Frugal Market Part 2

Switching over from shopping at the grocery store couponing to shopping at a farmers market can be a shock on the wallet. It was for us, but it was worth every cent. I think I was a pretty good couponer too. I could easily feed my family on just $32 a week with food to spare. Honestly, though…it wasn’t really food. There’s a reason why you can get that “food” for little to no money. Nutritionally, that’s all it’s worth. Yeah, yeah, it has the nice nutritional label on the side spouting all sorts of facts about how it has all the vitamins from A-Z. Well, that’s nice and all, but your body cannot absorb that “vitamin spray” that they put on the “food.” And if you have kids like mine, who are extremely sensitive to either sugar or processed foods, you just have to say no for their sake.

So if it’s more expensive and my kids aren’t sensitive, why should I bother? For one, the food tastes a million times better than from the grocery store. It’s picked at the height of freshness usually no more than a day before the market . The grocery store…well who knows when it was picked, but it most certainly wasn’t picked ripe. If they do that, the food would perish on the long long trips it has to take to even get to the store, let alone sit for a week or more before it’s purchased. Add to the fact that here in Texas we get many things shipped from California…well…that’s a lot of gas wasted when we can get it right here and support local farmers.

Not only does it taste better, but it’s better for you. The mineral and vitamin counts are MUCH higher. Take for example eggs that you can get at the market. Lovely, beautiful, farm fresh, ranged eggs. The difference between farm eggs and store bought?

• 1/3 less cholesterol
• 1/4 less saturated fat
• 2/3 more vitamin A
• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
• 3 times more vitamin E
• 7 times more beta carotene

Source

That is just eggs. It really is amazing the difference in quality once you start researching.

So, on the the Farmer’s Market. There aren’t really any coupons at a Farmer’s Market, so how do you save? How can you make it work on a budget? How am I making this new, obviously higher cost shopping work? Simple. Make friends. Once you establish yourself as a regular at the market, the sellers start to recognize you. Be friendly, ask about their products. And the clincher: ask about buying in bulk. We got a steal of a deal on beautiful new potatoes because we asked. We got the onion tops because we asked. We got turnip greens, because we were being friendly and talking about food. I also like to buy things like beets when in season. Now, I’m not talking just beets, but beets with greens still attached. Then you get a salad and condiment all in one! 🙂 I have also noticed greens last WAY longer than store bought, and just everything looks plain healthier.

Not everything is more expensive. There are quite a few vegis that I’ve gotten that have actually been cheaper than, say, going to Whole Foods. You also get a better variety of foods and can truly shop seasonally. How many people have seen purple carrots at the store? We had those at our market this week.

Also, if you speak with the farmers, sometimes you can volunteer for food. Sometimes they need extra help on the farm doing all sorts of work. Anything from plowing, planting, weeding, or harvesting. There’s a local farm here that asks for volunteers every so often and you can get a half bushel of fresh produce for helping. They don’t always have openings, but it’s always worth it to ask. For those in Austin, Johnson’s Backyard Garden are currently looking for helpers.

For me, shopping at the farmer’s market has brought me closer to my food, and enjoyment of it. Nothing beats fresh, ripe vegis. And if you have kids, it’s amazing what happens. My 2nd oldest, who is three, is a marginally picky eater. After going to the farmer’s market and me letting him pick out the food, and having some farmers explain what it is to him, he can’t wait to try new things! How great is that!

IMAG0645
These are some of the beauties we got at the market this week. The most amazing cherry tomatoes you’ve ever eaten. Dead serious. It was a good thing I took a pic right when we got them, because they were gone by the time we finished walking around the market!

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