Money Where Your Mouth Is: The Fall and The Year


On January 1st of last year, I began meticulously tracking my food purchases, both for groceries and for dining out, to see how much of my money was going toward locally-produced & sustainably-grown food. It was a daunting task. I logged every receipt, made notes of my cash use at farmers markets and on nights out, and even calculated the market value of the produce grown in my garden plots. Though I originally planned a monthly post documenting my progress, life did what it does and I ended up grouping together the months in roughly seasonal quarters. Now, having tracked for a year, I wanted to take a look back at my spending to see how I did.

But first: a brief moment to discuss my September-December expenses (since, you know, that just ended).

Grocery Dollars Sept-Dec

Restaurant Dollars Sept-Dec

I’d really like to say that the last four months showed great progress. But that would be a big fat lie. Look at that! Almost half of my spending, for groceries and dining out, was from the large, corporate sources I’m trying to wean myself off of. I’m most disappointed in the grocery spending, as during the previous eight months I had really reined that purple wedge in.

Some thoughts on why this happened:

1. This fall was a perfect storm of party-throwing, wedding-cake-baking, long-hour-working, and cross-country-traveling. Routine grocery-shopping sort of flew out the window

2. I couldn’t shop at my local farmers market or co-op for the vast majority of the wedding cake ingredients as it would have been nearly impossible (and wildly un-local) to haul them across the continent for the Colorado nuptials, so I had to use the grocery stores available to me on my first evening in town.

3. In fact, most of the locations I traveled to this fall don’t have co-ops or year-round farmers markets, so holiday grocery shopping was limited primarily to the big box stores.

4. I know it was hungry too, but a wily groundhog made quick work in my garden of the produce I planted in late August. As fall revved up, I barely had time to hurriedly plant a few dozen cloves of garlic, let alone start from scratch on my fall crop. Ugh.

So. Huhrumph. Fall wasn’t so good for this aspiring locavore.

When looking at the entire year, however, I felt better.

Grocery Dollars YEAR

Restaurant Dollars YEAR

Even with my backslide in recent months, I still managed to make 75% of my grocery purchases and more than 50% of my restaurant dollars from local sources.  In a 20-something living in a nation where the big box is king, I’m fairly pleased that I can make that statement.

But I think I can do better. I’m not going to track my spending this year quite so maniacally, but I am going to continue pursuing the goal I originally set out to achieve: to purchase as much of my food from local sources as I possibly can. This summer, I plan to join a CSA, which should help, and I’m hoping also to have an even more productive garden (pending the groundhog).

Is eating local fare important to you? What are some of the challenges you face in doing so?