Perceptions of food systems and food acquisition decisions are grounded in specific socio-economic and environmental contexts. Working in two relatively affluent urban communities in Melbourne, Australia and San Diego County, USA, this article explores the ways that individuals perceive their food systems, where they acquire food, and their definitions of ‘local’ sourcing. Surveys and interviews reveal a clear discrepancy between the ideals and the reality of food acquisition decision-making, particularly the desire to eat ‘local food’. Survey respondents' realities do not live up to their expectations. These practices can largely be explained by the interplay between the respondents' perceived priorities, food preferences, dietary requirements, and decision-making constraints in particular urban geographies. Further research is needed on the role of perceptions in food decision-making in specific geographic contexts.