I am happiest in the kitchen when the farmer’s market is up and running from mid-November to mid-April. I love waking up early on the weekends and going to the market to pick out fresh, organic produce directly from the farmers. I love grabbing a coffee and a sandwich (or pastry) and sitting in the warm Dubai-winter sun. What I love the most is having delicious, fresh produce to cook with—it’s a welcome change from a lot of the limp supermarket offerings during the summer.
Here’s what I do to get ready so that I can make the most of my trips to the farmer’s market.
Clean and Organize the Fridge
I pride myself in having a relatively well-organized fridge, but sometimes the odd thing will end up at the back of a shelf or the bottom of the vegetable crisper and out of sight, only to be found all dry and shriveled up (or worse; moldy and leaking) weeks later. About two weeks before the market starts, I clear out the entire contents of my fridge (and freezer), clean all of the shelves and drawers, and take stock of what I’ve got. I’ll also go through the myriad of condiment jars in the fridge door and make sure they’re all within their use-by dates. A clean, tidy fridge means there’s less chance of me having to play fridge Tetris with my farmer’s market produce.
Shop for Preserving Essentials
One of the great things about the farmer’s market is you can buy organic produce in bulk relatively inexpensively. I like to take advantage of this by preserving as much as I can. Whether I’m making sauerkraut, dill pickles, or homemade passata, I like to keep the essentials on hand so I’m not forced to go on last-minute runs to the supermarket. I like to stock up on: salt (both coarse and fine), sugar, olive oil, and vinegar (malt and cider).
Take Stock of Jars and Other Storage Containers
Buying a lot of produce means having to store it somewhere, somehow. Whether I’ll need jars for the sauces and pestos I’m making, containers for the roast veg I’ll be cooking up, or ziplock bags to store washed greens, before the market starts is when I take stock of what I have available and what I need to purchase. I like to put all of my food storage solutions in one place and plan out what’s going to go where before I even go to the market. It sounds tedious, but it really only takes a few minutes and it saves on having to get organized after I get back from the market and I’m busy tackling all that produce.
Make a List
I love making lists. I make lists for everything, and it works really well at keeping me organized. Before I head to the farmer’s market, I always make a list of all of the ingredients that I need, as well as notes on what I’m going to use them for if it’s something specific. This helps me buy the right quantities, and also ensures I don’t forget to pick anything up. I know some people like to be guided by what’s abundant and looks good on a given day, and I do too—I always leave a little wiggle room so that a couple of meals can be guided more intuitively by what I like the look of. For me, making a list is more of a guideline than a strict must-buy; I’ll often sub in one thing for another if a farmer recommends it or if the mood strikes me.
Corral Totes, Plastic Bags, and Boxes
For me, shopping at the farmer’s market for locally-grown, organic produce goes hand in hand with making the world a better place to live in. I know it sounds totally cheesy—and it really is—but it’s also true. When you shop at a farmer’s market, you’re saying you care about your food, where it comes from, how it’s grown, and the impact it makes on the planet. Similarly, you should care about the vessels in which you transport your food, and how you can cut down on waste. Help the farmers and the planet out by bring your own totes, reusable plastic bags, and boxes to carry your produce home in instead of using dozens of paper and plastic bags that will inevitably get tossed out.
When I go to the market, I usually bring 3-4 large carrier bags/totes, boxes/crates if I know I’m going to be buying a lot of something, and a little ziplock bag filled with all those annoying plastic bags they make you use at the supermarket for fruits and veggies—I’m guessing you’ve accumulated a few over the summer, so now’s the time to put them to good use.
I’d love to hear your tips for prepping for the farmer’s market, and if you’ve got any tricks for staying organized amidst mounds of produce please leave them in the comments below!