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Feeling Frugal about food?  Then buy local.....

Contributed by Features Writer -  Jenni Barnard

Feeding a family a nutritious and healthy diet while sticking to a sensible budget can be a challenge these days. With food costs constantly rising and health advice on what we should eat coming from all directions, families can feel under pressure to deliver good food at bargain prices.
More and more people are however finding the solution and the good news is that it’s close to home. Making well considered decisions about menu choices and focusing on locally available ingredients is for many an increasingly popular way of eating healthily and frugally at the same time. Committing to buying local products can be a ticket to money saving without sacrificing taste. Indeed what is available right on our doorstep in the Scottish Borders can help create a better and more gastronomically appealing family meal selection. Here are the benefits which can be enjoyed by buying and eating local crops.
Necessary for nutrition
Nowadays it seems that eating fruit and vegetables isn’t in itself enough to guarantee a healthy and well balanced diet. Mass produced supermarket offerings frequently lack the nutrients we associate with fresh produce. Studies have shown that a large amount of what’s available in mainstream mega shops is relatively low in phytonutrients[i]. These essential compounds are the elements of fruit and vegetables which have the potential to reduce the risk of four modern day major conditions – cancer, diabetes, dementia and cardio vascular disease.
New technology has given researchers the tools to establish that the last fifteen years have seen a major problem develop with nutrient loss. Fruit and vegetables with higher sugar and starch content have been the focus, which has led to a diminution in the very properties associated with healthy produce. Locally produced and organic crops have been largely protected from this onslaught and therefore represent a better value proposition when it comes to nutrition.
Buying local products also means you get to eat them when they are at their most nutritious[ii]. When produce is picked it stops getting nutrients from the source plant and so the bigger the delay between picking and eating, the less nutritious the product is. Foods produced miles away (and in the case of exotic varieties that could mean thousands of miles) inevitably take time to transport and lose nutrients on the way. Fresh peas for instance lose around 50% of their nutrients within a week of being harvested, so the quicker they make it to your plate the more health benefits they can bring.
Paramount for the palate
Fresh local food also rather importantly tastes better[iii]. Those food miles endured by produce which comes from far away does it no favours in the flavour department. Fresh local fruit and vegetables are harvested at the pinnacle of their life cycle. Products are picked only when ripe and often are on the shelves within the same day[iv].
Local goods also tend to last longer, as they haven’t been sitting about in a container for days or even weeks. Consumers can buy larger quantities of whatever is in season and know that it will last long enough to incorporate it into many different dishes, without compromising on taste. The variety of products on offer is also impressive as consumers are prepared to work with what is in season. The amount of choice means buying locally is far from restrictive and means that there is enough flexibility whatever particular cuisine or diet buyers wish to follow.
Critical for number crunching
So if locally produced fruit and vegetables are bursting with nutrients and taste better than their mainstream supermarket rivals then what is the downside? Many people assume that to get the benefits of these higher quality products will mean parting with more of their hard earned cash.
The opposite is in fact often true. Many local stalls selling fruit and vegetables offer keener prices than their supermarket equivalents[v]. The key is buying in season and in the longer term getting to know local sellers. Finding out what promotions they are planning and when they reduce items will help further enhance the cost effectiveness of local products.
Consumers should also be prepared to shop around – all within the local vicinity of course. Spreading purchases between local butchers, farmers’ markets, stalls and farm shops can ensure they get the best deals possible. In some areas becoming part of buying clubs or even co-operative organisations is also an option, allowing people to join a group committed to local production values.
The double whammy economically is of course that it’s not only the consumer’s pocket which benefits; it’s also the fiscal fortunes of the local area[vi]. There is evidence that[vii] this has become a particular issue for consumers since the recent economic recession.
Overall it is clear that buying food locally is a win, win, win situation – so enjoy the taste, absorb the nutrients and prosper financially too!  
[ii] Why Eat Seasonally? British Nutrition Foundation,
[iv] Does farmers’ market food taste better?,
[v] Eating Well on the Cheap,,


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