Farmers Market Challenge: Winter Edition

Winter Market Full of Surprise Savings

Let’s talk market deals. I know I have discussed market savings in terms of longevity and quality, but I have yet to mention a word on straight up monetary savings. Farmers’ markets get a bad rap when it comes to pricing. Some not familiar with New Westminster’s bi-weekly haunt have said it’s too expensive; they can get twice as much at the supermarket than at the farmer’s market. I propose we challenge that too-oft-heard stereotype.

Take for instance, the last winter market:

As we all know, I have a $40 budget that I try to balance to a tee. In doing so, I am not shy about letting vendors know what my budget is, what my plans for the week are, and what I can guiltlessly spend on their product.

I first walked up to Kevin at Bose Farms. To be honest, Kevin has thrown me for a loop every market since the summer. His prices are dirt cheap compared to grocery stores, and to a few of the other venders in the circuit. By all accounts, he does not fit the aforementioned stereotype. On top of that, his listed prices are often not the prices you’re going to pay when you get up to the cash box. All prices, whether carrots, Brussels sprouts, squash, or potatoes, are listed per pound. As I contemplated the spaghetti squash, Kevin sidled up next to me, and whispered the price he’d charge was actually nearly half of the $2 a pound listed. That, alone, had me grabbing for the football-sized veggie. When he put it on the scale, he grimaced. At $2 a pound it would have cost $8, at $1.25 a pound, it would have cost $5. For me, that was a total score, but for Kevin, he could not consciously charge me $5 for something that cost way less to produce. Off came yet another dollar.

I also picked up a bunch of carrots ($1.40), a bag of Brussels sprouts ($2.50), and a bulky bag of kale ($1.50). I’m not the best at math, but my calculator says that should have totalled $5.40. Kevin’s price: $4!

He excused it by saying he’s not organic: that his prices are still more than what it costs to produce; and finally, that he’s kind of goofy like that.

I’m hard pressed to name a supermarket that has a consumer-based conscious like that.

Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai

Bose Farms wasn’t the only one handing out deals. Just like you and I, these farmers aren’t fans of loose change. It’s easy to lose, it weighs down the cash box, they want nothing to do with it. So most that charge per pound, including Ossome Acres and Sweet Earth Organics, will round DOWN to the nearest quarter. You may balk thinking it’s just nickels and dimes, but hold on a sec, nickels and dimes add up to quarters and dollars. Over time, it is a significant savings.

Again, when was the last time a grocery store did that for you? In fact, since the removal of the penny, most times, they round up!

Shrimp and Chard quinoa, a go-to market-fresh favourite

Given the chillier weather, I figured soup was very much in order. I hopped over to the Tasty & Nourishing soup table. So. Many. Flavours. There was roasted red pepper and tomato soup, cauliflower soup, vegetable soup, cream of kale and leek soup, broccoli and cream of parsnip soup, green pea and quinoa dumpling soup, green bean and mushroom soup, bean and chorizo soup, split pea soup, and chicken paprikash soup. They all sounded so good; I had a hard time choosing. I narrowed it down to the split pea and the green pea and dumpling soup. I love split pea, but was intrigued by the dumplings. Instead of suggesting I buy both, Adrianna, the company’s founder, suggested I buy the dumpling soup and take a sample of the split pea. When she said sample, I thought I’d get a small yogurt cup size, nope I got a full bowl and a halfs worth!!!

I can assure you I have never got a sample size this significant from a grocery store.

Nothing quite like a cup of hot soup on a snowy-cold day

And finally, we’ve got our bite-sized samples. This is not a monetary savings, no, and many grocery stores have cookie samples, yes, but how many of us know exactly what is going into those cookies, and how many little fingers have been all over those cookies? I don’t, and frankly, I haven’t touched one since I was about eight years old. But the market samples, usually handed out on toothpicks or passed over via tongs, it’s pretty safe to say are hazard free. The makers and bakers are there telling you exactly what’s in them, what their origins are, how they were made, and when they were last baked. I got a taste of pure organic apple sauce, a bite of a turmeric muffin, an offering of beef jerky, a savoury pakora, a slice of scone, and a full-sized, melt-in-your-mouth, sweet, sweet choquette from Baguette and Co.

“In Canada, you eat popcorn with movies; in France, we eat chouquettes,” laughed Bernard of Baguette and Co.

Singing fa-la-la-la-la with German apple strudel

MARKET LOOT:

Bose and Farms

Carrots

Brussels sprouts

Kale

Spaghetti squash

                                        Total: $8

Outwest Local Beef

Beets

                                        Total: $3.50

Ossome Acres

Chard x 2 ($5)

100g pea shoots ($4)

                                        Total: $9

Healthier Choice

German streudel ($3.50)

Schrippen bun ($0.60)

                                        Total: $4.10

Baguette & Co.

Baguette

                                        Total: $3

Tasty & Nourishing

Green pea and quinoa dumpling soup (600mL)

                                        Total: $6.75

Jam Shack Preservery

Raspberry lemonade jam (125mL)

                                          Total: $5

Before purchasing the preservative-free Schrippen bun I was 75 cents short of my $40 budget. I was determined to break even, and searched high and low for something 75 cents on the dot. But unfortunately, it was either 60 cents for the bun, or a $1.25 for a pretzel – nothing in between. I opted for the bun, which left me 15 cents under budget. That was not acceptable. Instead of stuffing it into my pocket, it went into the guitar case of the local entertainer Jen Hiltz.

Now, you would think after all those samples, I would have been way too full for a proper lunch back home. And I was decently full, but the thing is, the bun was preservative-free, and even though the woman behind the Healthier Choice counter told me it would last fine in the fridge, I just could not take my chances. And so, another great market adventure, made all the better with the surprise savings, was closed with a proper-good market fresh sandwich.

Needed talented mouth-widening skills for this one.

Yum. Yum.

Katie Bartel

Katie is a former journalist and student, and is a type 1 insulin-dependent diabetic into running 5ks, 10ks, half marathons, and marathons. She blogs about her experiences at Princess of Pavement.

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