From Alejandra Owens. You can find her at her food blog, One Bite At A Time. Alejandra also writes for City Eats DC, a Food Network site, where you can book dinner reservations. Follow her on Twitter at @frijolita and email her at alejandra[AT]borderstan.com.
Pardon us! We’ve interrupted your usual weekly farmers market roundup to discuss a very important issue: shopping at the farmers market… effectively.
As someone who rarely shops with a grocery list (if I’m lucky, I’ll think about what I want to make that week on my walk to the Dupont Farmers Market) I’ve learned the hard way how not to shop at a farmers market. It’s a well-documented plight (especially for the single, the tired and the lazy among us), because you shop hungry and end up with more than you know what to do with.
There you are, all excited about that fabulous spring/summer/fall produce and you end up buying enough to feed an army (a Game of Thrones army, perhaps?!). Or worse yet, you severely overestimate your energy for the coming week, thinking you’ll still work that 12 hour day and then have the energy to come home and whip up a gourmet meal.
Yeah. Right. I see you, yes you, on your sofa perusing the Seamless app for a food delivery that will get to your house in less than 30 minutes.
Guilty as charged. I’ve done it all. Wiser individuals (who MUST have more spare time than I do!) will tell you to spend some time menu planning on Saturdays. Or have a standard grocery list that you shop with. Mmmhhm. I’m sorry, Superwoman called, and she demanded I return her ambition and extra hours in the day. So, those culinary miracles? … not gonna happen.
Now that the Dupont Farmers Market is back to standard hours (8:30 am to 1:00 pm) and with the U Street Farmers Market opening soon, it’s a good time to share my four tips for effectively shopping at a farmers market:
- Do a drive-by. Yep. This is not like shopping at Harris Teeter (a.k.a. The Teet), folks. You’re going have to do some work here. Case the joint! While you sip your hipster-poured au lait, walk through the market once to see what everyone has on display. Also, take note of the prices. Who has better looking produce, and for a price you’re comfortable with?
- Shop pantry staples first. “What the hell are pantry staples?” you ask. Onions (of all varieties) are pantry staples. Kholrabi is not. Bread/crackers are pantry staples. Bison steaks are not. (Sorry!) Hit the stands for ingredients that can (and often do) go in any meal: garlic, onions, peppers, olive oil, apples/pears/fruits, milk, eggs, bread, and basic salad greens. Cheese can fall into this category, but only if you consider cheese an after school snack, as I do.
- Shop the value-added products next. These are the things that already look like a meal. The stuff that, to be honest, you’re probably going to reach for first at the end of that aforementioned 12 hour day, while still wanting to feel good about what you’re eating. I think the best stands for value-added products are Chris’ Marketplace (crabcakes & empanadas), Souper Girl (soups, salads), The Copper Pot Food Company (pasta sauces, handmade pastas, jams) and Eco-Friendly Foods (charcuterie, various meat items like pulled pork in bbq sauce).
- Now you can get fancy! Okay this is when you buy the fancy stuff, if your budget allows. Go ahead, get crazy. Buy mushrooms! Rhubarb until you see red! All the fancy cured meats your heart desires! You can feel good about splurging, because you know you’ve already taken care of all the basics.
Really, it’s that easy. Once you’ve become a farmers market pro, shopping every weekend like this becomes second nature! It will save you money, cut down on waste and ensure you have the kind of kitchen that’s always stocked for a delicious meal.