The Farmer’s Market Challenge
Maybe it’s just me…but I feel there is a certain kind of magic surrounding farmer’s markets. Rows of vendors lining the streets offering products they’ve poured their hearts and souls into. Locally grown fruits and vegetables being sold with an echo of familiar times I’ve never personally experienced.
Don’t get me wrong…I do not long for the days of incurable plague and bloodletting (though 2020 came a little too close for my liking). I sincerely appreciate both the modern medical and technological advances of our era. But hear me out…what if we could take the best of both worlds and combine them into a better balanced hybrid? Shedding the “gone too far advances” while bringing back healthier elements of generations past. Is that too much to ask?
My conviction of “back to basics” living has never been stronger. Every day I find myself brainstorming ways my family can embrace this new hybrid era in our home. One day, I had a particularly intriguing idea. What if, for one week, I challenge myself to build my weekly menu around items I find at our local farmers markets?…
Like any new idea, the food market challenge went through several rough drafts before settling on the final parameters. At first, the challenge was to eat ONLY what we could find at the markets. After some deliberation (and a lot of family pushback), we settled on a compromise. After all, there’s only limited types of fresh produce available when shopping the Midwest in early June.
The compromise we came up with was that I could supplement our market finds with ingredients purchased at our local grocery store. However, everything I made had to highlight, or at least include, a farmers market find. I decided to think of it as a four step process.
Step 1 – Shop the local farmer’s market to see what treasures I can find.
Step 2 – Scour my refrigerator, freezer, pantry, and garden to see what resources I already had available.
Step 3 – Create a meal list using everything from steps 1 and 2.
Step 4 – Grocery shop for any missing items needed to complete the meals.
Once the rules and steps were set in place, it was time to go treasure hunting…
The farmer’s market magic enchanted us as soon as we stepped out of the car. The noise of people shouting their food truck orders. The smell of hot grills and fresh popped popcorn. The rainbow landscape of fresh fruits and vegetables on display. The puppies EVERYWHERE! It was sensory system stimulation on steroids!
A short time later, I was thoroughly impressed with the variety of products I discovered. Breads, jams, produce, and even meats! Once my wagon (and my excitement) had reached max capacity, it was time to head for home. Below is the list of the farmer’s market treasures I found…
Market items: sourdough loaves and jellies
Cherry Berry French Toast
Market items: cherry berry sourdough, eggs, and honey
Bacon Veggie Hash
Market items: eggs, spinach, mushrooms
Deli Lettuce Wraps with Pan Seared Mushrooms
Market items: lettuce, arugula, mushrooms
Cilantro Lime Steak Salad with Mexican Street Carrots
Market items: lettuce, arugula, spinach, carrots, radish, cucumber
Pork Veggie Salad with Homemade Salsa
Market items: lettuce, arugula, spinach, kale
Chicken, Sausage, and Veggie Foil Packets
Market items: mushrooms and spinach
Non-Dairy Veggie Bacon Mac n’ Cheese
Market items: spinach and cucumbers
Cilantro Lime Pork Chop with Honey Lime Fruit Salad and Asparagus
Market items: asparagus and honey
Baguette Garlic Bread
Market items: baguette
Market items: lettuce, arugula, spinach, kale, cucumber, mushrooms, radish
Honey Chai Latte
Market items: honey
Grain Free Lime and Mexican Chocolate Cookies
Market items: honey and eggs
Asian Inspired Cucumber Salad
Market items: honey and cucumbers
Though I can’t imagine farmer’s markets, hunting, and gardening being my ONLY sources of food, I don’t think I could ever go back to ONLY shopping grocery stores either. This challenge broke me out of my meal planning comfort zone and had our family eating creative, seasonal, nutrient dense meals. All with the added bonus of supporting locally run vendors!…And I really didn’t spend much more than average…AND my family wasn’t tempted to go out to eat because all of the options at home…AND I realized how many meals can come from way less food than I normally buy! Okay…I think that’s it. LOL!
If you’re looking for ways to get “back to the basics”, or if you’re in a meal planning slump, I high recommend the farmer’s market challenge. Whether you make it a goal once a month, or if you’re all in every week, it’s a great way to break the cycle and try something new. Or should I say, a great way to make something old new again. WINK!