Farmer’s Market on a Budget

Ah . . the farmers market, how I love thee. From the first burst of fragrant flowers as I enter to the divine sourdough bread and artisanal goat cheese, I am had. Though I know that the best use of a farmers market is undoubtedly fresh produce, I often find myself splurging on all the many delicious treats and leaving with a lop-sided set of ingredients. This last weekend, I enlisted a savvy friend of mine to get in and get out with food for the week (and without breaking the bank).

Our goal was to spend $40 each; I nearly made this goal (lilies and unexpectedly pricey pears bumped me to just under $60, all told). Below was our strategy and our outcome:

I am a big believer in having a starting point at the Hollywood Farmers Market, as it can be a zoo. Less bucolic small-town feel and more dolled-up and ready to mingle, wandering around can be alternatively fabulous people-watching or a claustrophobe’s worst case scenario. We chose to start at the sourdough booth- the man, the myth, the legend- and quickly move to the goat cheese maker. For one person, I find a loaf of bread will last a week, but I bought two in the event of guests. Two cheeses have seen me through the week as well- a hard cheddar, and a spreadable goat infused with pear and lavender. At this point, I have spent roughly $20.

Now that the bread and cheese is out of the way, it is time for greens and such- I try to take advantage of the many varieties hard to find outside the farmers markets, and picked up some dandelion greens along with the usual kale, arugula. Momotaro tomatoes next-what a difference in varieties! Avocadoes, garlic, a bag of mixed potatoes and some pastured eggs, and we have a solid week’s worth of ingredients. This came out to just under $40.

Had I not been tempted by the $10/lb pears or the fragrant lilies, I might have matched my goal. I cannot say I regret it entirely- little is as satisfying as walking into one’s home and being greeted by the sweet bursting smell of lilies in bloom, but I might have reconsidered the pears. If you are savvier than I, you will pay attention the price per lb before approaching the vendor to pay.

Somehow, armed with our itinerary, we managed to make it in and out in under 25 minutes, well stocked. From sandwiches to salads, snacks to suppers, and even juices, this excursion kept both myself, my guide, and a few hungry guests well-fed this week.

My staples change depending upon the season, much to my dinner-guests’ delight. What do you shop for at the farmers market, and how do you manage to keep it reasonable?

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