Before prepping dinner last night I ventured down Munjoy Hill to check out Portland Food Co-op for the first time. I live less than a mile from the co-op and I've never stepped inside the doors. I was looking for a variety of veggies for roasting and I didn't feel like driving across town to the supermarket, so I decided to finally see what the Co-op had to offer.

I was delighted to find such a wide variety of fresh, local produce. I filled my basket with large carrots, purple fingerling potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, red onions, fresh dill, smoked paprika, local yogurt, and some ice cream from Smiling Hill Farm (to balance out all the vegetables). I was thrilled when the cashier told me my total was just $26 and change. 

I often encounter people who claim they cannot afford to eat fresh and local produce, but with the growing trends of organic, natural, locally-sourced food, stores like the Portland Food Co-op and the Portland Farmers Market are making it easier, more accessible, and more affordable than ever to get healthy meals on the table.

I'll definitely be back to the Portland Food Co-op and I encourage you to check out your local farmers' markets and co-ops. Here's why!

1. Fresh, local produce.

All the produce was labeled with the farm and town that provided the food. I loved knowing that my purple fingerling potatoes were from a farm in Sweden, Maine and the rest of my produce was provided by other local farms. You know you're getting a fresh, local product when the potatoes still have dirt on them!

 

2. You'll find products you never knew existed.

There are so many local brands that I've never knew excited until I perused the aisles at Portland Food Co-op. I was amazed to find a local, organic version of Hot Pockets, local peanut butter, and a massive stash of local ice creams.

 

3. You'll grab prepared foods that won't make you feel guilty.

Breakfast sandwiches, salads, wraps, soups, stews, pastas... The list goes on and on. Portland Food Co-op is my new pop in place when I need a quick lunch that won't weigh me down. I love that all the prepared foods are made with local ingredients, too.

 

4. Smaller markets mean less people and shorter lines.

Do you dread the grocery store because everyone seems to shop at the same time as you and they all seem to have overflowing cars that take half a century to empty on the cashier's conveyor belt? The farmers market crowds may be thick on a sunny, warm spring Saturday, but you won't face lines like those at the supermarket.

 

5. Shopping trips turn into a treasure hunt.

I found something new around every corner at the food co-op. It felt like a treasure hunt uncovering all the new produce and products. This Instagrammer found a locally baked pop tart pastry at the farmers market. I love stuff like this!

 

6. You'll get stunning Instagram photos.

You won't be able to resist the brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Go ahead and post that to your Instagram. No filter needed.