How to shop the farmer's market like a PRO + Spring Stew

famrmark.gif

It's farmer's market season! That means... zig zagging crowds, bumping into strangers, not knowing what to buy or what to do with what you buy, and by Monday feeling like you need to make a trip to the grocery store..

Unless you have a plan. 

Then it means enjoying the open air and sunshine, good conversation, perusing around beautiful produce (a welcome break from grocery stores), getting everything you need for a week's worth of meals, and feeling pretty darn good about life.  

Oh and the meltdowns your kids have in the aisle of the grocery store?  That doesn't happen in the fresh air of the farmer's market. 

Here's how you do it: 

On getting everything you need for a week's meals

  1. Have a stocked pantry.
    If you need quinoa, coconut oil, and spices, chances are you will have to stop at the grocery store.  But if all those gems are already sitting in your pantry, you can buy everything else at the market - produce, eggs, cheese, and meat (if you desire)!  Get our pantry guide here
     
  2. Have a plan and make a list. 
    Know what 5 meals you are going to make that week, and make a list of everything you need that's not in your pantry (it should be mostly produce, some eggs, and maybe cheese and meat).  A list is everything.  Make one, but be flexible.  If you have blueberries on your list, you won't find them at the market yet (at least not in Michigan), so go with raspberries instead.  
     
  3. Know what's in season.
    It's hard to make a plan if you don't know what will be available. Having a general idea of what's in season will make that much easier.  We have a comprehensive guide for how to eat in season here

On navigating the market like a pro (without bumping into folks)

  1. Go early, or go late.
    If you go early, you have the first pick, and will get those local/organic eggs you love.  If you go late, you can bargain more, and get more for your money.  But the eggs will be gone.  Either way, there will be less people to zig zag with, and more opportunity to talk to your farmer. 
     
  2. Take samples!  
    It doesn't mean you have to buy it.  The purpose of giving samples isn't just to make a sale, it's to help customers become familiar with, and trust the product. Sample away! 
     
  3. Do a walk through.  
    Don't feel like you have to buy the first bunch of broccoli you see.  Look around, talk to the farmers, walk through the whole market, then go back and buy. 

On getting the conversation going (without feeling silly)

  1. Smile :) Everyone loves a friendly face.  
     
  2. It's ok to ask about their farming practices.  
    They won't be annoyed or offended, and often love talking about their methods, and all the hard work they've been doing. Here's what you say: 
    1. "Hi, how are you?  Your produce is beautiful!  How long have you been farming? How did you get into it?"
      1. This is a good way to start.  Farmers are usually pretty passionate about their work - it's important work they do - so take the time to hear their story. (And it's fun!).  Then you can ease into the next question:
      2. Do you use any pesticides or herbicides in your fields? (just because they are not certified organic doesn't mean they don't follow organic standards) 
         
  3. Some other fun and helpful questions:
    1. What's the freshest today? 
    2. How do you like to prepare it? (Farmers LOVE this one, and I've gotten some really great ideas asking this question)
    3. How should I store it? 

Didn't come with a plan?!  Here's a back-up list. 

  1. 1-2 leafy greens (spinach, mixed greens, kale, etc - whatever is in season).  Greens are SO important - you should always have them in your diet. Always. :) 
  2. 1 of whatever you see at almost every stand.  That means it's in-season, abundant, and definitely delicious. 
  3. 1 thing you've never cooked with before.  A great opportunity to talk to the farmer (hint - how do you prepare this?) 
  4. Local/organic eggs.  Because if all else fails, you can always scramble those veggies up in your eggs.  It's ALWAYS delicious. 

And, if at the end of the week you have a bunch of veggies you didn't use, make this Spring Stew.  You can literally put in any veggie you want, and it will be delicious. 

Spring Stew

Ingredients

1.5 c. - millet or grain of choice
1 T. - coconut oil
1 - red onion, diced
2 - garlic cloves, minced
2 c. - fingerling potatoes, cut up
1 bunch - asparagus, cut up (or broccoli, cauliflower, kale, snap peas - whatever you have!) 
1 t. - thyme
1 T. - chives, chopped small
sea salt and black pepper
1/4 c. - chickpea flour
1 c. - white wine (or water)
2 c. - full fat coconut milk
1 - Rapunzel vegetable bouillon cube
more water as needed
1 c. - peas
1.5 c. - chickpeas OR 1 lb - local/organic meat of choice, cut into pieces
1 - lemon

Method

  1. Rinse millet under cold water, then bring to boil in a pot with 3 c. water. Reduce to a simmer and cover. Set the timer for 25 minutes.
  2. In a large soup pot, heat coconut oil over medium heat. Sauté onion for 3-5 minutes, then add garlic, potatoes, and asparagus. Cook, stirring regularly, for 5-7 minutes. Then add thyme and chives, stir well. Season generously with sea salt and black pepper. 
  3. Add the flour and stir constantly for 1 minute, then add the white whine, milk, and vegetable bouillon cube.  Stir well, bring to a simmer and let thicken for 10 minutes. Add more water as needed to reach desired consistency. 
  4. Stir peas, chickpeas or cooked meat.  Season with sea salt and black pepper if needed. 
  5. Serve in bowls over millet with a squeeze of lemon juice. Yummmo!

I hope you have a great weekend!  And I'd love to hear what you think of these ideas, and what some of your own market strategies are - just leave a comment below. :) 

You may also like: