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Oct 28, 2009 10:15 AM

Local Food on a Budget:The $3-$5 Local Meal Challenge

One of the things I hear about local food is that it is too expensive. Nay sayers of the local food movement use this argument to dismiss our efforts. So I am throwing down a challenge.

Introducing the $3.00-$5.00 local food meal deal challenge:

The idea is to create a $3-5 local meal

Why $3.00-$5.00? That is about the cost of a fast food meal.

Here are the rules:

Every ingredient has to be sourced locally, within 100-200 miles (with the exception of spices, salt, and baking supplies like baking powder, baking soda, yeast etc)

sweeteners must be local (honey, maple, michigan beet sugar)

Fat and veggie cooking oil also have to be local (no california olive oil, unless you live there)

The meal must be balanced and include a serving of protein, a starch and vegetables.

All items and costs must be itemized and posted

Items from your garden, gleaned or wild foraged count. Account the best you can for your garden veggies. For example your packet of seeds for lettuce may have costed $3 and provided 10 servings.

I will be posting my meals soon.


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  1. Local food entree at this price point in a restaurant? No way. Unless we're talking about a bowl of gruel. Home cooked the possibilities are endless. Even with storage vegetables and Winter greenhouse fair.

    1. Does anyone have a source to find what is available in a given area? I'm still relatively new to the NW and while there are some obvious things it would be awesome to have a more comprehensive list and go to information would be amazingly helpful.

      1. The original comment has been removed
        1. I was on a 100 mile challenge for several months and made many meals for $5 or less. I made my own pasta with locally sourced flour and eggs and used my own homemade tomato sauce which I canned last summer. I added local vegetables and sometimes meat (local beef and chicken) or locally made tofu. Local dairy products are easy to find here too.
          I also made LOTS of potato and egg meals, as they were very inexpensive and easily accessible locally. My kids loved stuffed baked potatoes (with local vegetables and cheeses) and we often made tortas or other egg dishes filled with vegetables.
          Other foods we made were gnocchi, pizza, lots of stews and soups served with no knead bread.
          It was next to impossible to eat in restaurants, but we have a shop called The Piggy Market near my home that stocks and also makes lots of 100 mile products (with pork and dairy products), so I could sometimes get a beautiful take out rotisserie chicken or some freshly made sausages.
          This way of eating is very difficult to follow, as it requires a LOT of pre-planning and preparation. It took a lot of time initially to source out local products on the internet. It can also be quite expensive, though someone who normally buys lots of prepackaged food may find a reduction in food costs.
          I continue to eat mostly locally, but have found ways to save time by purchasing homemade fresh pasta at a local store (they don't use local flour though) and I can buy 100% local bread at one of the bakeries in my village.

          1. re: tartetatin

            How did you go about sourcing your local products?

            1. re: just_M

              Hi just M,

              Because I live in a rural area not far from a large metropolitan city, I have the best of both worlds. I am able to source local meats, vegetables and dairy products through contacts in my village - the farmer's market and neighbours. I was able to find most meats and dairy products that way. There is also lots of interest in larger cities now in trying to eat more locally, so our larger markets are focusing on this issue.

              Finding grains and flour was very difficult and I ate LOTS of potatoes at first. Eventually, I found some local flour on the internet (just googled "local grains and flour") and then talked to some people and was able to find some great local flour close to me. I also found some delicious rye and spelt flour at a farm very close to my house.

              There was a tv program here on the Food Network that was called 100 Mile Challenge (you can find it on the website). It was produced in Vancouver, but was very helpful for finding local farms and producers in my area (Quebec). I was able to find locally produced wines and tofu and even found locally produced oil, vinegar and soy sauce (these were harder to find, but I got kinda obsessed about the challenge and found them somehow).
              I remember there being a very helpful website for people in the US to find locally produced goods. I can't remember the web address, but you could enter your zip code and it would give you a map of local foods within a 100 mile radius, which the foodtv site does if you live in Canada. If you google "local food (insert your area)" and start there, you might be able to get started.

              I love buying locally. I live in a small community that I want to support. I would love to be able to produce more of my own food, but that is not possibe right now. I love that, when I was doing the challenge 100%, I didn't really have to shop at the grocery store very often (it is much harder now that summer is over though).

              One thing that was very hard was that many producers claimed that their products were 100% local, but if you pushed them they would admit that some of the ingredients were not. However, I took on this project as a learning experience and not in a militant way - I was not doing it to punish myself or suffer through it. I decided to allow myself a few ingredients that I knew I would never find, like yeast and mustard. I only chose about 4 things and though I really missed spices, I enjoyed cooking more simply.

              1. re: just_M


                I find this site invaluable. Just put in you zip for a listing of all sorts of local food resources from farmers markets, farms, and food producers. It is a great place to start.

                Also check out your local food co-op if you have one nearby. They are pretty up on local food sources.

                And there is always the resource of starting a home garden or getting a community garden plot.


          2. I agree with keg; I can come up with a ton of home cooked meals for that price, but in a restaurant, not so much.

            1. why was this thread moved from the midwest board? getting a bunch of weighers in from round the year produce areas isn't really helpful to the op, whereas we have access to meat and dairy, wheat, specific local products etc that those other areas don't. doesn't make sense to move this thread.

              1 Reply
              1. re: soupkitten

                Since the OP did not make this specific to a city or sub region it fits better in general discussion. Since he's probably not talking about restaurants, he's wandered into home cooking or general discussion realm.

                Five sources for local food for starters:

                Farmer's Markets
                Community Gardens
                Edible Landscaping/Home Vegetable Gardening
                State Agriculture Marketing Agencies