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Make meaningful connections that are worth every penny
There are a lot of perks to buying local and shopping small. You’re not just getting unique, one-of-a-kind products, you’re also supporting local artisans who are oftentimes experts in their craft. Buying from a local business gives you the opportunity to make a connection with someone who is passionate about what they’re making and selling.
You’re also more likely to be introduced to new products and be given specific recommendations catered to your personal preferences when buying from a local shop. It’s relationships like these that are difficult to build at big-box stores.
When it comes to food, the possibilities are virtually endless. You’re deepening your own connection to your local region, boosting the local economy, cooking to the ever-changing season and learning about food all at once. It’s a win for everyone involved in the food chain from farmers and food purveyors to small businesses in the food industry!
So, as you plan the menu for your holiday meal, or prepare food gifts for family and friends, here are a few meaningful ways to spend your money and support your local food supply chain.
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1. Bake with locally sourced grains
Whether it's pies for dessert or cookies for a holiday cookie swap, baking is a big part of the holiday season. Unless you live in a region of the world that grows sugar cane or vanilla bean, it can be tricky to source baking ingredients locally. However, there are plenty of farmers who grow grains in the United States, as well as local mills that turn those grains into flour.
Purchasing locally sourced grains is an excellent way to support local farmers and your local mill. Plus, grains not destined for commercial flour companies tend to be heritage grains which tend to be more nutritious and delicious because they’re not enriched or treated like many conventional grains.
If you’re looking for a good heritage grain for baking, try spelt, an ancient variety of wheat that’s a great replacement for all-purpose flour.
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2. Get your holiday meats from a local butcher
Whole books have been written about the industrial meat complex in the United States, but the short of it is if you can spend a little extra money, buy your meats local. And what better time to splurge than on a special holiday meal? Most local butchers have great relationships with nearby farms that are adamant about raising their animals in good environments.
Your local butcher will provide you with premium cuts of meat, give you tips on how to prepare those meats, and they may even give recommendations on what sides or drinks to pair with your meal.
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3. Buy pies from your local farm stand
In many areas, farm stands and farmers markets aren’t just a summertime thing. Many operate like local grocery stores, selling produce, local arts and crafts and baked goods. If you’re not baking this holiday season, buying a pie from a local farm stand is a great alternative.
Oftentimes, they’re using farm fresh ingredients grown locally and baked by people who have expert knowledge in the ingredients they’re using. It’s a homemade taste without being homemade by you.
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4. Make cocktails with local spirits
There are around 2,000 distilleries in the United States, so chances are you live near a few of them. Local distillers, especially those who focus on small batch releases, are highly passionate about what they produce, and like the great artists they are, they want to use only the best ingredients.
This usually means that local distillers are sourcing their ingredients from nearby farmers who are equally passionate about what they produce. When that attention to detail is distilled, you’re not just getting a high-quality spirit, you’re getting a real taste of the local terroir.
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5. Gift your friends a six pack of a local beer
Local beer is an expression of the community. The names of certain beers may include local references, or special limited batch releases might be brewed to commemorate a special local event. Either way, local beer tells a story about a place and its people.
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6. Mull wine from a local vineyard
Mulled wine has been a winter tradition as far back as the 2nd century in Rome, and it has become a popular holiday drink throughout Europe and the United States. Wine is served hot with aromatic spices synonymous with the holidays, such as cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger.
Support either your local wine region or a wine region that you enjoy visiting by using their vintages for your mulled wine this season.
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7. Make a cheese plate with local cheese
Charcuterie is having a moment this year, so build your own cheese plate with local cheese produced either by local dairy farms or nearby cheesemakers. Not only are you supporting local farmers and local cheese artisans, you’ll have access to really creative, freshly made cheeses.
Trade in that massed produced run-of-the-mill gouda and plain cheddar for an herb-encrusted goat milk cheese and raw cow’s milk blue cheese.
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8. Order a holiday meal from a local restaurant
The holidays are a time to relax and enjoy yourself, so if you need a break from the kitchen, order out from a local restaurant. Local restaurants haven’t been able to operate as normal due to the pandemic, so many are offering take-home meals for the holidays.
Plenty of these meal kits are entire holiday meals complete with all of the fixings. It’s a great way to enjoy a small, cooking-free celebration while supporting your favorite local restaurant. And be sure to tip generously!
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9. Buy from a local bakery
Dessert is the cornerstone of the holiday season. From Buche de Noel to gingerbread houses, there are so many sweets that are synonymous with this time of year. Check out your local bakery for your favorite holiday sweets or try something new that they specialize in.
From bread for your holiday brunch to cakes and cookies for dessert, local bakeries are a great place to stock up on your holiday carbs and sweets.
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10. Buy gift cards
Gift cards are the perfect gift for that loved one who is tricky to shop for. Whether it’s for a boutique grocery store or a local restaurant, gift cards are a way of saying "your next meal is on me." Gift cards are a good way to make sure that the person you’re shopping for gets exactly what they want.