7 Tips for Buying Made in USA Locally

Hint: Do your research before you shop.

Dateline: January 21, 2021

I’ve been buying made in USA since 2014. While I do order many things direct from manufacturers, I do buy plenty of stuff from local merchants.

Shopping locally is more important now than ever, with small businesses being impacted by COVID.

Tip #1: Start with a search

Instead of going directly to Amazon, do a general search for the product you’re looking for. Add geographic qualifiers to your search term — for example, your city / town name, region, or state.

If a retailer has something close to what you want, but not the exact thing, call the shop to see if they have the item or can special order it.

Many small businesses have a hard time keeping their websites up-to-date, so what you’re looking for may not be listed but the retailer has it.

Tip: #2: Ask for Made in USA

When I need supplies for a home repair project, I always head to one of two stores: The Benjamin Moore paint dealer in my town, and the small hardware store.

The owner of the paint store carries a fair number of Made in USA goods, from high quality paint brushes to Frog Tape (love that stuff!).

The hardware store can be hit or miss, but I always get my mulch from them as it’s made here. Recently I found Made in USA sponges in the cleaning section — I hadn’t seen *any* in months at my grocery store — and snatched up a few.

Always ask store personnel or the owner if the store carries the item you’re looking for Made in the US. This lets them know customers want these items!

If your retailer already carries Made in US — thank them and tell them how much you appreciate it.

If you’re ordering online and aren’t sure where something is made, again, ask! Although the following chat isn’t a local purchase (Michigan), it does show that many manufacturers will provide this info. Don’t be put off by “sustainably made,” either.

chat with iMovR
Chat with iMovR rep about their standing desk

Tip: #3: Get off the computer and go visit shops!

I’m in the market for a fireplace insert. Before heading out, I did research online and made a list of five shops I could visit in the greater area of where I live.

I then spent a Sunday afternoon visiting each one. I learned quite a bit and was also able to see the fireplaces and ask questions about various models.

Some local shops in my area are now offering free delivery — something you did not see pre-COVID.

Tip: #4: Read the labels on everything

Companies have become crafty at labeling things. “Designed in the USA,” or “Assembled in the USA” are not the same as “Made in the USA.”

To carry the “Made in the USA” label, companies have to adhere to Federal Trade Commission regulations — which you should read and know.

I purchase my Darn Tough socks from the shoe store here in town. Note that they’re “Made in Vermont” vs. “Made in USA” — this is because the company uses imported materials.

These socks really are “darn tough, last forever, and are well worth the money.

Darn Tough socks  © Dianna Huff, 2021
Darn Tough socks © Dianna Huff, 2021

Tip #5: Talk to store clerks or the owner

The one reason I LOVE shopping locally is because I get to know the store owners and build relationships. Over time, we end up having amazing conversations.

I learn how they source the things they buy, why they started the business, and some of the challenges they face.

A few weeks ago while visiting LaChance Interiors in Gardner, MA, I ended up having a great discussion with the owner — who knew everything about and everyone in the furniture industry.

He told me about his experiences manufacturing in China and why he moved everything back. I learned so much! At the end I said, “Do you have a card? I’d love to interview you for my blog.” 🙂

Tip #6: Don’t forget food!

Do you read the labels on the food you buy at the supermarket? If not, you should. A lot of items are imported. For example, “Florida orange juice” is sometimes comprised of Florida and imported oranges.

And produce carries tags from Mexico, Chile, Canada, Peru, etc.

If you don’t have a local farmers market, at least read the labels on produce and purchase stuff grown in the US. Shopping in-season helps too. Strawberries for example, aren’t in season until June; blueberries in August.

One of the best experiences I know is picking my own berries and then savoring their flavor and freshness. I picked these sweeties at a local farm one spring.

strawberries -- © Dianna Huff, 2021
Fresh, ripe strawberries — yum. © Dianna Huff, 2021

Tip #7: Enjoy the learning process

Yes, shopping locally and buying Made in the US takes longer and may sometimes cost more.

Yes, it is easier to order from your big tech company phone app.

But, once you get into sourcing the things you need (and love) locally, you’ll find your life changing — for the better.

For example, I no longer do “retail therapy” where I go to a place, such as TJ Maxx, to “browse” — and end up bringing home a ton of junk.

My house is completely devoid of clutter and is filled with only the things I love.

I have far less trash — although, full disclosure, I do have a whole lot more cardboard shipping boxes for recycling because I do order stuff from manufacturers.

Bonus Tip: Listen to local independent radio

Here in the MA / NH Merrimack Valley, we have access to a wonderful independent radio station, The River (92.5, WXRV). The music they play is eclectic. Even better, they run ads for local businesses (yes, that means no ED ads, thankyouvermuch).

The station walks the talk. I’ve heard ads for everything from a local plumbing and heating company hiring to local farmers who offer — and deliver! — produce and other items. Having the radio on during the day makes finding local businesses much easier.

What has been your experience with shopping locally? Are you more aware of it now than you were pre-COVID? Share your comments. Thank you!

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