Ok, so I know isn’t really dining out, but this insider secret is something I felt I needed to share with my fellow food lovers; dining in is a great way to save money (big news right?) There is absolutely no reason why you cannot create a gourmet meal fit for a foodie right at home. Anyone can make a delectable meal with the right ingredients. A great place to start is fresh produce. I know what you’re thinking, produce = expensive. However you’d be surprised to find that this time of year produce is not only abundant, but affordable. Summertime in the great state of New Jersey usually means going to the “shore”, questionable people running around Seaside Heights, and lazy days filled with pina coladas. BUT it also means that the farmers come out to play, bringing with them fresh seasonal vegetables. While most people associate farmers markets with being overpriced and hoity toity, they are actually pretty budget friendly. Plus, farmers markets have more than just vegetables; you can get cheeses, meats, eggs and even bacon. Not only are these fresh ingredients better for you, but they make any dish taste 10x more flavourful. When it comes to farmers markets you can shop smart and eat smarter.
Naturally when I heard that Princeton’s farmers marking was heading into town I was incredibly excited. My mouth started watering when I thought of all the amazing things I could make with fresh Jersey vegetables. So I hopped in my car and headed to P-Town. Be warned folks, with so many different stands at your fingertips, it’s very easy to go overboard. However, if you follow a few guidelines you too can be savvy shopper.
-Numero Uno: Make yourself a list of things you DEFINITELY need. Going in there blindly can result in “the toy store effect;” where you get so excited you want to buy everything. If you have an idea of what you want you’re less likely to overspend on things like pickled beets.
– Number 2: Give yourself a spending cap. Most markets are cash only which makes this pretty simple. Take enough money to buy what you think you need and then add $20.00 for a few extra treats.
-Number 3: Remember there are TONS of stands so comparison shop. See which stand has the best price before buying.
Those three tricks will keep you from leaving with buyer’s remorse; it works for me every time. On my last trip I brought $70 with me; $50 for my shopping list and $20 in case I saw something else I wanted. I walked around the perimeter first to see which stands had the best deals and then planned my attack. When I left the market I had spent my $70, with which I got a quart of blueberries (Awesomely priced at 4.25) a dozen eggs, a pound of fresh ground beef, a jar of homemade ketchup, a jar of Jersey bee honey, a half a pound of homemade cheddar cheese, 2 heads of broccoli, a pound of spinach, a pound of salad greens, a head of garlic, a pound of wild mushrooms, a fennel bulb, and a bunch of turnips. Talk about making out like a bandit; I spent about a third of what I would have at the grocery store.
Since my trip I have made mushroom risotto, turnip fries, oven roasted broccoli, garlic wilted spinach, the most delicious burger I have ever eaten, and one incredible omelet. Had I gotten all of that out I would have spent well over $70 AND I still have about half of what I bought left. As you can see farmers markets are not only for dexterous diners, but discerning palates as well. If you want to try “living off the land” just find a market in your area and get creative!
Keep your wallets full and your mouth happy
Copyright © 2012 Christine Van Arsdalen. All Rights Reserved