HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


Strictly local cooking

I'm very interested in the 100 Mile Diet, in which you cook and eat only food grown within 100 miles of where you live.

Has anybody tried this? I'd love to hear either your specific experiences or general thoughts about the possiblities of your region. What is it like to follow this diet in various parts of the world? Where do you live, and what ingredients can and can't you get? Sugar? Oil? Fish?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I also have an interest in this, but unfortunately am quite lazy.
    I do know that usually there are allowances for sugar and spices.
    There is always maple syrup or honey if you live in New England.
    Check out www.eatwellguide.org for more info on your locale.
    I pretty much eat local in the summertime, but Boston is a bit chilly for winter gardens. I do love this whole burgeoning concept though. Well, the new old concept, I suppose.
    Let us know how well you do, and check out 100 mile blogs.

    1. Where are you located?

      I'm in SF, CA and there are many CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)options in the Bay Area. We get a box of organic fruits and vegitables (and eggs)each week from a local farm less than 100 miles out of the city. It's dropped off at pickup points in the city by a biodeisel van.

      What I like about it is that I am paying the farmer direct, no middle man. The food is picked from the ground a day or two before it gets to me.

      There is a bit of a learning curve in eating seasonally. You do have to be a more dedicated cook, doing menu planning and such. Our CSA sends an email out, so you know what you are getting in your box. There is also a Yahoo group to swap recipes.

      Here is a link to find CSA resources in the USA.


      1. Fascinating topic! I've thought about this alot. For my part, in Mpls/St.P in Minnesota, we are limited by seasonality somewhat. During the growing season, we buy almost all of our produce from our farmer's market, some of which I preserve. Our red meat is from wild venison (okay - 150 miles distant) that is local, our milk, eggs and poultry are all within that radius. What trips us up is, well, winter, when we depend more on the co-ops and supermarkets for produce and fruits, typically shipped from elsewhere.

        Oils, spices, sugar (although we get great local honey),ethnic foods, citrus fruits - these are all things for which we need to go further afield (in terms of where they were produced).

        I'm curious to see responses, both from a modern day eating perspective, and from an historical (i.e how people ate within a small radius and still avoided nutritional imbalances).

        2 Replies
        1. re: cayjohan

          I don't know cay...with a short primer on canning techniques, we'd have it pretty darned good here in MSP on that diet. I can't think of many food groups you can't satisfy here besides saltwater fish and citrus fruit. Doesn't seem like much of a challenge. I'd hate to try this in SE Montana though.

          p.s. -- regarding venison, I could have clocked a nice 6-point buck with my car yesterday at high noon in Burnsville (<15 miles from the heart of Minneapolis) if I wanted to. It was just meandering around in the road in front of me before I shooed it off. Thankfully the in-laws took a few deer last week and I won't need any more meat.

          1. re: MSPD

            Okay, yes - canning is a good thing. Still, my winters growing up were filled with canned green beans, frozen peas, canned (yak!) carrots - and despite the fact that they were from our garden, they were still not "fresh." I think there is something to be said for fresh greens, and we are somewhat lacking for that in the colder climes of the US, unless we have a greenhouse grower at our disposal. So, so many of the fresh herbaceous plants that are so nutritional would be out of our reach, off-season.

            And come to think of it, vitamin C is something that we can get from cranberries - also local - and frozen for use. So much for citrus!

            Thanks for not hitting the deer. They're much better properly hunted.

        2. No chocolate? No vanilla for baking? No coffee? Imposible! Other than that it seems like a worthy goal. I might be willing to forgo the imported bell peppers, mangos and such.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Glencora

            I could live without chocolate, vanilla and coffee. I'd be unhappy without Basque cheese. But no salt? Now that's truly impossible.

            To the OP: very few people are strict about the eat local diet. Personally, I only eat produce that is local and seasonal and I try to eat locally raised meat whenever possible. I think you'll find that a reasonable compromise is much easier as a long term dietary restriction. Most locavores will make occasional exceptions for products that cannot be obtained locally, and are produced in an ethical and sustainable manner.

            1. re: Morton the Mousse

              Morton, you make a great point about salt. Unless we live on or near the ocean or a salt deposit, salt is an import, and has always been a trade commodity. How can this be integrated into a 100-mile-diet? I don't know.
              Posters? How would, say, a Great Plains Native American tribe get salt into their diets without long-distance trade? Are there vegetable sources? Or blood from animals, used in cooking, since blood has a certain salinity?

              1. re: cayjohan

                There are natural salt licks all across the country, and that is where NA and pioneer folks got their salt. Animals find them, hunters follow the animals. Pioneers scooped up the salty soil, dissolved it in water, poured the salty water into big kettles, then boiled the water down.

                I bet if you did a google for "salt lick" and "salt creek" you could find them in every state.

          2. I personally think it's a bogus fad that will end up discouraging people from buying local because it's made the concept very rigid, which tends to undermine the goal.

            7 Replies
            1. re: Karl S

              Ya know the first time I read about the 100 mile diet I thought how ridiculous! But in thinking a bit more about it, it's about moderation. You do what you can do to eat locally.

              At this point I am eating about 80% locally, including oil. sugar and salt. But that's living in the SF Bay Area for you....

              To your point, Karl, 80% is a whole lot better than the roughly 20% I was doing.

              Now, if someone can find a local source of bananas I'd eat them again. Oh those lucky folks in Hawaii....

              1. re: Karl S

                I know some people who are very involved in the Eat Local movement, and while the '100-mile diet' is sort of the advertised concept, none of them are nearly that rigid. It's not like 'ZOMG, that's from 112 miles away, I can't eat it!'

                A lot of them try for one fully local meal a week - but even 'fully local' tends to exclude stuff like salt and pepper. And most of them encourage you to find a definition of 'local' that works for you. It might be 100 miles, or 250 miles, or in your state, or from the general region of the country you live in, etc. The main goal is to recognize that organic bananas from Chile are not environmentally sounder than conventionally farmed apples from the next county over.

                1. re: Jacquilynne

                  I agree Jacquilynne. It's not a rigid thing at all. You do what you can, and it makes you think about where your food comes from. The goal is to get you to think and hopefully act in some way to move towards a more local diet. I think it can bring about alot of creativity.

                  1. re: uman

                    It comes across, unfortunately, as another bit of food religiosity, which tends to be self-subverting.

                    1. re: Karl S

                      Some see it as a way to preserve small farms, save on fossil fuels, and enjoy fabulously fresh food.

                      1. re: uman

                        "Try to buy local when you can and the option is good" is a lot simpler and not suggestive of food rigorism. I would be happy with that. And I think it is a more functional message than the one presented.

                2. re: Karl S

                  Exactly... the second it goes from being the "Best" way to the "Only" way all joy is sucked out... :P


                3. Why not just try to buy locally and skip the rigidity. It sounds like an exercise in frustration without much payoff. Poster "Sebby" mentioned CSA's. They are great if you can find one. Some farms will let you work for part of your food or you can team up with another like minded person if you think a share might be too large an amount for your family. I did this for a couple years while I was figuring out the seasons and what grows here. The CSA will give you a general list of what fruits and veggies will be available when so you can plan some.

                  If you have the room, you could grow your own. Ultimate in close! Hook up with others and trade heirloom seeds, have neighbors grow different things than you and trade goodies... That is what we do in our neighborhood. The rest goes to the homeless shelter. Its great!

                  1. It is good to eat locally-grown stuff as much as possible. Food is fresher and retain more nutrients. It is probably better for the environment. It's a worthy concept if you live in the right area. If you have year-round produce, it's no problem. But in most areas of the world, this isn't possible--you would need to live off canned/preserved/frozen foods.

                    The 100-mile limit is just an arbitrary limit. There is no reason why it can't be 10 miles except that most big city dwellers would have nothing to eat. In practice, this limit is flexible, and it doesn't apply for certain items, such as salt and sugar.

                    Food grown locally uses materials and resources produced globally: oil imported from the mid-east, fertilizer made from such oil, organic fertilizer trucked in for hundreds of miles, electricty generated from coal mined thousands of miles away, etc.

                    In my opinion, the main benefit of this type of thinking is that it encourages us to be aware of the environmental impact of the choices we make.

                    1. if you were raised in another food culture, the ingredients and foods you grew up with may not be available within a 100 mile or even larger radius. i can get many things i need in san francisco, but i still have foods in my pantry and fridge that, at least for now, have to be imported from asia. and i can't imagine giving these things up, even though the korean foods i grew up with now only make up a fraction of what i prepare at home. i imagine many of you are in a similar situation.

                      1. I love to cook and eat locally in my home. From March to October, I'm treated to a variety of colors and flavors of vegetables from my markets in the North East. Honey and maple syrup are available as sweeteners, fish and game can be easily had and there's always butter for fat. For tea, oil, spices, alcohol & grains, sticking locally can be a bit of a hassle. There are a few bakeries out there as well as some Maine made vodka and Long Island vineyards to content with. Not much can get between me, a dirty martini and some quinoa though - there's no sense in making yourself crazy. From December through February, I try to eat the beets, carrots, potatoes & other cellar vegetables, but some planning ahead for winter months is key. Soup & stews made from the summer's bounty are great and freezable.

                        Depending on where you live, eating locally might not be too hard for you. Above all, don't take it too seriously and try to have fun with it. There was no way I was giving up my Roquefort or Chianti, but I also didn't need to buy carrots from California when they were being grown in my own backyard.

                        1. We buy locally most of the time. Not too hard in the Bay Area. However, my SO insists that if everyone did this the people growing bananas in Chile or peppers in Mexico would be hurt and their economy destroyed. He says this movement is elitist. What do other think?

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: Glencora

                            Well, it basically is a throwback to peasant living so I'm not sure about elitist. I think I'll always eat bananas, coffee, and all the things not grown in New England. Like the previous poster said, why get carrots grown in California, Chile, etc, when you can get them a stone's throw away? The difference in taste in locally grown food is amazing.
                            I guess some might see this whole board is elitist as far as food goes. People who like good food tend to eat locally.

                            1. re: uman

                              Yes, Marie Antoinette thought playing a shepherdess at the Petit Trianon gardens was not elitist. I try to buy local if (1) it's reasonably available, and (2) at least as good as the alternative. If not, no.

                              1. re: Karl S

                                ...suppressing gags and eyerolls ensue....

                                1. re: uman

                                  The analogy is hyperbole but in substance not inapt, as buying local for most of today's "peasants" involves more expense of money and time than not buying local. Ditto organic. There are class issues here that merit mention in this context.

                              1. re: Wanda Fuca

                                Funny, yes, but sadly it's catching on. Peter Singer devoted a whole chapter in his new book explaining how buying local is an elitist movement that will damage third world economies. Frankly, the man is an idiot, and anyone with a basic understanding of agricultural politics and global economics can see that his arguments are dead wrong.

                            2. Instead of a 100 mile limit, how about a 100 mile average?

                              That would solve the salt issue. And generally achieve the intended goals.

                              1. most people who are super into the all local (whatever radius) diet live in cali, the "salad bowl" of america, so it's pretty easy for them to get on a high horse-- yes, here in mpls/stpaul we are currently eating salad greens from cali, and are accountable for the monetary and non-monetary, and environmental impacts of our eating choices. I think that if everyone in my town tried to live on canned veggies, with nothing fresh all winter we'd have a few casualties-- not eating any fresh produce is bad for your health--

                                what IS important (as others have said) is to look at where our food comes from-- if people in Western MN ate 15% more of their foods locally, it would inject 8 billion dollars into my state's economy, & people's health would be better
                                15% is not a huge, scary number, our local farmer's markets are bountiful during the growing season & most reasonable people can see the benefits of making better decisions about where their food comes from: for their local economies, their health, and their general appreciation and understanding of food & local food systems :)

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: soupkitten

                                  There's a logistical problem with the farmer's markets where I live, in the Boston area: they are not feasible for people who are not working from home. My town has a farmer's market from 10-3 on weekday from July through September. When I worked from home, I faithfully went to. Cannot do that working in downtown, and the things I would purchase at a market nearish to downtown need to be refrigerated and hauled which I cannot do.

                                  So, on weekends, I make 30 mile drives out to my farmstands of choice. Is that better ecologically? Not really. Otherwise, I assess what's available in other markets, and sometimes that allows me to buy more local.