Yesterday was the third annual Small Business Saturday — a day designed to encourage us to “shop small” in support of independently-owned establishments. While I love the concept and its goals, it’s silly to do this only one day a year. It’s simple to patronize small businesses every day.
I’ve compiled ten ways to shop small and eat better throughout the year. Yesterday, I shared the first five — all created to help you find local, sustainable sources for foods, like produce, meat, and dairy. Read on for five more tips to shop small, shop local, and eat better.
- Join a CSA. It’s so easy to find a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) source to deliver fresh, locally-grown food to your door or a nearby location. Belonging to a CSA ensures you get farm fresh food and supports local farms and the CSA operation itself. In yesterday’s post, I listed a few valuable search engines: LocalHarvest, Local Dirt, and Eat Well Guide. Each of these supports CSA searches. The USDA also recommends a few others. I haven’t checked them all out yet, but we’d love to hear your feedback if you’ve used them or have others to share.
- Eat at independently-owned restaurants. Avoid chains unless they provide you with top notch dining experiences. You can eat at a small, family owned restaurant for the same price as a Chili’s or an Olive Garden, and you will get better food and support entrepreneuring restaurateurs at the same time. I haven’t found a good single source of information to help locate top notch, non-chain spots, but sites like Eater with their Eater Maps, Thrillist, and UrbanDaddy all write about unique, high-quality restaurants in certain areas. You can also subscribe to food focused blogs in your community; I rely on CraveDFW to keep me in the loop on restaurant openings and closings in the Dallas area.
- Subscribe to sites that connect you with small food artisans. It’s great to shop locally, but there are amazing food crafters in what used to be outside your comfort zone but is now conveniently accessible by shopping online. I’ve bought unique sea salt blends, an organic turkey, and hand crafted PB’N'J dog treats — all with a few mouse clicks and a credit card or PayPal. I find out about small, artisanal food companies through e-mails from sites like The Nibble, Food52, Joyus, BlackboardEats, GiltTaste, OpenSky, and Fab.
- Find your local microbreweries. We recently got our first small, locally-owned microbrewery in Dallas. It was quickly joined by at least three more. They’re all owned by local folks dedicated to the craft of creating brews that represent our area. We’re starting to find them on tap in many of our local restaurants. To find your own local microbreweries, search by state on CraftBeer, the Brewers Association brewery locator, or check out The Beer Mapping Project’s site.
- Google it baby. Most of the sites mentioned in this list of ten ways to shop small and eat better rise to the top of a Google search results page. Use the words “buy online” plus keywords like “local”, “artisanal”, “craft”, “sustainable”, and “organic,” plus whatever it is you want to find. It’s better to have a word of mouth reference when selecting products and services, but it’s also kind of fun to see what you can find through your trusty search engine.
Most importantly, make a commitment! Shopping small might take more time and money (not always!), but it’s worth it. You find products made with soul. You support small businesses and peoples’ dreams inside and outside your community. We have the potential to improve the quality of our lives and the world in general. When Big Daddy eats his handmade, all natural PB’N'J dog treats, I’m sure he agrees.
Ready for part two? You can check out the rest of the shop small tips here!
Image Credit: PaulSteinJC via Flickr/CC