Editor’s Note: Kelly Reynolds, graphic designer, social media consultant and author of the blog Reynolds Report, took a personal Eat Local Challenge during the month of April. Kelly hails from Phoenix, Arizona and this post from her is a summary of the challenge—what she learned and her view on the eat local challenge. Kelly, we really enjoyed reading along with this challenge, thanks for writing!
My one-month Eat Local Challenge is officially over and I couldn’t be happier with my results or the things I learned. The idea for this challenge came through some soul and internet searching when looking for ideas for my 30 by 30 list. After completing this task, I have officially crossed off four things.
For my Eat Local Challenge, it was my goal was to consume only locally-sourced foods and beverages. When I couldn’t do that, I wanted to eat at a locally-owned restaurant, farm or business. There were several times when I could not think of what I would have for my next meal, but overall, I’d estimate that I accomplished my goal about 85 percent of the time throughout the month.
A couple of the challenges were things that people run into every day—financial stress and food availability. It’s no secret that produce, baked goods, meats, etc. from local farmers markets can be more expensive than running to the nearest chain grocery store, especially due to the low costs of processed foods which are highly subsidized. As someone who has to follow a strict budget, I found it extremely challenging to go to the Saturday Gilbert Farmer’s Market each week and get anything I wanted, which made experimenting with different foods very difficult. Sometimes I was limited to $30 and had to get the staples – lettuce, onion, potatoes and ground beef.
I’m so thankful for the amazing vendors at the Gilbert Farmers Market. They were helpful each week, offering recipes and ideas to spice up even the most generic ingredients.
During the month, I also had to deal with moving. For the span of about four days—a lifetime for my challenge—I had no pots, pan or other dishes to prepare food in. I found myself frustrated and ready to throw in the towel. But, through each meal I reminded myself that this challenge wasn’t about me, it was about what I could do for the environment and the local community through my efforts. And, while I wasn’t always successful, I tried to always think of what the best food choice would be.
The best part of the challenge was Sundays. That’s when I assessed my weekend farmer’s market haul and planned most of my meals for the week. I would wash and spin lettuce, chop carrots and onion and think of new fun ways I could eat my grass-fed beef or prepare my whole, free-range chicken. That was also the biggest surprise of the challenge– that I could actually prepare food.
I’ve never been a cook or anything close to it, but through the entire challenge I would search for new recipes and tips and I actually made some great food. I even chopped the neck off of a whole chicken for the first time ever. It completely disgusted me, but I did it!
When the month ended, I definitely needed a breather. The first thing I wanted to eat was pasta, since Arizona is not known for its grain harvests. I also took a couple of weeks off from the farmer’s markets because of family and social engagements (and the desire to sleep in on Saturday).
Through this all, though, I’ve learned the importance of buying locally. I met some wonderful people at the farmer’s markets who have helped me through this journey and who have become friends. I’ve learned that buying and eating locally isn’t something that everyone can do, but something everyone should try at least once. Not only will you learn a lot about your own food tastes, but you’ll learn your limits and that you can push past your frustrations to help something and someone greater than you.