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Shopping sales/farmers markets: meal planning WHILE shopping?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
So I am a planner, and normally plan meals for dinners, at least, and shop for the week all at once. However, I've taken to going to the farmer's market lately, and who knows what will be there. Does anyone shop at the farmer's market or shop only sales, and therefore not meal plan BEFORE they shop? How?? I need my computer so I can look up my recipes and what OTHER ingredients I need, or even the internet to look up a recipe for a new veggie I've never made before or whatever. I would sooo rather do it on the fly...
post #2 of 15
I do this, especially in the summer when the farmer's markets have so much to offer. A couple of tips:

- Experience. Once you have a repertoire of meals you know how to make and that your family likes, you no longer rely on recipes. Sure, you still use them to get new ideas, but if you're missing one ingredient a lot of times you can substitute something else, or vary the recipe slightly or whatever.

- Have a well-stocked pantry. There are certain key ingredients to keep on hand at all times to base your meals upon. Depending on what you can/like to eat, these ingredients will vary. For us, we keep flour, milk, eggs, butter, spices, grains, dry beans, canned tomatoes, oils, etc. at all times, and buy more when we are getting low. This way I can whip up basic meals with the fresh veggies I find at the market.

For example, this week I bought pastas, cheese, eggs, tortillas, chicken and a few other things from the grocery store. Then at the farmer's market I found a lot of corn, green beans, squash, tomatoes, tomatillos, mushrooms, greens, peaches and herbs. So far I have made pasta primavera with creamy pesto sauce, squash and tomatillo pizza, tomato and mozzarella sandwiches, grilled corn, asparagus and chicken, broccoli with cheese sauce, and black bean quesadillas. Oh, and peach ice cream, apricot muffins, and banana bread, because we love sweets . So, just by making sure I had
the staple items of pasta, flour, milk, cheese and eggs, I was able to shop at the market and then come up with a menu.

Sometimes I do it the other way around, make menus and then shop, but this is working out pretty well too! Hope this helps!
post #3 of 15
I agree with just have experience and a well-stocked pantry, but I'm also hoping at some point to make the EatRealGood meal planner easy to use from an android phone. I'm not sure what I need to do to make that a reality, but it's been in the back of my mind all along. How awesome will that be?!

Also, since I'm usually already getting a CSA box, I know what I'm mainly doing that week, and I can get extras from the farmers market, and browse for pleasure. For example, today I got artisan bread, flowers, and some amazing beet/preserved lemon ravioli.
post #4 of 15
Thread Starter 
Well I guess my problem (and the biggest obstacle to my menu planning) is that I love experimenting and making new meals. I tried making a monthly meal plan once, and couldn't fit all the recipes I love in one month...and it left me no room to try new recipes, so I ended up not using it when the first week, I found a recipe I just HAD to try. Cooking is a hobby and passion of mine

Hmm...dilemma's, dilemma's.
post #5 of 15
i try to shop "seasonally" even when at the grocery store, since that stuff tends to be on sale more anyway. so i just have my cooking mags in order by month so that at least MOST of the recipes they are featuring are whats being featured at the farmers markets, CSAs and groceries. you can also find lists on line by month of whats in season. if i had a link i'd pass it on
post #6 of 15
ITA that once you have done stuff a few times, it becomes easier to 'wing it' with whatever is fresh that week. That said, it's sometimes cool to buy stuff that looks great at the market, and then come home and find a recipe that you really think will work for everyone. A challenge, so to speak! Tara also had a good point - there are usually no surprises at the FM. If you know what to expect, you will only need to adjust by maybe a week or two - if say kolrabi is available a bit early, or there are no carrots that week. Being able to go backwards - from food to recipe - is good skill building!
post #7 of 15
I would keep a checklist with your pantry or freezer stock handy. Then I would get 2 or 3 cookbooks that have simple ingredients or lots of veggie meals and keep them in the car for when you go..so you don't forget them1
post #8 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by ihugtrees View Post
Well I guess my problem (and the biggest obstacle to my menu planning) is that I love experimenting and making new meals. I tried making a monthly meal plan once, and couldn't fit all the recipes I love in one month...and it left me no room to try new recipes, so I ended up not using it when the first week, I found a recipe I just HAD to try. Cooking is a hobby and passion of mine

Hmm...dilemma's, dilemma's.
This is why I do my plan on a 2 week cycle and will do a mix of my tried and true favorites and new recipes I like to try.

As for impulses buys at the farmer's market i usually look up a recipe via food blog Aggregators (foodblog search, food gawker, tastespotting). since my impulse buys are usually veggies they usually work as a side dish. Having a decently stocked pantryboth basmati and arborio rice, pasta or cornmeal to make polenta in my pantry helps as does having a lot of spices and condiments.
post #9 of 15
talk to the farmer from which you are finding veggies! As a farmer myself I make an effort to know atleast a general idea of how to cook each veggie I grow because I know from experience how difficult it can be to barely even know WHAT a veggie is let alone how to cook it. If they can't give you a recipe exactly at least they can give you a good starting method. Farmers market farmers love to talk to people, just ask!

Start looking around for good veggie cook books. my favorite for figuring out how to start with just about any veggie is called "Vegetables Every Day" by Jack Bishop (Published by Harper Collins). It's got a description of what it is, selection of a quality piece, general availability, and several recipes that feature the vegetable. Beyond that, the Moosewood cookbooks are great although each recipe does tend to require a lot of ingredients but they are vegetarian mainly if not entirely.

Once I know some of the basic cooking methods for any given veggie I feel more confident in experimenting with it and subbing it into other recipes in lieu of other veggies. for example, root crops like carrots, radishes, rutabagas, etc are pretty interchangeable in any given recipe. soups are wonderful and pureed soups are great when you sautee a root veggie and some greens and add those in without pureeing because they can add some substance to those soups.
post #10 of 15
ihugtrees, I'm NOT a planner so I don't know if this would work for you, but since you love to cook and experiment how about if you shop the farmer's market and buy whatever strikes your fancy and then that afternoon/evening do your meal planning for the week. The next day or later that day (depending on when your market is) you can go shopping for the other ingredients you need.

See, I might go to the farmer's market and get tomatoes, beets, cucumbers, blueberries, lettuce, cantalope, peaches and watermelon and then when I come home and I can puzzle over my loot and come up with some ideas. I might remember that watermelon salad recipe and look it up and realize I need some mint. I might realize that the peaches look like they need to be used right away so I look up a recipe for peach cobbler and see if I need anything from the store for that.

I really wing it, though. Planning gives me anxiety! Crazy, I know, since for most people it reduces anxiety and saves money, but I have a fear of commitment or something .

I think you could strike a happy medium and do your farmer's mkt shopping first and then do your planning next. I like to google recipes or plug ingredients in to epicurious.com or allrecipes.com and see what comes up that looks interesting.

Good luck!
post #11 of 15
I am not a very good cook- even after years of doing it (I love crock pot recipes better than any meal that I have to "simmer" "saute" etc.) So I find it really hard to meal plan on the fly. I like to have 3 recipes for the week that I plan and buy all the ingredients, then we do 2 easy meals (rice and beans, pasta, whatever). At the farmer's market, I would buy something on impulse and then go home to get a recipe and then go to the store again to buy the rest of the ingredients. I wish I could plan on the fly, but I'm just not the type to remember what foods and spices go together well which makes it hard to generate ideas on the spot when I see something fresh and deliciously in season at the fm.
post #12 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by kaaris View Post
some amazing beet/preserved lemon ravioli.
YUM!!! That sounds wonderful.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ihugtrees View Post
Well I guess my problem (and the biggest obstacle to my menu planning) is that I love experimenting and making new meals. I tried making a monthly meal plan once, and couldn't fit all the recipes I love in one month...and it left me no room to try new recipes, so I ended up not using it when the first week, I found a recipe I just HAD to try.
This is how I have learned I am. I have to deviate from a plan once it is down, and so I've embraced it. I went from planning for a month at a time to making Farmer's Market day planning day. Now I use the ingredients as inspiration. I have my favorite farmers, who I like to support every week, so if Theresa, for example, only has mint left, well, then, I'm making quinoa tabbouli. If Ed has eggplants suddenly, I'd better visit Kao for his cilantro and scallions so I can do a stir fry, and while I'm at it I grab carrots from Wolfgang for a Pad Thai from Moosewood that we love to devour.

For a while I had visions of bringing my recipe binder along in the car, arranged by ingredient-- such as eggplant-- but my kids are too busy at the market to allow for that these days. When they get a little older, I plan on having Saturdays as such: shop FM, then off to the health food store to fill in my bulk supplies, then the library for a little meal planning, and back to the market for last minute ingredients.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mamabeca View Post
Being able to go backwards - from food to recipe - is good skill building!


Quote:
Originally Posted by DoopaMama View Post
talk to the farmer from which you are finding veggies!
And, talk to other shoppers too. I love my CSA newsletter, but I also exchange ideas with shoppers, and have frequently emailed the other regulars with recipes based on conversations at the market!
post #13 of 15
a phone with internet access... lol
post #14 of 15
For me, we tend to not eat farmers' market food out of season. LIke, I don't eat tomatoes until they come into season. Or turnips or peaches or whatever.

So, by thge time they come into season, I am really, really eager to eat whatever fruit/vegetable it is. And, I generally have a favorite way to prepare them that I'm looking forward to (like the first tomato of the season goes in a tomato sandwich; the second is for caprese salad).

It's only after these first few favorite recipes that I'm willing to branch out. But, at that point, I'm not surprised at the farmers' market. Right now, we're in about the 7th-8th week of cucumbers. I know that they are going to be there. LOL. The first week we got cucumbers, we ate them in vinegar, in sandwiches, and in tossed salad (all things I can make in my head). By this week, I'm looking up recipes for them. But, that way, I am prepared to buy whatever I need for those recipes.

Just another way to do it. Around here, there are very few things that are only at the market for one week. Even the most fleeting (snap peas, figs, blackberries) are there for 2 or 3 weeks.
post #15 of 15
I keep all my recipes on my iphone so I always have them with me for shopping.
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