Playing With Your Food: Save money, eat local

As a chef, it is important to me to promote local and small businesses. This week, I wanted let you know a few ways to buy amazing food locally and save some money.
May 21, 2014
Justin Ferguson

As a chef, it is important to me to promote local and small businesses. This week, I wanted let you know a few ways to buy amazing food locally and save some money. 

Now that the weather is getting better that means the farmer’s market is ready to open. If you have not visited one of our local farmers markets, there are three in Wilson County you should visit in Lebanon, Mt. Juliet and Watertown. On a side note, the Parkland Flea Market has amazing dried spices, too.

So how exactly does shopping for locally grown food benefit you? Farmers markets are full of great food that is chemical and additive free. In addition, most of the time the farmers at these markets are local to the area, hardworking, and just all around good people. Their fresh produce, spices, canned goods and even meats are mouthwatering to look at and smell, and so just imagine how they will taste – yum.

The health benefits of eating fresh produce over processed foods are well documented.  You don’t have to be a chef to know that fresh carrots provide more vitamins and minerals than canned ones do. Factor in all the added salt, sugar, and unhealthy fats used in processed foods, and it becomes clear that “fresh is best.”

Earlier I mentioned cost savings.  Remember that every benefit in life has a cost. You save money for some things, but in return it may require a little more work. With a little creativity, you can use farmer’s markets to your cost-saving advantage.  For example, you don’t usually find canned carrots, peas, etc. at farmers markets. However, the fresh veggies you can find there can sometimes be half the price of their canned counterpart. 

Your fresh, locally grown peas may only save 45 cents over that pre-cooked can of peas from the grocery store, but don’t look at it as “only 45 cents.” As a chef, I see every tiny cost savings as part of a bigger picture:  45 cents a day for a year is $164.25 for just one can difference.  These tiny savings add up and they really do help, especially in this economy.

 The biggest reason I try to keep my money and business local is simple. The more money I spend in county, the more the county grows. Why should we be putting our hard-earned dollars into large businesses that ship our money to other states and countries when we have such great products here? I have personally seen a town clean up and restore itself simply from having the community shopping locally and supporting small businesses. 

How many of you remember Nashville 15 years ago? Think about what has changed since then. The community became wiser, shopping at local markets, buying from small business owners, and generally choosing to improve the city.  The change in mindset has brought a change in the feel of Nashville.

 What does that mean for Lebanon? I believe we are hard workers.  We have families we care about, and we want what is best for us. Are we not due a change out here? The number of farms producing food in Wilson County is astounding. Let’s help them out. Put your money in Lebanon businesses, in Wilson County, in Tennessee.  Let us show we support Tennessee and local business, and see what kind of magic happens.

“Food is like a journey; interesting alone, but better with friends.” – Justin Ferguson

Justin Ferguson is a Nashville native who now lives in Wilson County. A professionally trained chef specializing in farm-to-table cuisine and molecular gastronomy, he now provides restaurant consulting services and is operations manager for Vin Fine Wine & Spirits in Lebanon. Email him at and check out his daily What’s for Dinner feature also in The Democrat. For more than 1,500 other recipes, visit


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