydrator, you can borrow one from our Home Goods Library. You will be so happy in the winter when you are able to bring out some summer berries you’ve preserved yourself!

6. Buy in bulk and save even more money.

Buy non-perishable foods and frozen products, such as meats, once a month even once a year, rather than buying small portions each week. If you don’t have a chest freezer or enough storage space, think about purchasing a large amount to share with a neighbor, friend, or someone in your family. Think about how much food your family eats. Once you get a handle on how much food you need, plan ahead. If you determine your family will need, say, a cow and 3 pigs a year, talk with the producers about contracting with them to produce what you need on a schedule. It will help the farmer – because the critical question always is, “How much should I produce,” and it will help you – because you will always have what you need on hand.

7. Buy quality with a clean conscience!

Before you decide that this costs more, consider whether you are comparing apples to apples, or apples to oranges. Often, the quality of fresh local foods cannot be compared to the standard commercial inventory at the supermarket. For example, the label on store bought ham often reads, “Ham and water product,” so figuring the true cost of that product requires understanding that you’re paying ham prices for however much water they added.

Remember, too, that some of the “cheapness” of agriculture industry foods comes from exploiting workers, degrading the natural environment, treating animals with cruelty, and destroying rural communities. Opt out of supporting this system!

8. Vote with your fork!

Because the choices we make about our food have repercussions far beyond our family tables, eating is a moral act. There are serious issues with the food system today: contamination of the food supply, routine use of antibiotics and growth steroids in meat and dairy animals, declining rural communities, genetically engineered crops and animals, pesticide and herbicide residues on fruits and vegetables, inhumane treatment of animal the confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) system, and the degradation of farm lands by commercial production operations. By making different choices, voting with our fork so to speak, we can contribute to sustainability and prosperity of our communities and the environment.

9. Celebrate!

As time passes, and you learn more about how to take advantage of the great seasonal tastes of the region, and become more connected to your food and get a sense of community, you will find that embracing this way of doing food is a great reason for celebration!