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I'm forsaking the grocery store and kind of loving it

Many of us say we want to eat healthier and shop locally. Some of us actually do. But for people like me, those goals of being a health-conscious locavore just haven’t happened. I’m attempting to change that.Last week, I signed up for the 30-Day No Grocery Store Challenge. For 30 days, I will refrain from shopping at the giant supermarket near my house and will instead purchase all of my food
Writer Dana Macario was delighted to learn that when she signed up to have milk delivered to her home, the dairy also delivered \"a darling little milk box\" to her porch.
Writer Dana Macario was delighted to learn that when she signed up to have milk delivered to her home, the dairy also delivered \"a darling little milk box\" to her porch.Dana Macario / Today

Many of us say we want to eat healthier and shop locally. Some of us actually do. But for people like me, those goals of being a health-conscious locavore just haven’t happened. I’m attempting to change that.

Last week, I signed up for the 30-Day No Grocery Store Challenge. For 30 days, I will refrain from shopping at the giant supermarket near my house and will instead purchase all of my food from small local vendors. And because I have never had the opportunity to utter the words, “money is no object,” I’m going to keep tabs on what I’m spending and see if I can make this project both healthy for my wallet and for my body.

My first foray into the project took me all of five minutes, and I didn’t even have to leave the house as I went online and signed up for milk delivery from a local dairy.

Actually, I was able to sign up for a lot more than just milk; it turns out they deliver everything from sour cream to hormone- and antibiotic-free eggs. Plus, they leave a darling little milk box on your front porch, and it’s yours as long as you use their service. I know that should be inconsequential, but I can’t decide what I like more: the cuteness of the box or the convenience of once-a-week home delivery.

Next, it was off to the local farmers market. It was my first trip since the market opened last spring, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much it offered. Aside from a number of produce stands, there was also a stand selling grass-fed ground beef at $5 per pound, a specialty pasta stand and a few bakery stands.

My Hawaii-born-and-raised husband was even treated to fresh malasadas, a Portuguese confection similar to doughnuts, an unexpected and pleasant surprise. My kids really got into it; they had freedom to roam a bit and loved helping pick out the fruits and veggies and paying the various vendors. We also enjoyed the social aspect of spending a Saturday morning at the market.

While some of the items like pasta were pretty pricey, others, like fresh dill, were a fraction of the price that I’d normally pay at the supermarket and were of much better quality. So far, we were off to a great start.

Of course, the next morning I woke up, looked at all of the produce and the pound of ground beef I’d bought and realized I hadn’t even thought about what we’d do for breakfast. We were also out of milk and were several days away from our home delivery. Just as I was about to head to the gas station’s handy mart, thinking I’d get off on a technicality, I remembered the local food co-op.

I worried that it might be cheating, since it was so grocery store-esque, but ultimately I decided it fit the essence of the challenge: It’s local, it’s small and it only sells healthy foods (which are often grown locally and organically). It had everything I needed. But, even though I tried to spend a lot of time in the cheaper, bulk bin area — who knew organic flour even existed? — it still wound up costing me a lot more than I normally pay.

Part of this may be a shopping learning curve for me. I’m normally a dedicated list person. I plan out a few menus for the week and get what I need. But shopping locally and in-season requires a different mindset. You have to get what’s fresh and available, then work your meals around that. This is going to take me a while to figure out.

In the meantime, we’re eating absurd amounts of berries and not as many grains or meats as we probably should be. I dare say we’re all quite regular.

Another option we considered, but haven’t yet tried, is home produce delivery. A week ago, I didn’t know what CSA meant. Now, I know it means community-supported agriculture and that local farmers will drop off their produce for you on a weekly basis. We have one nearby and you sign up for produce for the entire season. Then, you can pick up your box at a designated spot at a set time.

One week in, and I’m rather enjoying this little experiment. Not everyone’s completely on board, though. My daughter has been dismayed by a couple of the things I came home with, and I caught my husband popping a stray, pre-challenge frozen waffle in the toaster. I reminded him about the challenge, but he wasn’t impressed and told me he was late for work and didn’t have time for it.

I guess that’s the balance we’re all struggling to find: the realities of work and busy schedules with the desire to eat better.

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