Farmers Market Challenge: Plan! Plan! Plan!

Part One in the series!

(This is part of a series, check out the intro.) 

Going into the first week of our $40 market-spending challenge, I knew my husband and I were going to have to rework the way we did things with regards to meal planning and formulating shopping lists. Previously, we’d sit down at the end of the week to figure out the meals for the coming week, and then set a plan for acquiring groceries based on those meals. But with the Royal City Farmers’ Market on Thursdays, meal planning needed to be pushed back to at least Wednesday, if not Tuesday.

Instead of just coming up with meals off the tip of our tongues, we researched online what vendors were at the market for the coming week. We knew, given the amount of salads and vegetables we eat, we wanted the majority of our stock to be produce. We wanted something unique, something you wouldn’t necessarily see at the grocery store, or even the vegetable-specific shops. We also wanted a protein, which we recognized would eat up a good chunk of our budget. As such, fruit was not a priority; my family eats fruit nearly every meal and snack of the day, and unfortunately a small basket just wouldn’t go a long way.

The week’s loot:

  • A bag of red-leaf lettuce: $1
  • A bag of green beans: $3
  • A pound of nugget potatoes: $2
  • A bag of ruby streaks mustard greens: $3
  • A bunch of radishes: $2.50
  • 2 heads of garlic: $1.50
  • 1 crown of broccoli: $5
  • 1 yellow zucchini: $1
  • 1 pint of peaches: $5
  • 4 salmon burgers: $16

Total: $40

160701marketfare

Ruby streaks was of the unique realm. I’ve purchased pizzo mustard greens from Zaklan Farms previously, and LOVED them. They lasted a crazy long time in the fridge (TWO weeks!!!) without turning soggy or brown. I can’t say the same for the 300 gram plastic tubs of mixed greens we’ve recently been getting; within days, they’ve got soggy bits throughout, and often turn brown at the edges before finishing the tub. So this time I opted for the ruby streaks… pretty much because I thought it had the prettiest name of all greens!

The protein we settled on was salmon burgers from Wheelhouse Seafoods. At $4 for 1, we got 4, which served us 1 full dinner, plus an extra patty that I put on a lunch salad later in the week. Because they contained smoked salmon mixed with fresh salmon, they were super filling; I probably could have got by with a half serving, extending the meal even further. We paired the salmon burgers with grilled nugget potatoes and roasted garlic, along with a tossed salad with red-leaf lettuce, ruby streaks, radishes, and broccoli. The only components of the meal that weren’t market fare was the cucumber, cherry tomatoes, peppers, and dressing.

The plates were practically licked clean – even the three-year-old’s!

160701marketmeal

The indulgence was the peaches. I know I said fruit wasn’t a priority, but it was the first time we’d seen peaches this season, and we LOVE peaches. There was no way we were leaving without a basket in hand.

There were 5 peaches in total, 4 of which we dusted with brown sugar and olive oil and grilled on the barbecue for dessert one night – yum!

160701peaches

Most expensive item: the broccoli. Most places had set prices for produce, but the one vendor we acquired the broccoli from used a scale. I thought it would be around $3 to $4, not $5. Comparably, that’s a bit more than we would have spent elsewhere (usually around $3). I know I saw other vendors with cheaper broccoli, so the lesson learned: shop around for the best deals.

Tally for the week:

  • 3 full-plate lunch salads
  • 2 lunch side salads
  •  3 breakfast smoothies (with the greens)
  • 7 dinner 1/2 plate salads
  • 5 dinners with grilled vegetables (broccoli, green beans, zucchini, potatoes, garlic)
  • 1 dinner (for 3) salmon burgers
  • 1 lunch salmon burger
  • 1 dessert (for 3) grilled peaches
  • 1 breakfast peach split between the three of us
  •  several snacks of radishes and brocolli

We ran out of zucchini by day 4 (I’m the only one who eats zucchini); radishes by day 5; and potatoes pretty much after the first meal. However, we’ve still got a garlic head, that we may target for pizza, a quarter crown of broccoli, a hefty bag of green beans, and, despite the amount of salads we eat, those greens (both the red-leaf and the ruby streaks) are still going strong. (Note: we did already have spinach and other mixed greens in our fridge before this shopping excursion, so that offset the amount of market greens we used.)

This week, we’ve got our eyes on the grass-fed lamb from Vale Farms and a hearty bunch of fresh-picked, local carrots.

What are you buying?

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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