Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Money Challenge

Today, Tuesday, I shopped the Farmer's Market in my part of town. The city actually holds two of them. Fridays, the second one is held on the other side of the town, so if you miss one you can catch the other.

We also have a community farm, bought into through subscription, although anyone can also buy from the farm stand, which runs on the traditional honor system. It was the last working farm in the city, so when the family wanted to sell out, a trust bought it to keep it going. It is several acres of vegetables and herbs as well as a hill with fruit trees, mostly apple. But it is professionally run by a resident farm manager couple, who live there with with small children. They don't do all the work, because if you subscribe you have to put in some hours as their employee, and for your pains, you get several bags of produce on a regular basis.

They keep chickens, but I haven't seen eggs for sale. I once toured their chicken coop and took a morning's lesson in raising my own.

I remember how fresh eggs (and the chickens who made them) actually smelled. I got to know a lot of barnyard smells in childhood, living on the property of a farm, in a rented house, outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. It imprinted me with a lot of impressions of sheep, cows, turkeys, laying hens, and Mormons and Seventh Day Adventists too. One thing I knew about the Mormons, they had freezers and always made sure they had a store of food which could last for weeks. This wasn't out of anxiety about the Cold War and nuclear winter. It was older than that. My little friend told me once that they were prepared for "the Famine". Since I knew a few Bible stories, I was familiar with the concept, though not the actuality. I also know how important big freezers are to rural people in general. I have never had one.

Okay, let's cut to the chase. Did I stay within my promised budget? Or did I find a loophole?

As I wrote, it would have been possible to spend $40 during the course of the week, just not in grocery stores. It was envisioned that this would be at two places, the farm stand and the Farmer's Market.

I opted to spend the entire pile of money, two twenties from an ATM, plus, truth be told, the prior contents of my wallet ($8.50) at the Farmer's Market. I have some left over, but I doubt that I'll drive to the farm stand. I may have gone over $40, but let's see:

Apples - Rome Beauty and Northern Spy for cooking @ $2.99/lb 3 lbs or $9.00

Apples - Macoun for eating @ $2.99/lb for 3 lbs or $9.00

So, $18.00 to the cute little apple orchardist seventy-something lady in her jaunty little cap, for the six lbs of apples. Hm. Seems like a Whole Foods kind of price, and then some.

Corn - Butter and honey at 60 cents an ear times 6 - $3.60

Patty Pan Squash - One piece at $1.00

Tomatoes - 1 lb. at $2.00

Mixed bell peppers - 1 lb. at $2.50  That's $9.10 for a small amount of colorful produce to the family of Polish-American farmers who live out near Worcester.

I searched in vain for scallions. No one had them. Must be out of season, since they had them last week. Time to scour the yard for mine, which I have neglected.

So far, $27.10 spent.

Now did we say anything about farmer's market bakery goods? Because they are great. The pumpkin growers sell pies and cakes, which I bought. Ahem, taking me over the limit (but not over the wallet, because of that $8.50). $3.00 for the cake and $10.00 for the pie. Yes, $10! It's a rich neighborhood. They know what they can charge us, those clever little old ladies who drive down from Vermont. Why would they do such a thing if they couldn't make a little money?

Oh, and the local bakery man with the artisanal bakery sold me a loaf of seeded rye which looks and smells great for $6.00.

Adding this up, it looks like I spent $46.10, however, by some strict interpretation, I overspent by at least $6.10.

The farmer's market is a kind of tourism, and these are food souvenirs, not bargains. They are however local and fresh, because even if they come from across the state or across state lines, New England is one very small region.

For true bargains, I would have to go into the heart of Waltham and shop at an Indian produce and grocery market. That's the place you can get a week's worth of produce and even prepared foods for $30 or slightly more.

Perhaps that should be next week's exercise in seeing how to stretch a food budget.

Okay, I treated my budget like Silly Putty. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a Macoun to bite into. I am after all a daughter of Eve.

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