When it comes to revolutionizing the way you eat, big changes start in your backyard! The Portland area boasts tons of local farmers, fishers, ranchers, and food producers that deliver sustainably sourced food to consumers who are looking for a fresh alternative to big chain grocery stores and cross continental shipping. If you’re used to a certain routine when it comes to stocking your fridge, buying local might seem a bit overwhelming at first. Take a deep breath and check out the tips and recommendations below so that you can become a Portland locavore!
The benefits of eating local
Besides being able to wow your friends with locally sourced dinner parties, eating local has a whole host of great perks that make it well-worth a little extra effort. For starters, buying your groceries from Portland-area producers and vendors means that the money you spend stays within your own community! Supporting local business strengthens the local economy, maintains a diverse product market, and even contributes to higher wages and benefits for employees. Are you trying to go green? Buying local products helps cut out waste and pollution created by shipping products across the country and even across the globe. Not only that, but the produce you purchase from farms in the Pacific Northwest can be shipped without the use of chemical preservatives. The lettuce you see in a big name grocery store might be as many as four weeks old while a fresh bunch of romaine that’s grown in Tigard can be brought to market the same day it’s harvested.
If you’ve made an effort to be an informed consumer, you’ve probably spent some time attempting to decode nutrition labels in the grocery store. Standing in the middle of the pasta aisle, laboring over a complex list of ingredients like Tom Hanks unraveling The Da Vinci Code, trying to understand what monosodium glutamate could possibly have to contribute to your baked ziti. One of the most notable benefits of buying local is that the foods you purchase will most likely be fresher and less processed than what you can find at your local Stuff Mart.
When you shop at a farmer’s market, you can actually talk to the person who grew, harvested, and/or made the products that you are looking at so you know exactly what went into the meal that you put on the table. Portland has a fantastic variety of markets that take place year-round, all across town, and almost every day of the week. As an added bonus, farmer’s markets provide a great opportunity to socialize with your neighbors!
When you’re just starting out in your endeavor to shop local, checking out grocery co-ops is a great way to initiate yourself into the locavore lifestyle. While co-ops are similar to other grocery stores, they have a much different structure. You can think of these as grocery stores “by the people and for the people” where consumers have the opportunity to become a co-owner and help make decisions about what products should be available. Most co-ops place an emphasis on carrying local organic products including meat, produce, and even bath and home care products.
Local food trucks and vendors
While grocery food trucks and local vendors might not necessarily be a one-stop-shop, they are great resources if you’re looking for a specific type of product. Berry stands, fish trucks, and even an urban farm with eggs for sale are all fantastic places to pick up some outstanding, fresh food. A perk of shopping at local vendors is that your money is helping sustain multiple micro businesses rather than one large grocery chain.
One of my favorite spots to find fresh seafood is Kris’ Fish in Multnomah Village. She sells fresh, locally sourced seafood and meat and can tell you, in detail, about all of the products she carries. I would be remiss if I didn’t plug her crab dip – seriously: try it. Once the weather warms up, you might notice a lot of stands popping up on the side of the road. Do yourself a favor and stop and check them out.
Maybe going out and shopping isn’t your thing; that’s okay, you can still become a Portland locavore. If you’ve jumped on the meal kit delivery bandwagon, you’re in luck because we have a meal subscription service right here in Portland that delivers local food and produce along with tasty recipes to consumers in the metro area. ACME Farms + Kitchen offers a variety of meal boxes that cut out the hassle of going shopping but still allow you to cook meals that are fresh and locally sourced. If you’re looking for even less work (no judgment!) Farm to Fit delivers pre-made meals that require minimal effort but are still made with quality local ingredients.
The bottom line
Eating a locally source diet might require some extra effort at first but it is well worth it. You’ll eat better, fresher, and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Shop around and find the markets, vendors, and suppliers that work for you. Becoming a locavore is a positive change for your diet and for our local economy and Portland is the perfect place to do it.