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

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

Shopping the farmers’ market has always marked the beginning of summer for us, and our Saturday routine adjusts like clockwork.

The morning usually starts with coffee and breakfast in bed, where we talk about our work schedules and menu for the coming week. Then, we finish up some quick chores at home and make 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 weren’t able to procure at the market.  

Including travel, our Saturday shopping excursions take about three hours. Sound like a lot? Read on.

Prepping meals for the weekOnce we get 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 that actually enjoy putting away groceries and prepping ingredients for the week. To me, it feels a bit like an art project. The fresh produce is so beautiful that it sometimes takes my breath away.

But I don’t just do it 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. All-in-all, I probably spend an hour on the prep side.

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 too shabby!

Do I go grocery shopping after work during the week? Nope.

Do I put off the task of grocery shopping until the last minute, tossing convenience items into my cart late Sunday night? Nope.

Do I waste time every night of the week trying to figure out what to have for dinner when I’m already exhausted from work? 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.

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

I don’t know about you, but by 5 PM, 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 are highly efficient, and each supermarket trip only took you 30 minutes, you’re still looking at 3½ hours just in shopping alone.

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

And, 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.

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

Where is your nearest farmers’ market?


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