Joys and Challenges of Localizing your Pantry

After four years of sharing stories, the staff at LOCAL FEAST! Magazine wanted to include some content from you, our readers. So, we created a contest to learn a little more about the joys and challenges consumers experience in adding more local foods to the routines of daily life. 

Many thanks to everyone who helped spread the word about the Localize Your Pantry contest and entered the contest by answering our question: 

In 100 words or less, tell us:

What does buying, cooking and eating local foods mean to you? 

Describe the challenges you face incorporating them into your kitchen and lifestyle.

Our Grand Prize winner was Meeghan P. of Minneapolis, whose winning entry highlighted her appreciation for the way local food nourishes the mind and body, connects her to the past, present and future, and supports farmers and co-ops “who are contributing to a sustainable, healthy, and beautiful world.”

Here are some of the other thoughts you shared:

5 Ways Local Foods Bring you Joy


1. Making connections

“Because our ancestors relied on local foods, I feel a sense of connection to them as well.”

"Local products come from someone you can meet.”

“Buying local is a demonstration of love for ourselves, growers and community. We all knit our gifts into the web of life. The closer we do that to our home base the deeper roots our local growers, producers and retailers will become.”



2. Strengthening local economies

“Buying local means…a higher quality, more flavorful product that keeps money in the community.”

“I like to support local food businesses because our communities need it. We need to support the small businesses that are local to us because it promotes economic growth for people that we know and love.”


3. Providing freshness and variety

“Local is so fresh. The superior taste and care taken in making the product create a much more indulgent meal.”

“Small batch, quality-driven, and freshness guaranteed, that's what local to the table is….Spices, spreads, produce and grass-fed meats, create a taste like none-other.”

“I love consuming food that tastes different from corporate brands.”


4. Promoting better nutrition

“I am nourishing my body and mind by buying, cooking, and eating local foods.”

“I find that local businesses use less chemicals, processing and are healthier.”

“I like to support local businesses because I know they take care and pride in their products, and I know that I can make tasty treats with items found local in Minnesota."


5. Creating a local framework

“If I choose to buy local today, I am a champion today and, at that moment, the biggest cog in the local supply chain…"

"[in buying local] we will learn from each other and create framework for the next generations to build on."






1. Finding local products

"Knowing who is truly local and finding their product isn't always feasible or seasonal, so it's a challenge. Even finding a local-supporting restaurant doesn't always prove easy."



2. Eating local on a budget

"[it can be a challenge to] buy local when a cheaper alternative exists."

One reader offered this solution: Be Picky. 

"Preserving the budget to indulge in that pureness and taste, is challenging, but worthwhile since more of your dollar to support the local foods market, also supports the heart and soul of the area we love and live in….local foods can be more expensive, so I have to be picky with my choices at times."


Although local alternatives exist for everything from soup to nuts (literally), swapping in one item at a time is a fun way to create variety and discover new “must haves” while watching the bottom line. For a list of great swaps, see “A Cook’s Field Guide.


3. How to keep foods fresher longer

“I don't know the best ways to keep these foods fresh longer.”

“Where I struggle is having soooo much of the same produce at the same time. Green beans taste awesome steamed tender crisp and lightly tossed in olive oil the first 3 days, then everybody stops eating them. I freeze/can/dry what we don't eat fresh, but could use some new ideas.”

This is a tricky one! One possible solution is to get creative with canning—and to do that it doesn't hurt to bone up on how to do that safely with some classes, like these from the University of Minnesota Extension. Also, keep food pantries in mind, or use the abundance to host friends and family for harvest gatherings—especially if those friends and family have different crops in over-supply!


4. Cooking new ingredients in new ways

One reader mentioned the challenge of "working with ingredients you have never used before." 

Resources: Ask a farmer!

Many CSA’s offer recipe suggestions. If yours doesn’t, they may be able to refer you to one who does. The Fairshare CSA Coalition in Wisconsin published a book full of recipes called Asparagus to Zucchini, and  

Also don't discount the hidden powers of typing the ingredient into your search engine with the word "recipe!" And of course, try different cookbooks like The Minnesota Homegrown Cookbook, Minnesota Farmers Market Cookbook, The Farmer and The Chef, or The Forever Green Cookbook and The Perennial Kitchen by Beth Dooley. Many have sections with ingredients tips separate from the actual recipes.


5. Access and Awareness

"The biggest challenges for me are lack of access and awareness. I can easily find a Starbucks or Target to buy the first brand that pops out, but local food options are not obvious. As someone who moves around a lot, being aware of local food options would help me feel immersed as a resident rather than a visitor."


Resources: Remember to Ask

Ask your restaurant server about their local offerings; look for signage at the grocery store/co-op—they often have tags calling out local products. If you don't see your favorite on the shelves, ask them to carry it. Your requests drive demand and influence what they stock!

Event photos above from 2019 FEAST! Local Foods Marketplace festival by Ashley Aukes / Beruck Studios


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