With 2013 here many of us have taken time to reflect on 2012 and to ponder some resolutions we may want to make. I don’t really do resolutions as I try to be a positive, upbeat, adventurous and good person year-round (to myself and others!). All of that being said, there are a few things I want to strive to do more of in the upcoming year: shop and eat ‘local’, and buy ‘Made in the USA’, and blog in a more timely fashion (you should see the backlog of recipes I have for here…). I’m not expressly vocal about my USA and Local preferences and, while I have been mindful of these choices in the past, I haven’t been as mindful as I could be. So, in 2013 I will try to do a better job. I’d love to use this quick blog post to jot down some of my reasons of why I strive to do these things. This post is going to be a brief time-out from my normal food blogging goodness; I promise the next post will be back to food and recipes!
Why I Shop Local
Did you know that when you ‘shop local’ you put about 50 – 60% of that ‘dollar’ back into your own local economy? It’s true! Buying from local, independently owned businesses keeps your local economy alive, as those businesses generally make purchases from other local businesses creating a wonderful local cycle of money through your economy. It also keeps your “neighbors” employed, which is a wonderful thing in such a treacherous economy. There is a great sign at my local produce store: “Thanks for your business and for preventing this from being another housing development”. About 30 years ago, the land on which we currently live was relatively untouched; now it is home to 3 strip malls, metro train tracks, hundreds of houses, and many schools. So, keeping my money in my local farm store plays a small but vital part in ensuring that additional houses are kept off a few untouched acres, which is a rare sight….
Still need more reasons to shop local? Think of the atmosphere that local downtown stores create! Usually downtown areas filled with local, independent stores and restaurants give off a tremendous vibe, which can attract visitors and keep you going back. Most of us chose where we live for its proximity to work and for the associated culture and community. Part of these aspects of community and culture are the shops we have available to us! Many of my favorite shops are local ones that are unique to here – they are such rare gems. Keep them in business by choosing them.
The town of Gulfport, Florida (west coast of FL near St.Petersburg) has a great, albeit small, downtown area with a handful of unique, independent restaurants. There isn’t a chain restaurant, or store, in sight and its wonderful! I love walking into that part of town and trying out the local fare, and the people working in those stores and restaurants could not be more friendly. There is a wonderful level of quality, in both products and services, when you shop locally that is usually unmatched by the big-box and chain competitions.
How do I plan to do a better job at shopping local? I am already an avid consumer of my local stores – I participate in the crop-share (CSA) program run through my local farm store and look to them to purchase additional produce weekly. I will plan to continue to shop for other produce, seasonally, in local farmers markets, I know of many in the area on various days of the week so this should be easy to accomplish. I will also shift around our household budget a little bit to account for the fact that some local stores may have similar products for a bit more money than the big stores, such as Target, so with a little financial adjusting we will have no problem paying a small amount extra to a friendly, local face. Getting in the habit of visiting my local hardware store over Home Depot, and the farmers market over Giant Supermarkets shouldn’t be too hard and I’m sure once we are in that habit we will stick with it. As for eating out, there are TONS of restaurants in ‘our backyard’ that we haven’t tried yet that are locally owned, and its time we start visiting them instead of our typical chain restaurants. One of the things that pushes us towards the chain places are the coupons so I plan to do a better job of sifting through for local eatery coupons - maybe restaurant.com can help with that as well as other deal-sites so that we have the nudge we need to get out and explore new eateries.
Why I Buy Made in the USA
Similar to shopping local, I also want to support the businesses based here in this country versus those based overseas. Surprisingly, this is easier said than done. I’ve done a lot of research on this including recently reading A Year Without Made in China by Sara Bongiorni. This made the prospect of succeeding in buying only “Made in USA” products seem impossible. I don’t want to be that strict, I just want to buy more items made here versus there. I am an avid evader of Walmart, and though I do shop at Target, I have seen my money spent in that store decline in the past year as well. I absolutely do not like Walmart though. When people learn this about me they usually give me a look that implies I’m off my rocker, and maybe I am. Sure, I know that Walmart and Target have great prices on tons of items, but what am I really getting for those great prices? Usually a slightly dumpy store, unfriendly workers, and junk made everywhere but this country… not to mention the fact that every one of the Walmarts and Targets constructed usually ends up shutting down a few local places that sold the same goods. I’ve just had enough. I spend enough money on stuff found in those stores that I think I deserve a better, cleaner, shopping experience. What does this have to do with buying Made in the USA you ask? Well, not shopping at these retail giants does help me automatically reduce the amount of non-USA stuff entering my shopping cart. It is much easier in a hardware store that sells mostly only hardware type of products to find a variety of options for what I need and usually one or two of those options will have been made in the good ole USA. There are exceptions to this rule of course, and I have my financial limits (so a $50 USA Pitcher over a $15 Italy pitcher isn’t going to happen) so buying USA options on all products we need or want isn’t feasible, but that’s OK because my goal is to just buy smarter and made in the USA more often, not all USA.
Being aware of where my products are made has also helped curb some clutter. I am vigilant about always looking at the tags when I’m purchasing clothing and have put back quite a few items that were made elsewhere that I may have liked, but didn’t have to have. As a dog-mom, I only buy my pup treats and food Made in the USA and I try to do the same for his various toys. USA made dog toys are a bit trickier to come by but being a dog he has no idea what toys he is missing out on….. There used to be a wonderful show on TV called Made in America, hosted by John Ratzenberger (the mailman from Cheers). That show helped get me thinking about how many great ‘American’ products were made here – such as Louisville Slugger, or CorningWare, even Northface! So even though they may cost a little extra I would absolutely prefer the quality and USA label to alternate options. It makes me feel good knowing that my purchase helped keep a factory worker or skilled crafts-person employed and with an influx of purchases, USA based companies may even create more jobs (that would be awesome!).
It’s a tough economy out there and we’ve all been a bit tighter with our wallets, so as I open my wallet in 2013, I want my hard-earned money to go to companies still making products in the USA and to as many locally owned retailers and eateries as possible. I want to help build up these business-owners and keep them in business for as long as possible! I’ll step off my soapbox now – you know where I’ll be shopping and what products I”ll be buying in 2013!! Cheers to the New Years & cheers to more recipes!!!
Enough about me, what are YOUR resolutions for 2013 (if any)?