I know, I know, those of you who know me well are wondering why Trader Joe’s wasn’t the very first place I posted about. That’s only because I intend to feature a series of Trader Joe’s lessons in the future; and I just didn’t feel like heading back out today, after a fun stay at the farmers market under the freeway and some quality time at the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op for some bulk grain-buying. I recently moved to this apartment and still haven’t figured out all the decorating & window treatment schemes for it, so it takes up some time to do all that. Time that you can’t spend frolicking amongst fresh produce.
Case in point: Today. In my 2nd weekly trek to the Farmers Market under the freeway on 8th & W Streets here in Downtown Sac, I was working on a much smaller budget than I had the previous week. I did a great job last week, spending around $35 for a ton of food that I am still working through. Today I only took with me $20, and I knew I would have no problem buying a great deal more than I could at my local Safeway. For $19.40 I was able to get:
- 3/4 lb button mushrooms
- 5 Freestone peaches (2 white, 3 yellow)
- 3 lbs HUGE tomatoes
- 3/4 lb cherry tomatoes
- 1/4 assorted fresh Thai chiles
- 5 ripe Haas avocados
- 10 squash blossoms
- 3 oz. fresh goat cheese w/Herbes de Provence (my one “splurge” at $5 b/c it was ohsotasty)
- 1 evil apple & cream cheese pastry (I really need to stop buying these but they’re so good they’re impossible to resist!)
I’m positive that the same shopping list at a regular grocery store would have cost me about 1.5 to 2x more than I paid. There is no way in hell I’d even be able to get the tomatoes for less than $7-8 these days, not to mention the avocados!
My point, dear people, is that you get better food for what it’s SUPPOSED to cost you, not for what big business says it should. Your veggies will taste delicious without any seasoning (which most grocery store produce begs for…… ever have a real heirloom tomato straight off the vine? Not even salt is needed!), your fruit will be ripe right now, not 5 days later because you put it in a paper bag. AND you’re supporting the local farmers that work so hard to bring this food to your table. No matter how you look at it, you win. For those of us on a strict budget who just can’t afford what a regular grocery bill would be, you will go absolutely nuts at not just the savings, but the quality of what you will buy from your local farmers.
Now, I know there are many places that do not have farmers markets available to them, nor the variety of produce that is always so plentiful here in California (I have to admit that living here spoils you, foodwise). If you’re unable to find such a gem, or even a flea market that features fresh produce, your next best bet will be a natural foods co-operative (Co-op). Yes, they will mark up the food a bit more than you would pay for at a farmers market, but you have the advantage of getting less commercial produce, and the added advantage of an organization owned by regular people (you), NOT big business. For a list of natural foods co-ops nationwide, visit http://www.coopdirectory.org/directory.htm
Lastly, let’s not forget the fun you can have at one of these markets! People from all over flock to these and you’ll find some sort of local performer or political activists nearby, so if anything, you’ll be entertained AND well-fed.