Farmer’s markets pose a bit of a dilemma in the menu planning/meal prepping world. We all know fresh, regionally-sourced ingredients are the way to go. The produce is healthier, the meat is cleaner, the honey is local-er.
But when you create your menu ahead of time, it can be frustrating to plan around the changing offerings of a farmer’s market or CSA basket. You planned a beautiful main course salad around the perfect eggplants they had last week. You get there and – nada. Not an eggplant in sight.
It’s enough to make some preppers give up on the whole institution. But I’ve got a couple tips to make farmer’s marketing a pleasure again:
- Keep in Touch – While the farms’ weekly offerings may seem mysteriously random to us, they’re not to the farmer. The farmer planted the seeds and tends to the plants every day. They know what’s coming. Ask them what looks good next week and plan around that.
You can also get an email address or follow the farm’s Facebook page to see what will be at market when you go. Most farms are happy to engage with you one-on-one, or at the very least have a social media presence.
This way, barring unforeseen circumstances like the Great Hawk Incident of ’16 that wiped out my favorite farm’s laying hens, you’ll know you can buy eggs when you need them.
- Develop an If/Then Strategy – Create your menu with flex options for the farmer’s market offerings. If there are no peaches for the salad, then I’ll substitute tomatoes. If there’s no pork, then I’ll buy chicken. If there are no potatoes, then I’ll sauté summer squash. And so on, and so on.
Having a contingency plan takes the anxiety out of a shopping environment where a lot of elements are out of your control.
For most of us, the Farmer’s Market/CSA season only lasts a few glorious months (stop looking so smug, California). Get out there and enjoy. It’s worth it.