Food is the one budget item that makes both Melissa and myself feel a little woozy when we look at our spending trends on Mint. Melissa’s threshold is a lot lower than mine, but when I see us occasionally spending $1200 a month or more on food, it makes me feel sick, too. We’ve approached this problem in many different ways—making a meal plan for the week works the best—but when life gets very busy or stressful, we almost always slide back into old habits of eating out too much and not being creative with the ingredients we have on hand, therefore also going to the grocery store too often.
Last weekend I went to the farmer’s market and ran into a friend who said, “Yeah, we do most of our grocery shopping here.” This re-ignited a fantasy of mine, a fantasy that was recently fueled by the book An Everlasting Meal, a fantasy where we do exactly what my friend said: We buy all of our food at the farmer’s market and make it work all week. This fantasy includes a trip to the regular grocery store every other week or so to get things like tea and other items you can’t get at the market, but the farmer’s market would drive our eating*. My own little theory about this is that if we buy food that is interesting and high quality, I am less tempted to do things like eat out or run to the store at the last minute to get something easy to cook.
I mentioned this to Melissa last weekend after I was home from the market, and she said, “Yeah, I wish we did that.” We decided that at the very least, we’d come to the market this weekend and do some of our shopping. A few days later, I suggested to Melissa that we make a pact: For just one week, we’d try getting all of our food from the market. If she’d agree to this, I wouldn’t go out to get food at all this week, including coffee. Melissa jumped on this because, I admit, I spend far, far too much on eating out and coffee during the week, and I am the one most likely to go to the grocery store randomly.
The usual problem with this plan is that it takes time to cook and prep food and keep it from going bad in the fridge (which happens all too often to farmer’s market bounty in our house). However, I have a little extra time right now, and will until classes start mid-August.
We spent $105 at the market on Saturday morning, and there is a list below of what we got. I have no idea if we’ve over or under-shopped, and I think it’ll be interesting to find out**. I have been eating the hell out of this salad for the past week or two, which is why there are beets, and Melissa made carnitas on Sunday, hence the pork butt. I also have plans to make some panzanella and possibly fattoush, as those are things I want to eat all summer, and an eggplant salad that I found in the Penzey’s catalog, which is a surprisingly good source for recipes.
Red & green bell peppers
3 German Johnson tomatoes
Loaf polenta bread
Loaf other kind of bread
*An even better fantasy is having all of our vegetables come from the yard, but oh, we’re so far from this.
**Since I wrote this on Saturday (it's Monday now), I've leaned towards "over-shopped."