Self-Care Challenge (Day 129): Shopping the Farmers’ Market

Bright green curly lettuce

On day 129 of my 366-day self-care challenge, I explored shopping the farmers’ market as an act of self-care.

The Issaquah Farmers’ Market reopened yesterday with a colorful bounty of art and produce. Ecstatic doesn’t begin to describe my feelings about it.

Shopping the farmers’ market has always marked the beginning of summer for me, and my Saturday routine adjusts to the season like clockwork.

The morning usually starts with coffee and breakfast in bed, where my husband and I talk about the day, and the menu for the coming week. Next, we finish up some quick chores at home before making our way to the open air market to stock up on ingredients for the week. Before returning home, though, we make a quick stop at the supermarket to gather any supplies that we couldn’t find at the market.

Travel included, our Saturday shopping excursion takes about three hours. Sound like a lot?

Read on.

After returning home, we face what most people see as the most dreaded task of all: putting away groceries.

Now, I have to admit that I’m probably among the few people who enjoys putting away groceries and prepping ingredients for the week. To me, it’s a bit like an art project. The fresh produce is so beautiful that it sometimes takes my breath away.

But I don’t do it just because I love it. I’ve learned that prepping ingredients as I put them away saves me a lot of time during the busy (and often unpredictable) work-week. Prepping in advance — which takes about an hour — makes it more likely that we’ll eat healthy meals through the week. That’s the real reason I do it.

If you’re doing the math, you’ve probably figured out that I allocate about 4 hours every Saturday to my menu for the coming week. But what you may not have considered is what I gain from that investment: the rest of my weekend and every week-night. Not a bad trade, if you ask me.

  • Do I have to go grocery shopping after work during the week? Nope.
  • Do I hurriedly toss convenience items into my cart or order take-out at the last minute? Nope.
  • Do I waste time every night of the week trying to figure out what to have for dinner? Nope.

I simply grab the pre-prepped ingredients, follow my menu, and enjoy the rest of the evening with my family. The whole process combined – prepping, cooking, eating and cleanup – usually takes no more than an hour each night.

I know a lot of people who stop at the store every day after work. Not only does this mean they have to come up with a menu on the fly, but they also have to wait in the checkout line, battle rush-hour traffic, put groceries away, prep ingredients, cook the meal, eat the meal, and clean up the kitchen. There’s no way that approach takes less than 4 hours a week, and it sounds downright exhausting to me!

I don’t know about you, but by 5 p.m. during the work-week, the last thing I want to do is stand in line at the grocery store.

Planning menus ahead of time saves both time and money. Shopping once each week takes less time than shopping every day, even if you’re highly efficient and each supermarket trip only takes you 30 minutes. In that scenario, you’re still looking at 3-½ hours of shopping alone.

Shopping once each week also enables you to maximize the use of ingredients, which means less food waste–and less expense. (This week, I bought a whole chicken, which will provide at least 3 meals-worth of ingredients.)

Contrary to what many people think, shopping the farmers’ market isn’t more expensive.

“That will be six hundred cents,” joked a farmer at the first booth we shopped. For just six dollars, we came away with 4 large apples, a bunch of spinach, a bundle of green onions and a bunch of cilantro–less than what we would have paid at the supermarket.

But, aside from the amazingly fresh ingredients, shopping the farmers’ market makes me feel more connected to my community. I love supporting local growers and artisans, and I also love the atmosphere in general. I can’t imagine spending my Saturday mornings any other way.

Where is your nearest farmers’ market?

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