Rebecca Frazier, a teacher here, said she had cut her food bill in half by growing her own and preserving and by buying in bulk from local farmers

September 9, 2011 at 9:00 am

Someone in the New York Times newsroom likes farmer’s markets; perhaps not the way we like farmer’s markets, you know the colors, varieties, the donuts, but as great filler for page space.  Not too long after a widely cited article on the amount farmer’s markets, the paper today reports on the use of gardens and markets in rural areas as a vehicle for alleviating economy misery.  The article points out that urban markets “conjure images of affluent shoppers in pricey farmers’ markets. But in rural America, consumers are opting for locally grown food — from their own gardens and neighboring farmers — largely because it is cheaper.”  Thing is, anyone, rural or urban, can turn to locally grown food to save money.  Your may coax a late fall garden, if you plant right, but regardless of the state of your dirt, you can be like Rebecca Frazier and cut your food bill in half.

Really, it’s not just in the country where people can save money buying local food.  At this time of seasonal bounty, markets are awash with produce.  It’s very common to find deals, primarily if you can buy large qualities.  Another way to save at the market is to show up late and offer to take what’s left off their hands.  But also, think about this.  No one’s keeping us city folk locked in.  You  have the ability to escape to the land of less gas taxes.  Get away from Chicago and you can shop at the same farmer’s markets as these rural folk discussed by the NYTimes.  You can also find roadside sellers, especially of sweet corn.  A couple of years ago, we lucked into a farmer in the Kankakee area selling some surplus from his front lawn and willing to off-load a huge quantity of field peas to us for a very small price.  Again, think bulk for the biggest savings.  Don’t have time to hit the road, many grocery stores, the ones not staring with “ominiks or ‘ewel, have tons of local produce now.  Don’t be afraid of wheeling and dealing at these places too.  Just a week ago, Caputo’s  gave us a big amount of summer squash for a little amount of money.

The best way to take advantage of seasonal surplus is to put it away.  It’s getting cool enough that you can safely store apples, potatoes, etc. bought at good prices.  Make the effort to put away tomatoes, produce apple sauce, freeze berries.  We mean, know what’s the cheapest food?  Food you don’t have to pay for.  The more you put away now, the less food, period, you will be buying later.  As Mo notes, even eggplants can be put away for later use.  We’ve wrapped up all our preservation tips in our guide to Making the Most of the Seasonal Bounty.  Cut away.