Anchorage Couple Finds Eating Only Local Foods Easier Than Thought
Hard work in summer pays off in year-long challenge
ANCHORAGE - An Anchorage couple that challenged themselves to eat only “local” for a year is getting closer to reaching their goal. Saskia Esslinger and her husband Matt Oster have just four months left in their quest to eat Alaskan grown or produced food, with as much of it grown in their backyard as possible.
“What we’ve learned is that it is definitely possible,” said Esslinger. “We’ve still got about four months to go but we have lots of food left.”
The couple is dependent on what they have put away for the winter but their freezer is surprisingly full. Fishing and hunting has left them well stocked with moose, caribou and salmon. A pig purchased from the Mat-Su Valley has also been butchered and put away for winter meals.
Esslinger spent a great deal of time canning and processing vegetables from their abundant garden this fall; now all that hard work is paying off.
“We really won’t harvest anything again from the garden until mid-June so the challenge will be over by then,“ she said, “but we aren’t hurting.”
The couple challenged themselves to eat only local for an entire year, starting and ending at the summer solstice in June. They allowed themselves an occasional night out with friends and a family vacation where they ate what they pleased. But the couple said at their own house it’s a different story. What they can’t make themselves they purchase from local sources.
“We make our own butter from cream we purchase at the Matanuska Creamery,” said Esslinger. “We cook with butter instead of oil since cooking oil isn’t made in Alaska.”
The couple also uses local honey to bake and sweeten with instead of sugar, and also purchased a share in a local goat that provides milk and yogurt. Matt Oster said they expected to use a large part of their budget purchasing food from local venders but for the most part they haven’t had to.
“We thought we were going to be spending more money with local producers but we've been so fortunate to produce so much ourselves,” said Oster.
The couple believes they have actually saved money. They estimate they have spent less than $1,500 dollars since the challenge began. That includes what they purchased from local sources, spent on plant supplies and fertilizers as well as gas that they used to go hunting and fishing.
Of course the couple makes things that most people wouldn’t, including their own dog food.
Esslinger said she knows most people wouldn’t go as far, but she also said that’s not the point.
“We just want to get the word out there that everybody can do a little bit, everybody can eat a little bit more local and together that adds up to a lot.”
They say eating local has it’s own rewards that can even become a way of life.