6 Tips for Eating Local on a Budget

sPeople say unhealthy food is cheaper because they figure out cost by comparing calories, not nutritional value. Since fruits and vegetables have fewer calories, you would have to buy a lot of them to get the same amount of calories you would find in a $1 hamburger.

But we don’t need a lot of calories to feel full and fruits and vegetables are the best at filling us up. Healthy and local food can be affordable if you look for deals, plan ahead, buy what’s in season, store it right, cook at home, or grow your own.

Tip #1: Look for deals – Double Up Food Bucks

The Double Up Food Bucks Program makes it easier to eat fresh fruits and vegetables and support local farmers by matching each SNAP dollar you spend at the Dubuque Farmers’ Market with an extra dollar for fresh fruits & vegetables (up to $10 per week). 

Where: At The Dubuque Farmers’ Market – On Iowa Street between 11th & 13th

When: Saturdays 7:00am – 12:00pm   May-October 

How Double Up Food Bucks Works

No sign-up, No ID necessary!

Bring your SNAP EBT Card to the Market Money booth on 11th and Iowa before you shop. Market staff are there to help.
Buy any SNAP-eligible foods at the market with your EBT Card dollars.
We’ll match what you spend with FREE Double Up Food Bucks – up to $10, every market day for fresh fruits and vegetables.

Farmers Market is more than a place to buy fresh food; it’s an event you can share with your family and the surrounding community. Unlike grocery and convenience stores, the farmers market gives you an opportunity to meet the person who produced your food. That person can give you tips, recipes and insight on how to best work with their product – whether it’s a bushel of apples or a cut of meat.

Tip #2: Before you shop, become a meal planner

Meal planning for the week is the best option to save you time and money. It doesn’t mean you have to cook a big meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day all week – it means planning around your schedule so you can eat well and often without all the hassle.

View more helpful meal planning resources like this this 5 day meal planning worksheet at www.spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/plan/menu-planning

Tip # 3: Buy what’s in season

What’s In Season? Download the Iowa Fresh Vegetable Guide 

While grocery stores will carry an assortment of fruits and vegetables throughout the year, buying seasonal produce can take some of the strain off your wallet. When foods are in season locally, they are usually more abundant and affordable.

Buying seasonal produce may also add zest and flavor to your meals. Fruits and vegetables that are in season are typically fresher and more flavorful.

April: asparagus, radish
May: asparagus, green onions, kohlrabi, leaf lettuce, peas, radish, spinach, turnips
June: asparagus, beets, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, collards, green onions, kale
July: beets, bok choy, cabbage, chard, cucumber, new potatoes, snap beans, summer squash, sweet corn, tomatoes
August: beets, bok choy, carrots, chard, collards, cucumber, eggplant, kale, lima beans, muskmelon, onions, peppers, snap beans, summer squash, sweet corn, tomatoes, watermelon
September: beets, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, cucumber, eggplant, garlic, kohlrabi, leaf lettuce, lima beans, muskmelon, onions, peas, peppers, potatoes, pumpkin, radish, snap beans, spinach, summer squash, sweet corn, tomatoes, turnips, watermelon, winter squash
October: beets, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, cucumber, eggplant, garlic, kohlrabi, leaf lettuce, onions, peas, peppers, potatoes, pumpkin, radish, snap beans, spinach, summer squash, sweet corn, tomatoes, turnips, winter squash

Shop Seasonally Video 

Tip # 4: Store it Right

Many foods can keep flavor and can be stored for more time in your fridge or on your counter top. Fruits and vegetables can stay fresh for many days, weeks or even months.

Check out the  One-Page Fresh Produce Guide for more information about storing fresh veggies, or take a look through Produce Basics – handouts and videos that describe how to store, clean, and prepare various fresh fruits and vegetables like Kale & Collards, Sweet Potato, Peppers and more.


View more Produce Basics Handouts Here

Tip #5: Cook at Home

Cooking at home takes some time and planning, but it’s worthwhile. Food cooked at home is typically healthier and less expensive than convenience or restaurant food. Also, cooking together at home can be quality time with your family.

Not all meals need to start with recipes. In fact, making the most of what you have is an important skill for home cooks. It saves money and often takes less time than cooking from a recipe. Utah State University has a collection of resources called “Create” that shows you how to combine common foods into meals.

Click Here to Find Simple Healthy Recipes

Tip #6 Grow Your Own!

  1. growDid you know for every $1 dollar spent on seeds and fertilizer, home gardeners can grow an average of $25 worth of produce? Growing your own food is an empowering experience and a great way to spend time outdoors with family and friends.

If you have never gardened before, here’s a few resources to get you started!  

Dubuque Community Garden Coalition A network of people who support each other in creating and caring for community gardens in and around the city. Community Gardens in Dubuque range in size and structure. Some gardens, like the Four Mounds Community Garden have allotment gardens available seasonally for a low price. Other gardens work together to grow food to donate to free meal sites and food pantries. Join the DCGC at an upcoming Coalition Meeting or 

Garden Lunch & Learn at the Carnegie Stout Public Library – First Wednesday of Every Month 12:15pm at Carnegie-Stout Public Library
360 W. 11th Street, Dubuque, Iowa No registration required, FREE!

Join Master Gardeners and Dubuque area growers to discover what is happening in the garden each month over your lunch break! A new topic is covered every month, providing a “snap-shot” of things to consider when planning, planting, and maintaining your garden from season to season.



A Note on Nutrition: MyPlate Dietary Guidelines

Based off of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2015-2020), MyPlate illustrates the five food groups that are building blocks for a healthy diet. Before you eat, think about what goes on your plate, in your cup, or in your bowl. The right mix can help you feel healthier now and in the future. For more information on a healthy dietary style visit www.ChooseMyPlate.gov

For questions about local foods in the Greater Dubuque area, contact:
Carolyn Scherf
Local Food Coordinator
ISU Extension & Outreach in Dubuque County
cscherf@iastate.edu | 563 583 6496
Visit  www.DubuqueEatsWell.com to find out what’s going on in the community & how you can get involved!

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