Four reasons to buy local

With empty shelves and a flurry of shoppers stockpiling seeds, the global pandemic has made many of us confront where our food comes from. With limited ingredients, trying out new recipes and making use of the scraps that we would have discarded before is not just a hobby, it’s a necessity. ‘Rationing’ has reentered our vernacular and it seems more important than ever to decrease our food waste and be more economical.

Have you become a dab hand in the kitchen and learned how to make pastry or pasta from scratch? Maybe you’re being extra resourceful and making some interesting new dishes – barbecued banana skins anyone? Perhaps the only batch of eggs you could buy was a tray of 30, so you’re doling some out to your neighbours. However you’re dealing with it, here are four reasons why you should buy local:

  1. Reconnect with your local community

With job uncertainty rife, supporting your neighbours and buying local produce will mean you’re helping to keep small businesses alive. If you live near any farms, there are likely to be egg and milk deliveries available. On your daily exercise route, maybe you pass a stall selling honey, jam, pickles or flowers. Perhaps your friends are brewers and can help stock up your supplies. Bakers will need help shifting their freshly baked goods too, so keep them in business and buy yourself a loaf or a sweet treat if you can afford it.

Here in Monteverde, we regularly have farmers on bikes coming by with fresh vegetables, seafood and meat. It may cost slightly more than the supermarket discounts, but building connections with the local producers around us is worth it, not to mention the free delivery to our door!

2. Try something new

If your usual staples such as pasta and flour are missing from the supermarket aisles, why not see this as an opportunity to discover new ways of shopping? Although most of us are limited to one shopping trip a week, perhaps there are smaller shops nearby that would benefit from your custom. They might even have those ingredients that you are after!

With a little bit of research beforehand, you could try shopping at places that cater for different cuisines. Online recipes can show you how to cook with a variety of ingredients, so you could learn how to make Pad Thai from scratch, or rustle up an authentic Indian curry. Use this time to get creative!

I’ve been enjoying Nadiya Hussain’s resourceful recipes on her Instagram, and can vouch for her scrap soup and barbecued banana peel. The BBC Good Food site is great for those with bare cupboards, sharing recipes for flour-free cakes, egg-free desserts and easy to cook breads. Their 3-ingredient peanut butter cookies are a winner. Jack Monroe is a life-saver if you’re counting pennies or have some tin cans knocking about in your larder. If you’re new to cooking or need some inspiration, they’ll help you find your way in the kitchen.

3. Better for you and the environment

One of the benefits of buying locally sourced produce is that will be fresher since it hasn’t travelled as far, and doesn’t need to be wrapped in excessive plastic. If there is a small greengrocers open near you with fresh fruit and vegetables, you can stock up on your greens to help boost your immune system. Only buy as much as you need for a week so that others can buy their five-a-day too. There have been reports of increased food waste from people panic-buying and hoarding perishables – don’t be that person.

Remember to maintain your distance from other shoppers, especially when queuing up to pay. You’re more likely to contract the virus from the people around you than you are from touching produce in the store, so try to stay 2m apart. That said, always make sure you wash your hands thoroughly before eating. For more advice, check out the WHO website.

4. Learn more about the process

For many consumers, the food industry is a bit of a mystery. With modern life so fast and food so available, it is sometimes easy to overlook the steps in getting the food to your plate. The recent boom in buying seeds in the UK suggests that people are willing to grow their own food when faced with a crisis, and getting back in touch with nature is something positive. However, you’re unlikely to be able to grow everything you need right away, so in the meantime, help those on your doorstep that do this for a living.

As local farmers wait for their crops to be ready for harvest, perhaps you can volunteer to help them (respecting social distancing of course). If physically helping isn’t possible, buying produce directly or through local outlets will also support your local farmers.

Despite our school closing down for the rest of the term, we’re planting a mixture of vegetables that will take between one and three months to grow. The exercise and fresh air is something to break our quarantine, and it will provide food down the line for us to share with the community.

Let me know what foodie creations you’ve been making recently, or if you’ve rediscovered some local sellers in your community.