Tips for the Farmers Market Diet

It’s farmers market season and everyone is feeling the pull toward the street markets. Shopping at them can be confusing and overwhelming. To help you get through the season happier, healthier, and with more money in your pocket, here are some tips.

Cost

Every newbie to the markets talks about cost. I call it the supermarket hangover. They have trouble understanding why they should pay more. Isn’t food at the supermarket and the farmers market the same?

Definitely not. The supermarket food is priced correctly, cheap because it is cheap food. It has low levels of nutrients, vitamins, and other essential health elements. Which results in shoppers buying 2-3 times more than they need to and all of the weight problems associated with it.

Farmers markets food is high quality, or it can be. The point of these markets is to get you food when it is of the highest quality (fresh, in season, ripe). If done right you will find yourself eating much less food and the smaller amounts should help your budget and your waistline!

Fake Farmers Markets

I always try to warn folks about the fake farmers markets. You can easily spot a fake market by looking for the fruit and vegetable stands. The best markets have a good assortment of fruit/vegetables compared to everything else (bakers, cheese, meat). The worst markets have a surplus of dessert vendors and folks selling meat, bread, and cheese.

Now I have nothing against meat, bread, and cheese. I buy my fair share at the market. The problem is with markets who make no effort to balance their offerings. Folks need to be able to find healthy delicious fruits and vegetables, beyond the loaves of bread and steaks.

Foggy-Bottom-Farmers-Market-brocolli-radish-DCAnother type of fake farmers markets are those with no standards. Places that allow folks to buy from supermarkets or wholesalers and offer them at the market for a mark-up. Places like this really make me angry since they are using the market prestige to swindle customers.

Typical markets are “producer only” which means that farmers can only sell what they grow. To figure out if your market is producer only you can look it up on their website, ask the market manager or the vendors, look for/read their signs. In fact, you want to shop at the places with more signs and more transparency. A good rule is that if they aren’t telling you then don’t trust them.

The Back-up Store

You love farmers markets but it’s monday and no markets are open on monday. Stayed late at work or slept in. It happens to the best of us. Here are a few options for supplementing your farmers market diet.

Get to know the bulk foods in the bins at your local health food stores. They are often the freshest, cheapest, and healthiest items in the whole store. I regularly buy rice, beans, and nuts at my local store.

Another, but more limited option, is the local food at supermarkets. Stores like Whole Foods and Mom’s Organic Market tend to carry a few local items. Usually greens and mushrooms. Which can make for a great salad especially after a slight saute and some balsamic vinegar. They also offer local eggs and milk.

Finally, look around for your local food coop. These are community formed grocery stores that allow you to choose what they stock. Many of them are locavore havens but not all. If you happen to have one close, join-up, get the member discount, and make sure they know how much you love local foods!

PS – my local coop is the TPSS coop :)

photo by mastermaq

The Great DC Bag Experiment

skip-the-bag-web4

Starting January 1 of this year (2010) everybody in the district will be coughing up 5 cents to get a plastic or paper bag from every place that sells food or alcohol. That’s right we’ve reached the point where American laziness is preventing progress and we are switching to forceful laws (aka progressive taxation).

It’s really a test of environmental will which I’m calling the ‘great DC bag experiment‘.  The revenue from the bag tax will go towards cleaning up the Anacostia River. A laudable cause. Even a progressive one. In this day/age when we have given up on our rivers the DC City Council is making a play.

Dig a little deeper and you can find an interesting swirl of facts. Like this being a tax on the poor, avoiding the rich who already own reusable bags. But, the green.dc.gov website shows that over 460,000 reusable bags will be given out. With less that 600,000 people in the district that covers 76% of all residents. Assuming the reusable bags can get to the less fortunate in DC, this is almost a non-issue. There appears to be some enlightened leadership in our DC government (gasp!).

Then we can talk about laziness. Or, better yet, this whole reusable bag thing is an issue of the well off. I mean who among the poor class really cares about spending an extra 2-20$ on a bamboo or recycled plastic bag. I guess it’s time for them to start caring. Their excuse is lack of money. What about the rest of us. Laziness? Habit? Apathy?

Time and time again we are finding that Americans just don’t care. They have given up on their rivers, beaches, bays, and parks. The ease of disposable goods is way to alluring, compared to keeping that reusable bag in ur trunk. Most governments around the country and world are finding themselves with one option. Lawmaking. Force people to develop new habits through taxation, fines, and built-in surcharges.

Take that libertarians. Guess its not possible to be a libertarian and an environmentalist.

The ironic part here is that I’m betting DC residents will now start carrying a reusable bag around to avoid that 5 cent charge. Ironic in that pollution, waste, landfills, global warming, dirty rivers, ruined bays – matter zilch to people. But, charge them a nickel and they act like the world is on fire.

The last thing to point out here is that each place you shop at is now saving money. They need to buy less bags and can add to their profit margins. You can bet they won’t be passing that savings onto us, the enlightened consumer. Better/worse yet the new law pays them one cent for doing nothing except participating. Two cents for offering you a nickel rebate when u bring in a reusable bag. Hmmm…you think that is fair?

All right well I expect to see some grumbling and complaining as our “Skip the Bag, Save the River” law comes into effect. You can bet I’ll be watching for that and to see how this great experiment plays out.

The 3,000 Mile Myth

There I was reading up on the world of trash when I came across an article (pdf) that said:

“There’s an easy way to make a big difference for the environment: Simply

follow your car manufacturer’s guidelines for oil changes.”

This completely blew me away. Like a newly awoken child I ran out to my car to check what my car manual says. Every 10,000 miles!

I drive an Acura and I should be doing it every 10,000 miles or every year (whichever comes first). The manual even said under severe/extreme conditions I only need to do it every 5,000 miles. My 2 brothers, Dad, and friends all experienced the same thing. We were all following the 3,000 mile schedule.

This is absolutely amazing to me. I thought that every 3,000 miles was the rule. I was even feeling a little guilty for pushing it to 4,500 miles. Turns out that I was changing the oil 2-3 more times than I needed to.

Now this is awesome. I was just instantly saved $120 ($40 per change times 3 for the year) or all the time spent doing it myself.

I highly suggest you check this out for yourself. Look at your car manual from the manufacturer of your car. Look at the California website dedicated to debunking the 3,000 mile myth:

3000milemyth.com

3,000 mile myth