If I had a dollar for every person who said, “I live in the supermarket,” I would never have to work again. While supermarkets present a great convenience due to their pursuit to become the one-stop-shop, what if I said you never had to step in one again? I’m sure most of you would be overwhelmed with joy. No more fluorescent lighting, brand overload, and non-seasonal produce departments.
Supermarkets are no longer the only resort for grocery shopping. The four alternatives below are a great, and in my opinion, a much better substitute for mega-grocery stores.
That’s us! Co-ops, owned by its community members, can look like small grocery stores, however it depends on the needs of the co-op. The Swarthmore Co-op, for example, is quite large for a co-op. We have a full service deli and meat & seafood departments, in addition to prepared foods, a large produce section, grocery, bulk, and frozen departments. Other co-ops, especially those in the city, may not be quite as large. However, from my experience, I’ve noticed that even the smallest co-ops will have a produce and grocery department, and some form of bulk (whether it be in the form of bulk bins or a buying club). Some co-ops are open to the public while others allow only members to shop. Whether or not your nearest co-op requires a membership or not, it is wise to invest in the co-op to support the cause for community owned property and the local economy.
Farmers’ markets can be found pretty much anywhere, although most are closed during the winter season. Consisting of local farmers, farmers’ markets are usually placed in a central area around town for a few hours. Farmers can range anywhere from produce farmers and beekeepers to stone millers and bakers. Farmers’ markets are great because they reduce the middleman, allowing you to talk to the farmer about his or her practices and products.
CSA stands for community supported agriculture. When you buy into a CSA, you pay what seems like a high, up front cost. But, each week you receive a box, known as a share, of hyper local produce for the entire growing season. CSA shares vary in cost and weekly produce is distributed by the farmer based on what he has available that week. CSA shares are great and super beneficial to farmers because it allows farmers to financially plan for the upcoming growing season before they begin to work up to 60 hours a week in the field. CSA shares don’t always have to be produce too! Some CSA shares strictly deal with meat, holistic medicine, or baked goods. Click here to read more about CSA shares.
At Home Farming
Gardens are the furthest thing from traditional supermarkets, but arguable the healthiest alternative. Depending on what and how much you are growing, gardens can be quite time consuming due to planning and upkeep. On the other hand, if you’re just growing a few herbs and maybe some tomatoes, it can be easier to manage than most would think. Before you start gardening, it’s wise to read some gardening books or talk to an experienced gardener – a great way to learn from their mistakes so you don’t do the same. On that note, if you have a successful garden, you’re gonna have a hefty amount of produce for the entire season.
Depending on your lifestyle and diet, one of the options above might be much better than the others. Or maybe you need to mix a little bit of all four. Either way, choosing an alternative to supermarkets is a great way to support the local economy and farmers. Remember, every dollar you spend counts as a vote for what kind of food system you want to have.