Believe it or not, eating locally doesn’t have to break the bank, or your food budget. Yes, there are lots of delightful (and pricey) local products available that showcase the amazing talents of Wisconsin food artisans. In my book, these types of products are definitely worth a splurge now and again, but they don’t appear on my weekly shopping list. With two growing boys to feed, I just can’t afford too many pretty little jars, bottles, or packages of locally handcrafted artisan goodies.
That doesn’t mean I’m not a locavore. We’re lucky enough to live in a place with a rich local food tradition, and great sources for inexpensive local foods that don’t compromise price for quality. Here are a few that are almost always on my list.
Fresh organic local produce
With very few exceptions, in-season local produce offers significant savings over imported fruits and veggies from California and beyond. Local produce is often tastier too! To locate local produce on our shelves, look for the purple signs in the produce department. This time of year, you’ll find that over 90% of our vegetable offerings are local!
Lonesome Stone Milling organic all-purpose bulk flour
At 99¢/lb., this locally grown and milled flour offers an amazing deal! Use it in any baking application, although be warned that it is not overly processed—Lonesome Stone flour has flavor. It tastes like real wheat and won’t fade into the background like highly processed white flour can. Not a baker? This flour makes excellent pancakes that can’t be beat when paired with Wisconsin maple syrup!
Simple Soyman organic Tofu
Did you know that this Milwaukee-made product uses locally grown non-GMO soybeans? At $1.99/16oz, it provides vegetarians and omnivores alike a tasty and inexpensive local protein option.
Sassy Cow Milk
Besides being one of the least expensive options for organic and natural milk out there ($6.99-$7.19/gallon for organic, $3.49-$3.99/gallon for hormone-/antibiotic-free), this farmstead milk from Columbus, Wisconsin, is something for Dane County to be proud of: Sassy Cow white milk won 1st place at the 2014 World Dairy Expo Championship Dairy Product Contest!
Cheese-heads rejoice! There are tons of high quality rBGH-free Wisconsin cheeses available at prices that allow me to make as many grilled cheese sandwiches as my boys can eat. A few of our household staples: Cedar Grove cheddars, colbys, and jacks; and Cascade whole, skim, and smoked mozzarella. All of these are only $5.99/lb.
Driftless Organics bulk Sunflower Oil
While this is not the cheapest oil on the block, at $7.99/lb it’s no more expensive than most value-priced olive oils, and is just as versatile. I use it for everything from baking and sautés to making popcorn and salad dressings. This oil is pressed from sunflowers grown right here in Wisconsin by Josh and Noah Engle and Mike Lind at Driftless Organics in Soldier’s Grove.
New Century Farms Bulk Organic Eggs
Truth be told, I have my own chickens and get my eggs for free; but if I didn’t own my own egg layers, I would totally buy the New Century Farms organic eggs in bulk! Bring your own container and fill it up for only $3.79/dozen! There is nothing like a fresh local organic egg. Once you’re used to cooking with them it’s nearly impossible to go back.
Meat Sale Thursday
One of the hard realities for any meat eater looking for local, sustainable, grass-fed, and pastured meats is that raising animals this way takes more time. Time is money for a meat farmer, so sustainable meat is inherently more expensive than the feedlot alternative. Here at the Co-op we feel that the extra cost is well worth it, even if that means eating less meat but better quality meat. Meat Sale Thursday is one way that we try to make eating local and sustainable meat a little easier on your wallet. Every Thursday we pick one meat item (often a local one) and cut the price. If you’re interested in knowing what’s coming up, check our Facebook page, or look for the posters in our store announcing the next sale!