At the Market
We (I) have been “working on” a lot of things lately (in case you hadn’t noticed.) One big one is making the most out of our grocery budget. Not being unrealistic, but trying to not be wasteful, sticking closely to a budget, trying to make the most of summer produce, trying to plan meals and be thoughtful about what we eat so that we’re not stuck in the “house full of food and nothing to eat/make” rut. John’s first vote is often to tell me to stop going to a market. I go nuts with the awesomeness and, yes, stuff gets wasted and money is spent frivolously. But, honestly? The most frivolous money is usually on extra junk we eat there – kid donut treats or smoothies or drinks or bagels of soft pretzels. Or extra special higher-ticket things that weren’t on my list but that I want to have in the house – local honey, homemade goat cheese from my favorite woman who always take the time to chat with me, a loaf of the strange-sounding but insanely delicious sauerkraut sourdough rye bread, a bunch of pretty flowers. It’s always good stuff that doesn’t go to waste and gets eaten, but it puts a dent in the budget if I don’t plan for it.
So I’ve been meal planning. Nothing too stiff, but taking a quick inventory each week or two of what we still have to eat, looking at Pinterest boards or blog posts I’ve marked and making a list of 4-5 meals that we want to eat. Breakfast and lunch are a bit easier, but I still try to take inventory for them to see if we really need to spend money or if it can be allocated elsewhere because we still have a dozen eggs and 4 boxes of cereal and yogurt and fruit or frozen waffles to get us through the week. It’s crazy how just the extra little thought makes a difference.
I guess I’m saying that it’s all hard to balance, but it’s mostly hardest for me when I don’t put in a little bit of forethought. I hear people talk a lot about how eating healthy is more expensive and I can see how that seems to be the case, but I don’t agree. Time after time I’ve proven to myself that when I plan healthier meals based around vegetables and don’t spend our allocated grocery money on eating out or higher-ticket items with no value or that won’t work over more than one meal, our money stretches more. Especially when we don’t go to a market without a plan and walk away with $40 less in our pockets and hardly anything to show for it. But, at least around here, there IS a tons of fresh, seasonal, local produce to be had for a good deal. We get something a little special, like blackberries for $3.75, or a bunch of olives, but we also get $1 cantaloupes, so it all works out.
So, yesterday we spent $60. It’s more than our norm (I usually go with a $20 or $40 in my pocket and call it a day when we’re out of money) but I went there instead of to the normal grocery store. I forgot to get a few things because the kids were whiny and it was crowded and strollers get dirty looks and it was hot and humid. But I can pickup some cucumbers somewhere OR I can just be patient and wait another week or two to use cucumbers when I can pick them in our backyard. So here’s what we got for $60. I’m sure I left something off the list because of grabby hands who could wait to dig into apricots or strawberries or try the currants.
2lbs. ground beef
1/2 gallon of milk
a bunch of carrots
a pretty bunch of flowers
a quart of strawberries (the very end of the season and still yummy!)
3 kinds of basil plants and an oregano plants (what we have isn’t keeping up with our basil needs!)
big slicing tomatoes
a big bunch of kale
black and green olives
a big hunk of feta cheese
a diet birch beer
(In contrast, the day before we spent another $20 at a more expensive market. It’s significantly more expensive, but it’s literally a market owned by the farm and they put out their own produce as well as some from other farms and it’s open daily vs. the markets only open certain days of the week. For $20, we got a huge zucchini, 1 tomato, 6 ears of corn, 4 apples, 4 nectarines, 2 mint plans and a rosemary plant. I’m willing to pay them $3.99/lb. for my favorite in-season nectarines picked literally off the trees down the road.)
What have you been getting at your markets lately? Are you going? Do you go with a budget or a plan? Do you love it? Do you avoid it as a money-suck with all of the delicious treats? I’d love to know:)