Planning A Local Holiday Meal.

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This is a guest post from Allie over at Allie’s Answers. If you are not reading her site, I recommend you start doing so!

Does a local organic holiday dinner seem out of your reach because you’re watching your budget right now? It doesn’t have to be expensive. With a little planning, you can eat well on a budget and shave a little off your carbon footprint.

Before you plan your menu, check LocalHarvest.org to see what local farm stores and farm markets are operating over the winter in your area. Just because there’s snow on the ground doesn’t mean there isn’t local produce to be had. I live in an area known for very harsh winters, and I’m headed to a farm market this afternoon. Hoop houses and root cellars help farmers grow and store select veggies long into the winter. In cooler climates, expect to see squash, onions, potatoes, yams, and cabbage harvested in late fall, as well as lettuces, herbs and other produce that can be grown indoors and hydroponically. When I shop at our local farm market, I’m always amazed by the massive amounts of food I can buy for less than $25 dollars.

Pasture-raised meat, poultry, dairy and eggs can still be found in abundance locally in most areas over the winter. You may pay a little more for these than you would for similar conventional items at your local grocery store, but you’ll be getting a higher quality product. And it’s not always more expensive. I’ve been able to buy local milk for $1.25 a quart, which frees up some change to put toward pricier poultry.

Once you know what’s available to you, plan your menu around those ingredients. Sadly, this is the opposite of what we tend to do. Most of us are in the habit of deciding what we want to eat and then searching for the ingredients to fulfill the recipe, often paying a higher price for a lower quality product that is out of season and imported.

Tradition may dictate that you have certain dishes at your holiday meal, but if you make amazing turkey stuffing with artisan bread and fresh herbs from the farm market, and homemade, free range turkey stock, no one will complain that it’s missing the oysters. If you serve winter squash bruschetta, who’s going to miss the over-processed, over-expensive, over-packaged finger foods like jalapeno poppers and popcorn shrimp? Add potato leek soup, mashed sweet potatoes, and homemade pumpkin pie or apple crisp with fresh whipped cream to your meal, and you’ll probably have a very happy crowd at the dinner table.

Your local meal will come with very little packaging and very low food miles. It will be nourishing to your body as well as to the local economy. Eating local is a great way to celebrate the spirit of the season.

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