Thursday, April 21, 2011

The $25 Shopping Cart, v. 14.0

Ahhh, the farmer's market.  Land of fresh local produce, bouquets of technicolor flowers, unique cheeses & baked goods, and low prices. 

Low prices?  Yes.  I've said it several times and I will keep repeating myself until I'm blue in the face: if you're looking for fabulous produce at affordable prices, your local farmer's market is the way to go.

It's counterintuitive, especially in this day & age of everything "sustainable" and "organic" (and therefore, "expensive") being so en vogue it might as well don a white studded belt, listen to indie rock and call itself a hipster.  But if you shop wisely and stay away from most of the money traps, you can escape this promised land of produce with some incredibly delicious bargains.

I hadn't planned on heading to the farmer's market for this month's $25 Shopping Cart, but it had been so long since I'd been that I could no longer resist its siren call.  And it just so happened that after paying all my bills and getting things ready to for BlogHer Food next month (I'm going as a volunteer!), I was left with exactly $26 to spend on some produce to go with my bare bones staples.  In cash, no less!  Perfect farmer's market currency.  I took that as a sign, grabbed my camera, my granny cart and a friend, and walked to my food mecca.

After the initial euphoria of being surrounded by everything fresh and alive with colors & textures, I finally settled down and started looking at prices.  Some things that aren't yet in season, like tomatoes, were a bit on the spendy side, but most things were as affordably priced as ever.  Here's what I got:

  • 1 bunch of golden beets - $2.50
  • 1 bunch of white & yellow carrots - $2
  • 1 bag (about 2 lbs) of minneolas - $2
  • 3 bunches of cilantro - $1
  • 2 bunches of scallions - $1
  • 1 bag of Thai basil - $1
  • 1 bunch of chives - $0.50
  • 1 large bunch of red beets - $1.50
  • 5 lb bag of turnips - $2 (!!!)
  • 1 giant bunch of rainbow chard - $1.50
  • 1 lb bag of dried fava beans - $1
  • 1 large bunch of asparagus - $1.75
  • 1 8 oz. bear bottle of local honey - $3.50
  • 1 bag of 4 delicate endives - $2

Grand total: $23.25!  I could have never done that at a regular grocery store.

The last two items were total splurges, of course. But there was no way in hell I was going to leave a bag of endives at that price, and the local honey is actually something I'm trying for my seasonal allergies.  I was actually pretty surprised that it was sold at such a low price, since some varieties I've seen at the farmer's market have been much more expensive.

But I think my absolute favorite find was the bag of minneolas.  A member of the tangelo family, these little guys are part tangerine, part grapefruit, and 100% delicious.  They're slightly sweeter than tangerines, incredibly juicy, and so lovely in color that you can't help but smile with delight when you look at them.

Overall, this is was a fantastic start to my farmer's market season, and I can't wait to start cooking with all my treasures.  Between this and the dried legumes & whole grains I have in my cupboard, this upcoming Scary Week won't be scary at all.

Now if I can just convince StuKitty to stay away from my Swiss chard...

EVERYONE loves the farmer's market! Even Stuart the Cat...

14 comments:

  1. Everything looks fantastic!!

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  2. yum! and 3 bunches of cilantro for $1 !!!! that will last awhile!

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  3. I want to try yellow carrots :)

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  4. I agree with you. I love shopping at the Farmer's Markets. The prices are a little higher at the Farmer's Markets in Hawaii but can't beat the freshness and varieties. (e.g. bunch of baby red beets 3.00 1 bunch of cilantro or green onions are 1.00 each).

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  5. I use local honey for my allergies every spring, and this post totally just reminded me to pick some up today. Thanks!

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  6. Love the farmers market!! I have never herd about the honey for allergies thing, but now that spring is approaching I'm about to become desperate. Must give it a try!

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  7. You mentioned "money traps" in your post... could you explain what some of those might be for those of us who are farmers' market newbies?

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  8. I have to remind myself never to read PGEW when I'm hungry. Now I'm ravenous!

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  9. Love the farmer's market, everything is fresh and beautiful, and I want to support local business. It isn't a budget friendly trip though. I'm envious of your prices. When out yummy asparagus is ready a bunch will cost $6.00, this week a normal sized bunch of radishes was $3.50.

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  10. When you go to the farmers' market, you can look for seconds. If you don't see any, ask, "Do you have any seconds I could purchase inexpensively?" If they don't, you can ask, "Do you have any thirds I can just have?" You'd be surprised what they'll come up with, especially if you don't go first thing in the morning.

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  11. Can that really last for a month? Every time I hit the Farmer's Market I'm in for a huge disappointment and a fridge full of spoiled food if I don't eat it all within the next three days. What's your secret?

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  12. Wow! I have no idea how you do that... it could be where you live? Our farmer's markets (in Orlando) are almost never local (produce from chile!) and honey bears are almost always $5-8 bucks even though we have a ton of local honey farms! It's sad, really. I'll have to go to a few different ones and scope out where the deals are!

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  13. ok, u say any grocery store can be done this way.

    Does that mean the big chain grocery stores as well? We dont have a farmers market where I go to college, at least not all the time, and I admire this ability to keep groceries costs soo low.

    and to clarify, is it $25 for a month? or two weeks?

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  14. I'm amazed that your prices are so low-- I could never get Thai basil for less than $2.50 or chard for less than $3.

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