Go Local: Becoming a Locavore for Beginners

Eating locally grown food, or becoming a “locavore,” can be a great way to get fresher food to you table and get involved with your community. This trend in eating decreases the time from the farm to your table, thereby minimizing your cuisine’s carbon footprint. But not only is your food eco-friendly, it’s deliciously nutritious! Eating local decreases chances of food contamination because the food has not traveled so far to get to your home.

So how can you become a locavore? Read on to learn how to integrate local food into your meal planning routine.

Farmers’ Markets

Find a farmers’ market in your area. Farmers’ markets allow you to meet the farmer of your food, face-to-face, and buy directly from that person. If you are a foodie, you will probably enjoy forming a bond with your famers and asking them about the harvesting process. Many farmers even allow their customers to visit their farms which can be a fun yet informative experience. The USDA provides a search engine to help you find a farmers’ market near you.


Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a program which allows you to get a box of food directly from a farmer in exchange for a flat rate. Local Harvest outlines the details of CSA, in addition to giving cautionary advice about choosing a good farmer for the job, on their website. CSA can be a fantastic way to get seasonal produce for the entire family to enjoy. If you’re not part of a bigger family, you can always split the cost and produce with a neighbor or friend.

Local Food Restaurants

Chances are, there is a local food restaurant near you. If you decide to go to a farmers’ market, ask farmers which restaurant owners they sell to. Ask friends and restaurant owners if they know of any local food restaurants in the area. Search engines like Organic Highways and Organic Kitchen can also help you get your hands on some already-prepared local food.

Garden and Grow

If you want something done right, do it yourself! Growing your own food is a inexpensive and rewarding way to get local food on your plate. While this option is time-consuming, gardening can be thereputic and fun. Try picking easy herbs and fruits to start out with. Easy herbs include cilantro, basil, chives, and rosemary. For fruits, try apples, blueberries, or raspberries.

So there they are, the quick n’ easy ways to get local food to your platter. Aid the environment, local economy, and even your stomach by going local.

James Kim is a writer for foodonthetable.com.  Food on the Table is a company that provides online budget meal planning services.  Their goal is to help families eat better and save money.

Compound Exercises to Build Strength

Whether you’re looking to gain weight or lose weight (or even just maintain your current weight), weight training is one of the best tools you have to accomplish your goal. Weight gain can be stimulated significantly by lifting weights to build muscle. Another benefit of lifting weights is increased metabolism which, when combined with a low-calorie diet, can aid substantially in weight loss. Lifting weights while dieting also helps prevent losing muscle weight.

If you are serious about getting stronger, you must lift weights. You need to lift really heavy weights, too. Doing push-ups and pull-ups at home won’t cut it. You need to push your body to its limit so you can lift even more the next time you’re in the gym. Weight-lifting is good for your body, mind, and energy levels.

To radically increase your body strength, you must do compound weight lifting exercises. Compound weight lifting exercises stimulate multiple muscles at the same time. These exercises build strength and muscle much faster than doing exercises that target a single, smaller muscle group. Here are the compound exercises to focus on. If all you ever did were these four exercises, you’ll be stronger than you’ve ever been in your life within a few months.

- Squat
- Deadlift
- Military (shoulder) Press
- Power Clean

But wait! You might be thinking: where are the arm curls or triceps dips? Many people that think going into the gym to do thirty minutes of calf raises and bicep curls is “working out”. It’s not. You must do compound exercises to change your body.

The irony is, if you do those above exercises three days a week, within a few months you’ll be able to bicep curl more weight than you ever have in your life. That’s because compound exercises make your whole body strong, not just one measly muscle.

So stop focusing on the little things and focus on doing the few things that actually matter. It’s the 80/20 rule: 80% of your strength training gains will be made by just 20% of the exercises you do. The four exercises I mentioned are those exercises.

Forget the ab machine you saw on the late night infomercial, forget what your local scrawny personal trainer thinks he knows, and go lift heavy weights via compound exercises.

If you want ripped abs, you need squats, not a DVD to follow for 8 minutes a day.

Avoiding Weight Gain Over the Holidays

Weight gain is about as common over the holidays as Christmas music and shopping. It happens to nearly everyone and so avoiding it sometimes seems futile. But there are a few fairly easy ways to help prevent holiday weight gain.

Tip #1: Don’t Eat

If you don’t eat over the holidays, you certainly won’t gain weight. Obviously, this is not a practical suggestion. There’s going to be Grandma’s pumpkin pies, there’s going to be Christmas ham. Being glutinous over the holidays is just part of our culture. But just because you’re eating fatty foods like mashed potatoes with gravy and pie for dessert doesn’t necessarily mean you need to gain weight. Enjoy all of the usual holiday fare just in smaller portions. Eat slowly. Listen to your stomach. When it’s starting to ring out, “I’m full!” Stop eating! Holiday weight gain is more a product of eating too much than it is what we eat, so eat less!

Tip #2: Squeeze in workouts

I know working out while visiting family and friends can seem like an impossible task, but it’s really not. Pack workout clothes and make your way to a treadmill. They are everywhere. If you’re visiting family out of town, inquire about a local gym that might accommodate a one-day pass. If you can squeeze just 60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise in on the morning prior to a big family gathering, your metabolism will be on your side when the gravy dish is being passed around. If you simply do not have the time to get to a gym over the holidays, do 20 push-ups and 20 sit-ups a few times throughout the day. You can even do it on bathroom visits; no one will know. It shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes to do 20 push-ups and 20 sit-ups. The result will be great for helping digest that holiday ham.

Tip #3: Skip meals

Ideally, you should eat several small meals throughout the day. Since this is just not practical around holiday plans, do the exact opposite! Enjoy the big family feast, eat your heart out, but eat nothing else the rest of the day. You won’t be doing yourself any favors by eating a nice big breakfast followed by snacking throughout the day before chowing down on a big Thanksgiving dinner.

Tip #4: Avoid leftovers

Maintain a firm “no leftovers” policy over the holidays. That means no eating leftovers, no allowing Grandma to pack a ton of them for you to take home, nothing. Treat leftovers like the plague and you’ll distance yourself from the temptation to make the “big holiday meal” into the “big holiday meals”.

Eating Healthy for Cheap

It’s a sad state of affairs in our society: due to government subsidies in all the wrong places and our natural preference for fatty, salty, sugary foods over the foods that are most healthy for us to eat, it is more affordable to eat junk food than it is to eat healthy food. Some argue that this is not actually the case. They say that while a double cheeseburger from McDonalds provides an immense amount of calories for $1 that it’s ultimately not worth the cost we later must spend on health care to undo the damage from that cheeseburger. This perspective is gaining some momentum in government. A new bill that would add a tax to sugary sodas received some fairly strong consideration last year.

However, for now and probably several more years to come, it is more expensive to eat healthy foods than it is to eat processed, fatty foods that are void of nutrition. And until this is no longer the case, it’s worth asking: how can one eat healthy without breaking their wallet in the process?

Grow a Garden

Many people have a yard but almost none of them use this space to grow food cheaply. The benefits of growing a garden can be expounded at considerable length. But to keep it brief, gardens allow you to grow real food for minimal cost while learning some important lessons in responsibility and care-taking. A garden will give back however much you put into it. And until you’ve tasted fresh tomatoes (or lettuce or cucumbers or potatoes or whatever) that were plucked out of your backyard hours prior, you haven’t eaten food!

Buy In-Season

People in many cultures have no concept of “in season”. Everything they eat is “in season” and the idea of eating something out of season doesn’t even strike them as an option. However, in our culture, we have managed to import and engineer a way to be able to have any bit of produce any time of the year. Unfortunately, this comes at a cost. Tomatoes are plucked from their vine while still green and sprayed with a chemical to expedite their ripening. Fossil fuels are burned by the barrel-loads to help fly in-demand produce all around the world while others starve watching the jet’s vapor trail fly overhead. It’s a senseless and unsustainable model. And most importantly: it’s not real food. Tomatoes grown in a factory, picked while green, and sprayed with a chemical to make them ripe are not “tomatoes” as nature intended. We have distanced ourselves from what it means to eat real food and are paying the price for it in more ways than one. By purchasing local, in-season produce, you can rest assured that the food you are eating did not require an alarming amount of fuel to make its way to your dinner plate. This is added savings in your pocket.

Demand More from Your Government

That a double cheeseburger complete with a half-pound of cattle, cheese, and bread costs $1 while a small container of blueberries costs $4 should tell everyone something about our current food system. We’re subsidizing all of the wrong people. During the Nixon administration, their was an across-the-board increase in food prices. This was a natural economic occurrence, but since, naturally, politicians were worried about it harming their chances at being re-elected, they had to do something about it. And so food subsidies arose. The Nixon administration decided to “price in” farmers to growing corn by giving them government subsidies to do so. At the time, it was realized that an acre of corn can yield several more net calories than an acre of many other plants. And so, farmers all across the country began growing corn and nothing else. After all, they’d be missing out on money to grow something like blueberries, so why bother with that? Since the food industry became flooded with more corn than it knew what to do with, food scientists had to come up with a way to use it. And so they created several food-like products out of corn. The most well-known such product is high fructose corn syrup. Another use they found for corn? Feeding it to cattle. This allowed cattle farmers to grow more cows faster. The result? More beef flooding the market which means $1 cheeseburgers for everyone. But we are paying dearly for this. Our health care system spends about twice the amount of money per capita as many European countries. The human body simply cannot sustain itself on clever re-arrangements of corn. And when we go to the store today, what’s the easier choice to make? A box of pop-tarts that contain 1,600 calories for $2 or a carton of blueberries that contain 200 calories for $4?

Write your congressman and urge them to support legislation that will remove farmer subsidies on corn and allow the free market to once again take hold. This will be bad news for McDonalds, but not for people wanting to eat healthy at a reasonable price.

Part Time Vegan Diet

Our society tends to hold an all-or-nothing outlook regarding certain diets and lifestyle choices. Veganism is a perfect example of this. Most people view veganism in black and white terms: you either are vegan or you are not vegan. I got to thinking, why not try to exist somewhere in the middle? What’s wrong with being vegan half the week and then enjoying foods prepared with animal products during the other half of the week? At the very least, I figured, I might learn something. Indeed, I have.

Before getting to some of the things I’ve learned from an experimental part-time vegan diet, I should clarify my motivation for giving it a try. Perhaps the most common reason one chooses to adhere to a vegan diet is for animal rights purposes. It is this purpose that probably results in veganism never really being viewed as something to do on-again, off-again. Since most vegans eat the way they do because of animal rights beliefs, they maintain that diet without rest. My interest in a vegan diet has little to do with animal rights and more to do with self-discipline, a healthier lifestyle, and distancing myself from our culture’s choice to view meat as a staple in our diet. Rather than view meat as something that should belong in every meal, I thought, why not eat a diet in which you view meat as a treat? And so, I decided to give part-time veganism a try. Here are some things I’ve learned from maintaining a part time vegan diet:

Food is Still Delicious

Prior to giving a vegan diet a try, I always looked upon vegans with pity. “Man,” I would think, “that must really stink not being able to eat any animal products at all.” However, what I’ve learned since experimenting with vegan eating and cooking is that it’s not nearly as bad as one might think. I have enjoyed some truly spectacular foods that were created absent of help from animal products. There’s even vegan brownie recipes that can be eaten with rice-based ice cream (”rice cream”) that tastes so close to the real thing you could probably fool a carnivore into devouring a bowl of it without suspecting a thing.

Meat is More Awesome

The average person in developed countries eats nearly 200 pounds of meat per year. This is really an unprecedented thing for humanity. Even as recently as a century ago, the amount of meat consumed by persons living in developed nations was far less. Our culture has very recently turned meat into something it’s never before been treated as: a mass produced food staple that is to be consumed regularly and in abundance. This really represents a deviation from what humans have eaten for our entire existence. A part time vegan diet allows one to return to a diet more in line with our ancestors: where meat is viewed as a delectable treat and something to savor rather than devour. Since starting a part-time vegan diet, meat has become wondrous. On the occasions where I do eat a piece of meat, I’m able to really slow down and enjoy it rather than take it for granted.

Weight Loss

For me, the part time vegan diet was really not about weight loss. I knew weight loss would be a likely outcome of the lifestyle change, but that’s not really why I did it. Nevertheless, I have dropped quite a bit of excess body fat since eating nothing but plants for half the week. I feel and look healthier than I have in years.

Bathroom visits are, well… amazing

Between a combination of vastly increasing the amount of fiber in my diet (via vegetable and fruit intake) and vastly decreasing the amount of animal flesh (which is hard on the digestive system), trips to the bathroom have been turned on their head. Without going into too much detail, I’ll just say that my bowel movements have been more regular and healthy than I’ve ever experienced as an adult. If you want to see what I mean, try veganism for just three days. That should be sufficient to get an idea of what I’m talking about.