Tutorial Tuesday #4–Preparing to Shop at the Farmers Market

36/365 Produce

I am a “list person”.

Not to label myself or anything, but I do love a good list (I also have a label maker, so maybe I will label myself). To-do lists, errand lists, shopping lists and yes, menu lists. There is something very satisfying about crossing off something on a list. Also, I am slightly absent-minded (I prefer to think of this as “intensely focused elsewhere”), so lists help me keep track of things that might otherwise get overlooked. I also keep a list of blog topics. And one that has risen to the top is how we plan our meals around local foods. A friend posted in wondering about this as well, so now seems a good time to dive in.

We don’t have a lot of parameters around our eating, but we do have some loose rules for our journey:

  1. At least 75% of our food should come from local sources.
  2. We should keep spending to $100 or under
  3. No processed foods, unless absolutely necessary (see “Girl Scout Cookies”)

In the second week of our journey, I had a major “uh-oh” moment. I had carefully crafted a list of recipes I wanted to try, based on what I thought might be available at the farmer’s market. As it turns out, almost nothing I wanted was available, so I ended up buying all manner of random food and then trying to create a week of meals out of it. If you’re up for that challenge, go for it, but it was a stressful learning experience for me and I discovered that I need more order than that. I’ve developed a system for locavore menu planning over the past year and a half, and I’ll share it with you. It probably sounds more complicated than it really is. I’m not recommending anyone adopt my system, but it works for me. And if it works for me, I am probably more likely to be successful, so finding a system that works for YOU will do the same. Here goes:

Friday–On Fridays, I get an email from The Produce Box letting me know what is in the various boxes for the next week. I usually go ahead and order my box on Friday and, based on what is going to be in my box, I start my menu for the next week, and make a shopping list of the remaining items I will need from the farmer’s market and from Trader Joes. Since what I get in my Produce Box is similar to what is available at our farmer’s market, there aren’t many surprises here.

On Fridays, I also read emails and Twitter posts from our local farmers markets and farmers so I know what will be available over the weekend. These posts help so much. I highly recommend getting on the e-mail lists of any farmers markets or farmers near you. I can find out what vendors will be available, what they will have, what’s coming up soon and (if I want) I can even order specific products or cuts of meat ahead of time.

A note about our weekly menu: I try to make sure we have a balance of vegetables and proteins throughout the week and I try not to have pasta or starchy dishes more than once or twice a week. This doesn’t always work out–some weeks have been heavy on seafood and others heavy on chicken or pork–but mostly it works out ok. I always try to plan at least one meatless meal each week.

Tuesday–On Tuesdays, I do a final tweak to our menu and check my shopping list. I look at how much my Produce Box order is and try to assess how much in our budget I have left for the farmer’s market and for grocery store items. I get my draft post for the blog ready on Tuesday night.

Wednesday–On Wednesdays, I go to the farmer’s market (sometimes I do this on Saturday, but whatever). Since I know pretty much in advance what will be available to me, I pick up what I need as well as any orders I have placed for meat, fish, etc. While I’m at the market, I make a list (!) of new items that are available or anything interesting that I might consider for next week. Then after work, I go to Trader Joes and get whatever else I need.

Unless something happens and I forget something on the list (see “intensely focused elsewhere”), I try to shop once a week, and keep the extra purchases to a minimum. I do make exceptions for canning over the weekend. If I know I’m going to be making jam or pasta sauce, I’ll head out to the farmer’s market Saturday morning (early) to get what I need so it is very fresh.

So far, this system has worked out relatively well. It does mean that I spend a LOT more time thinking about food, although the longer I do it, the easier it is and the less time I spend planning and shopping. I don’t necessarily mind spending the time, but if you don’t like to cook or if you don’t want to sit around and think through a weekly menu, this may not make you happy. To date, we have been pretty good about not wasting food and making good use of the produce and meat we buy. Some weeks are more successful than others, of course. That’s life.

So that is our system for making sure we have local foods and that we eat what we buy. If you are eating local, how do you plan your meals?

Advertisements

Memorial Day at the Market

20130525-120602.jpg

Had a great time at the Western Wake Farmers Market today! Although it is unseasonably chilly this weekend, we have lots of beautiful fresh produce. I especially loved the little girls who learned that you can eat some flowers, although they had a LOT of questions to ask before they would try it!

What’s fresh at the markets this week? Here is a summary!

Strawberries
Blueberries
Bok choi
Lettuce–all kinds
Rutabagas
Radish
Hothouse tomatoes
Hothouse cucumbers
Sugar snap peas
Garden peas
Cabbage
Broccoli
Yellow squash
Onions
Spring garlic
Kale
Beets
Turnips
Swiss chard

Happy market shopping!

Week 20 Budget and Menu

English: cow

I am over budget this week by $7.00 and it is all the cow’s fault.

Oh, cheese, you destroy my willpower every time! While at the Downtown Raleigh Farmer’s Market, I visited the new booth of The Cultured Cow Creamery, a sustainable dairy and cheese making venture from Durham, NC. I just went in for a sample. Really. Just a teensy weensy sample of their raw cheddar.

Have you ever had raw (unpasteurized) cheese? We stuffed our faces with it sampled it in Paris, and it is far and away better than any other cheese I’ve tasted (or maybe it was just Paris?). My mom was even tempted to sneak some back in her luggage (attention all TSA agents–she didn’t). The Cultured Cow cheddar was so creamy and melt-in-your-mouth delicious that I had to buy some. Had to, I tell you. Who wants a week filled with cheese regret? Not me, that’s who. So that is why I am $7.00 over budget this week. It’s all the cow’s fault 🙂

Budget [$107.72]

  • Produce Box (all organic: lettuce, strawberries, broccoli, kale, chard, onions, asparagus): $29.50
  • Trader Joes (organic chicken, organic limes, avocado, whole wheat English muffin, frozen fruit, organic soy milk, yogurt): $38.72
  • Hilltop Farms (organic strawberries, organic radish): $7.00
  • The Cultured Cow Creamery (raw cheddar cheese): $7.00
  • La Farm Bakery (whole grain bread): $5.50
  • Homestead Farm (eggs): $5.00
  • Locals Seafood (flounder): $15.00

Menu

  • Wednesday–Chili lime chicken salad with grated raw cheddar and avocado dressing
  • Thursday–Crazy Good sandwiches (prosciutto, egg, local raw cheddar, lettuce, tomato, avocado on whole grain bread), kale chips
  • Friday–out
  • Saturday–Flounder, asparagus, Swiss chard
  • Sunday–Roast whole chicken, broccoli, sweet potato
  • Monday–Chicken quesadillas, red quinoa
  • Tuesday–Homemade egg salad sandwiches, homemade pickles

Week 2 Budget and Menu

20130104-172113.jpg

Our lovely Swiss chard!

It took a while, but North Carolina is just now feeling some real winter weather. While I don’t love the cold, I appreciate the mosquito-killing effects of winter and in the end, every day of winter is one day closer to spring. I do love winter foods, though, and our menu this week reflects what we have in our garden, stored in our freezer and what is available at the farmer’s market. While this is hardly high season for farmers, North Carolina markets still have a nice variety of produce available. This week, Mae Farm even has fresh chicken available, so roast chicken is definitely on the menu!

Budget

Our budget this week is $75.62, which is pretty good! We are using some of the Swiss chard from our garden as well as some of the food we put up this summer!

Note: Our budget includes paying ourselves back for fruits and vegetables stored over the summer since often those bulk purchases were not included in our weekly budget.

  • Mitchell family pantry (roasted tomato sauce, blueberry jam, green beans, corn): $12.00
  • Mae Farm (roaster chicken, ground beef, pulled pork): $42.00
  • Various farmer’s market (broccoli, carrots, kale): $8.00
  • Trader Joes (pie crust, cheese, canned beans): $13.62

Menu

  • Sunday–Roast chicken, sauteed Swiss chard, summer green beans
  • Monday–Baked pasta with vegetables
  • Tuesday–Chicken pot pie, sauteed chard
  • Wednesday–Leftover pot pie
  • Thursday–Leftover pasta
  • Friday–Mae Farm pulled pork sandwiches, summer corn
  • Saturday–Homemade chili and cornbread
%d bloggers like this: