The idea for this work came when I moved, with my husband and two young children (then 6 months & 3.5 years), from Berkeley, CA to Three Rivers, CA. In other words, moving from a city where you live within an hour of millions of people, to a small town of just over 2000, which also happens to be 30 minutes from the next small town. Needless to say, it was a change.
Now, I’m not a person who is averse to change, and a lot of it has been very positive. Jonny was no longer working on his Ph.D., which meant no more all nighters; we were no longer crammed into a 700 sq. ft. space; and I no longer had to work full time, which meant I could focus more on myself, my kids and my love of cooking.
But there are many things I miss: Giants games, being within an hour of my brothers and parents, working (I know… the lack thereof is also a benefit, but I am a people person, so shush), and the access to some of the most amazing food in the world. Seriously.
It seems like there are more farmer's markets in the east bay than cities. Pick a day of the week and you can find one. We were lucky enough to live walking distance to two! Plus I could walk to our health food store (which incidentally also had a kick ass butcher), a local bakery, and Trader Joes (I still miss TJs). Shopping was easy! I never had to plan meals more than a day ahead. Fresh veggies and great meat were no problem… But things have changed.
Now living in a small rural community, our closest farmer's market is 35 miles away, there is one (very small) grocery store in town, and any significantly sized food outlet is a 45 minute drive (and even then, they pale in comparison to places like TJs, Whole Foods, or the Berkeley Bowl). For the first few months we lived here our food bill was HUGE, and I felt like I did nothing but drive everywhere! Trying to figure out where to buy things was a challenge, and even though we’re spitting distance to the central valley (one of the countries most prolific farm regions), finding farm fresh produce and meat seemed impossible. I have to confess, I went a little nuts.
But my persistence and scouting paid off: I found a local CSA, which not only delivers fresh fruits and veggies, but also bottled milk from a local dairy farmer; I made friends with the owners of a farm stand that is located closer to my home than the grocery stores where I can get basic local veggies & eggs (farmed by one of the local highschool ag classes!), and I found the best place to buy organic meat, chicken & fish (would you believe that most of what I buy comes from Costco!).
I also modified my cooking habits to begin with raw, whole foods. And the end result? I cut our grocery bill by 20%, and instead of having to make a 45 minute drive (each way) to our closest city on a weekly basis, I only go once a month, which has saved a lot of money on gas as well. Now this took a serious amount of dedication and planning on my part, and I have to plan out my meals by the week; but now that I’m in a routine, it’s really no big deal. Sure, there are times I get home and could kick myself that I “forgot the coffee”, because there’s no going back for a while, but I’m getting better.
Going through this transition has made me appreciate eating fresh, healthy food even more. And I know that it’s something that everyone can do, at least in part, no matter where you live, or what your situation happens to be. So I hope you’ll join me on this journey to eat locally when possible, and find your own healthy options where you live. Who knows… it saved me money, maybe the same will happen to you! And if you need a helping hand, just call! That’s why I’m here.
Now I just have to figure out how to survive 4 months of 100 degree weather every summer. But that’s a different story…