How I Revamped My Spending to Buy Local
Written by Jane Switzer

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

COVID-19 underscored the importance of saving money, but it also made me re-evaluate where I spend my money.

In January, the Federal Government announced plans for a five-year "Buy Canadian" campaign to promote the country's agricultural sector and food producers. Over the last few months, Canadian cities large and small have started their own publicity blitzes to encourage citizens to shop local.

After seeing how COVID-related closures affected small businesses in my neighbourhood, I started shifting my spending toward a "buy local" mindset. Here are a few ways I re-prioritized my spending without putting a strain on my bank account.

Buying Local Means Thinking About What You Regularly Buy

I used to pop into my neighbourhood grocery store and make impulse purchases multiple times a week. I was spending about $250 per month on groceries (for one person) on top of at least $400 per month on workday lunches, restaurants, bars/alcohol and daily coffee.

Recently, I switched to a meal kit subscription service. Each week, I receive the precise ingredients to cook three meals (two servings each) for a weekly cost of $67 (monthly total: $268). I supplement that with produce, single-serve prepared meals and other grocery items delivered by an independent grocer for about $70 per month, depending on what I order. Both services are small, Canadian-owned companies that use locally grown and seasonal produce, and are transparent about their supply chains.

I spend around $50 a month on extras like snacks and pantry items, including coffee beans for the French press I'm finally using regularly. I'm leaning less on fast food, but I spend around $120 per month on takeout dinners to help support local restaurants. Overall, I'm spending a little more than $500 per month on food, compared to $650+ pre-pandemic.

It's likely that I'll spend more at restaurants and bars again as they reopen, so I'll have to continue to keep an eye on my monthly spending. I'm also eating healthier and plan to stick with my new food budget.

Shopping Local Can Mean Online Too

E-commerce makes it easy to buy online from independent businesses all across the country. Buying from Canadian artisans on Etsy has been a boon for birthday, wedding and graduation gifts⁠—even a pair of earrings for myself.

I haven't necessarily reined in my shopping budget, but I'm making an effort to redirect money I'm spending toward small Canadian businesses with unique, quality items.

Setting Aside Part of My Budget to Shop Local

I'm not switching all my spending over, but I'm setting aside a certain amount of my monthly budget (around $50-$100) specifically for shopping at small businesses, whether for special gourmet food items, gifts, home goods, or services such as tailoring or bicycle repair.

Looking ahead to the holiday season, I'm already thinking of instituting a local-only shopping rule for myself when it comes to buying gifts. 

Shopping Local Helps My Community

I live in a big city with thousands of independent businesses, and I certainly can't support every single one. But I'm putting more effort into seeking out and choosing small, independent businesses when possible. Even during times of financial uncertainty, it has a big effect on helping me feel good about my spending.

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