Farmers Market Challenge: The Importance of Lists

In week seven, Mario steps in for Katie.

Seven weeks into the Farmer’s Market Challenge, we’d fallen into an easy and familiar routine; call up the list of vendors on the market’s website on Wednesday evening and craft a meal and shopping plan for the coming week.

It was time to shake things up a bit.

Katie had a meeting with one of her instructors at Douglas College and late Thursday afternoon was the best available time. But that’s Market Time! she exclaimed.

Not to worry, I replied. I’ll do it. After all, I do the cooking, and the bulk of the grocery shopping.

Usually that means checking the fridge and pantry to get an idea of what’s running low, scanning the supermarket flyers for the week’s specials, then making a list. Meal planning is done on the fly, based on those specials, cravings, whims.

It’s not the best way to do things. It’s inefficient; sometimes we buy too much, or items we bought get left uneaten as those cravings subside.

The times we have taken the time to formulate a plan meant fewer trips to the grocery store, less overripe fruit and vegetables in the crispers, more space in the freezer. The Farmer’s Market Challenge has brought discipline back to our food consumption and reduced my supermarket stress. It brought a little adventure as we explored new produce options. And we’ve been eating healthier, more flavourful meals.

So flying solo at Thursday’s market wasn’t intimidating at all.

Since taking on the Challenge we’ve devised some method to our madness. Each week’s list has a column for “Must Haves” and another for “Maybes” according to their availability and room in our $40 budget. We also set out to construct at least one “Market Meal,” with the bulk of its components from the market.

It’s efficient, predictable, with room for spontaneity.

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Since our first bite of albacore tuna loin from Wild West Coast Seafood, we knew wanted it again; so that was going to be our most expensive acquisition and the centrepiece for one of our TWO planned market meals.

The other would be a grilled pizza topped with fresh arugula, plum tomatoes, basil and roasted garlic.

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From there, we needed to replenish our salad spinner with greens and the vegetable crisper with onions and cucumbers. Anything left over would be up to my discretion.

With a couple of tokens still knocking together in my pocket, I eyed the microgreens, but settled for a bunch of purslane. Since discovering the tender succulent we’ve grown to appreciate the flavourful crunch its deep green stalks bring to salads and sandwiches. And it’s half the price of the microgreens.

That left just enough for a single artichoke, a new arrival to the season and a new challenge for my grill skills.

This week’s haul:

From Wild West Coast Seafood:

  • Tuna loin – $15

From Zaklan Farms:

  • Garlic – $2
  • Mustard greens, purslane – $5
  • Arugula – $4
  • 4 plum tomatoes – $1.70
  • Basil – $1

From Bose & Sons:

  • Red lettuce – $2

From Ossome Acres:

  • Kale – $3
  • Artichoke – $2

From Ripple Creek Organic Farm:

  • 2 cucumbers – $2.50
  • 3 spanish onions – $3

Total spend $41.20 – over budget by $1.20

Something we learned this week: The Spanish onions’ long green crunchy stalks that filled three plastic containers when we first bought them have been cut short. Not as a way for the farmers to get us to buy their onions more frequently; the summer’s heat just starts drying them up and making them tough!

 

Not sure what this post is about? It’s part of a series called “What Can You Get for $40?” and seeks to show off how to shop smart at the farmers market. Here’s the post introducing it, and all seven weeks so far are linked there! 

Mario Bartel

Mario Bartel is a really valued member of the Tenth to the Fraser community. Interested in joining our pool of writers? Please see these submission guidelines.

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