As the local food movement continues to gain steam, there are an ever-increasing number of options for sourcing your food in many cities and towns across North America. This is exciting news, and it means that even if you've lived somewhere for a long time (as I have), there may be food purchasing possibilities of which you're not aware.
A couple of months ago I wrote about how excited I was to find a source of affordable, local free-range eggs. While these were wonderful eggs at a fantastic price, for a variety of reasons this source hasn't proved to be a viable option for regularly purchasing eggs.
About a week ago, a member of my ONFC buying club asked if anyone knew a good source for local free range eggs. I decided to take a quick peek on Kijiji to see what I could find and as it happened, a listing I had not seen before had just been posted less than half an hour before I checked!
This source seemed nearly perfect: free range chickens fed organic feed, a steady supply of eggs, and a fantastic price when eggs were purchased in bulk - only $2.50 a dozen when you buy more than 6 dozen! Eggs of similar quality sell for $6-7 a dozen around here when bought at grocery stores or even direct from some of the larger farms. The only problem was that this farm was a 35-40 minute drive from my house, making it impractical for purchasing eggs a couple of times a month.
I decided to ask members of my buying club, plus a few of my other local foodie friends if anyone would be interested in setting up a small egg buying group and within a couple days it was clear that this could be a viable possibility. After inquiring with the egg farmer, I was assured she could meet our needs for a large bulk pickup and she seemed thrilled to make a regular bulk purchase arrangement with our group.
My husband and I drove out to the farm this past weekend to pick up our first batch of eggs and it's looking like this will be a wonderful long-term arrangement for both the egg producer and our little group of egg buyers. While we're still getting ourselves organized, it looks like we will have somewhere between 8-12 families in our group, ordering in the neighbourhood of 16-20+ dozen eggs from this small-scale producer every 2 weeks. Forming a group makes it practical to buy from this source; because we will take turns picking up eggs at the farm, each family will only be responsible for making the drive out there 2-3 times per *year*! The eggs will be dropped off at a central location (right now it's my house) for everyone to come fetch. Since we all live in the same area of the city, it makes it very convenient and accessible for everyone.
This is just one example of how forming a buying group can make purchases both feasible and worthwhile that otherwise might be neither. In this case, the distance to the producer made it impractical for regular, individual twice-a-month purchases (if it was a more shelf-stable product, like grains, or something you could pack in the freezer, like meat, facilitating larger and less frequent purchases, the distance might not be an issue). We are also getting a better price per dozen by purchasing in bulk. In this case, the price was still great even without the discount ($3.00 per dozen). In some cases, buying large quantities at once can cut your costs by 50% or more.
While this setup is certainly not as simple as walking around the corner to the store to buy eggs, it should work out to be a fairly smooth and consistent way for us to purchase great eggs for a fantastic price while supporting a small-scale local producer. Investing a little time and creativity into finding a solution that worked will be well worth the effort as we enjoy these high-quality eggs on a regular basis!
Have you found any creative solutions to accessing more fresh, local foods on a small budget in your area?
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