Have you ever considered throwing a party that saves the world? That’s right: you can be a superhero in your community simply by hosting a party. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is this: eat local.
Eating local is a simple idea—making food choices that support local farmers—with environmentally friendly implications, like reducing our carbon footprint. However, buying locally is often easier said than done. You’ll have to use all your cunning superhero powers to put your locavore soiree together. There will be difficulties. In many areas, the variety of locally grown products can be slim outside of peak growing seasons. The siren call of the superstore, where we can find anything and everything year-round, beckons us to enter; it’s partly the automatic sliding doors—they get me every time. But sticking to foods that are grown, raised and produced near where you live is worth it! Here are five easy tips to make the most out of local produce, and products, for your next gathering.
The first step in preparing for your party is to determine what you have to work with. Websites like www.localharvest.org can help with this—from local farmers’ markets to grocery stores that specialize in local products, this site makes it easy to track down the seasonal ingredients you need. Once you know what’s available, you can start planning!
Eating locally can sometimes be more expensive, especially if you are throwing a party. To keep costs down, use simple recipes rather than extravagant ones. Part of the beauty of eating locally is how it brings us back to basics. Take advantage of this and use it to lighten your workload as well as your bill. If spinach is in season right now, for example, make a simple spinach pesto and serve it with bread from a local bakery. Need some inspiration? Check out the menus at restaurants that specialize in local food options.
Since it can be difficult to base an entire party menu on 100% local ingredients, mix and match using sustainably produced or farmed products in addition to local finds. Whole Foods is a great place to find fish that’s been sustainably caught or farmed. The employees behind the counter are usually full of fish facts that can help you make an educated and responsible purchase. And while you’re there, you can incorporate organic foods to bulk up your menu.
Unless your guests are already involved in supporting local businesses, they may not know where to begin once they leave the party. Help keep the effort alive by displaying business cards from the vendors whose foods you feature. If you didn’t get a business card, you can make your own handwritten cards (on recycled paper, of course) for your guests to take home with them. This is a great way to connect local eaters with the people who provide local products in your community!
“Going local” involves more than just food. Consider how much waste parties can produce, and consider reducing your impact by using biodegradable products from sources like RestaurantWare.com. You can go even greener by using resources like Minnesota’s Do It Green website, which provides earth-friendly tips on topics from cleaning to recycling old items to make them new and hip. There are many fun and creative ways to transform your party from wasteful to resourceful. One idea: highlight the ways you made your party earth-friendly by going local, organic and sustainable, and other ways your guests can make their homes, pantries and even gardens more environmentally friendly—and provide these suggestions on printed cards that guests can tuck in a pocket on their way home. You never know how much change you could bring to the world by throwing a simple party!
Rachael White is the author of the blogs Set the Table and Tokyo Terrace. After four years of living, eating, and entertaining in Tokyo, Japan, she and her family have relocated to Denver, Colorado. Rachael is constantly searching for new ways to make entertaining easier and more interesting for guests in a variety of environments and situations. In addition to food blogging, her recipes have been published in cookbooks including Foodista Best of Food Blogs and Peko Peko: A Charity Cookbook for Japan and in Japan’s Daily Yomiuri newspaper. Originally from Minnesota, Rachael strives to recreate recipes and settings that reflect Midwestern comfort with a modern twist.