I have gained valuable experiences and knowledge through my 43 day local food challenge. I feel it is necessary to reflect on the 43 days and to share these reflections with those of you who have been loyal followers of my blog. I will start each reflection off with a common question I received from friends, family, and strangers during my challenge.
Have you lost weight?
I wish! I only lost one pound during my 43 day local food challenge. I was asked the question, “have you lost weight?” almost every other day. Maybe I finally mastered the art of wearing clothes to disguise my weight? Who knows! I found myself consuming more fruits and vegetables during my challenge. I also ate eggs or peanut butter most mornings, which provided me with protein and energy to make it through the day. Overall, I feel eating local foods is much healthier. I ate “whole” foods and basically eliminated processed foods from my diet. I avoided the center aisles of every grocery store. I could only find local foods on the outside of the grocery aisles. Think about it; the outside of the grocery aisles usually includes healthy foods like produce, meat, bread, and cheese. I also shopped frequently at farmers’ markets, where processed foods barely exist. By shopping at farmers’ markets and avoiding the center aisles of the grocery stores, I didn’t give myself the opportunity to pick up crackers, cookies, popcorn, cereals, and other snack foods.
On the other hand, there were days when my diet was absolutely terrible. My coworker’s husband called me the “beer and ice cream girl.” Sometimes when I was traveling or did a poor job of planning when to go grocery shopping, I had to resort to eating local ice cream for a meal. I definitely drank a lot of beer too, that explains why I only lost a pound. I knew North Carolina had some great beer, however, my local food challenge definitely taught me a thing or two about NC beer. We have so many breweries and the beer rocks!
What can you eat?
I got this question a lot. My response was always, “anything grown or produced in North Carolina.” Let me elaborate and reflect.
I could eat any fruit or vegetable grown in North Carolina. This was surprisingly hard at first. I started my challenge during the winter crop season. There weren’t a lot of fruits I was able to eat besides apples from the mountains. I definitely missed being able to pick up oranges, bananas, and berries from the grocery store. Thankfully, strawberries, blueberries, and peaches were available during part of my local food challenge. Americans definitely take produce for granted. I encourage you to look around the grocery store next time you’re shopping for produce. Everything comes from Mexico or California. You can purchase a banana or avocado every day, too bad it’s traveled hundreds of miles to get to you. I enjoyed talking to farmers and purchasing produce at the farmers’ market. I knew who was growing my food and I wanted to support them for their hard work.
I ate breads and granola produced by local bakers. Anytime I was visiting a city in North Carolina, I always picked up a loaf of bread from a local baker. Nana’s bread in Greensboro, Ninth Street Bakery in Durham, Neomonde in Raleigh, Little Red Wagon Granola in Chapel Hill, and Camino’s in Winston Salem were among some of the bakeries I visited.
Meat was interesting. I’m not a huge meat eater, however, the local food challenge caused me to become more carnivorous. The challenge also allowed me to learn more about cuts of meat and different types. I ate a lot of ground beef because that was easy to find at the grocery store and at restaurants. Whole Foods carries local beef, grass fed and organic. I also purchased a lot of meats from Mae Farms, including Canadian Bacon and pork tenderloin. I found local meats to taste more flavorful compared to the meats I was purchasing at Food Lion. I am also happy that I live in North Carolina. The coast is only two hours away from Raleigh so I was able to eat a wide variety of seafood, which was wonderful. We are definitely a diverse state when it comes to meat. I can’t imagine living in a state that doesn’t have fresh, local seafood.
I only ate chocolate as long as it was made by a local, artisan chocolatier. I ate chocolate from Escazu and the Videri Chocolate Factory, both are located in Raleigh. I couldn’t live without chocolate. Although the cocoa wasn’t grown in North Carolina, it’s good to support a local chocolatier. I was also able to see the chocolate being made in Escazu’s store.
It’s so expensive to eat local, right?
Yes and no, some products are pretty expensive while others are cheaper. A locally made chocolate bar cost me around 6 bucks, compared to the 1 dollar I could spend on a Hershey’s bar. I also found cheese to be pricey. Before my local food challenge, I usually bought bags of Food Lion brand cheddar or Parmesan cheese for 2 or 3 bucks. When you’re shopping for local cheeses, you can’t just buy a bag of shredded cheese. I tried lots of different types of cheeses and fell even more in love with goat cheese. Although I would pay 3 dollars for a small piece of cheese that barely fit in the palm of my hand, it tasted so much better and I found a smaller amount of cheese was needed at meals. Produce wasn’t expensive. I found fruits and vegetables at the farmers’ market to be about the same price as the grocery store. Sometimes certain fruits and vegetables were a few cents more a pound but I’d rather place a few more cents in my local farmer’s hand. Produce at Whole Foods on the other hand, wiped my pockets clean! Remember the four dollar tomato? I would highly suggest shopping for produce at your local farmers’ market.
I did spend a good amount of money at restaurants. I enjoy eating out and I consider this a social activity. I spent a lot of time searching online for restaurants and then calling them to make sure they offered local foods. As far as pricing, the restaurants were comparable to others in the area. Most of the restaurants I visited have found a way to make their menu seasonal so they can incorporate local foods.
Umm, why are you doing this again?
Because I want to. I didn’t embark on this local food challenge to prove a point or to be ridiculous. Honestly, I wanted to see what all the great state of North Carolina had to offer me. I simply wanted to see if our state was diverse in the types of agricultural products available to consumers. There’s so much talk about eating local foods, I just wanted to see if you can easily do so in North Carolina. Plus, I get bored easily. I wanted to see if I could stick to a challenge.
I didn’t really see this one coming, but my social network has definitely been impacted by my local foods challenge. I have met numerous foodies and chefs throughout North Carolina because of my challenge. It’s refreshing to talk to a chef and discover their passion for local foods. My friends were also excited about my challenge. Courtney was always willing to drink a local beer with me or visit the farmers’ market. My friend Jonathan who lives in Pittsburgh sent me a picture of a chalkboard at his work’s cafe. The chalkboard listed foods the cafe would be offering during the day and which local farms were supplying the ingredients. Not only have I impacted people in North Carolina to think locally, my blog has reached other parts of the states. My blog was also picked up by the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitor’s Bureau because I frequented a lot of restaurants dedicated to serving local foods. I am the visitRaleigh foodie blogger now!
What’s the first thing you’re going to eat after this challenge?
Avocados. If only North Carolina could grow avocados because I missed guacamole the most out of any food. Also, fruit! Americans are spoiled, I couldn’t eat common fruits like bananas and oranges.
Would you do the challenge again?
In a heart beat. It’s kind of funny, I often forget that I’m not doing the challenge anymore. I have totally changed where I shop for foods. I haven’t been to a large grocery store since the end of my local food challenge. I only shop at the farmers’ market now and then at Whole Foods for products I couldn’t find at the farmers’ market. I can honestly say close to 90 percent of my food dollars are going towards local foods. The 10 percent is going solely towards avocados!