On farmer’s markets, grocery stores, and tolerating inconsistency

As you can probably guess I do not have a recipe test for you today. A few days ago I swung by the Reading Terminal Market around 1 PM to pick up my supplies, and after fighting through a ridiculous lunch crowd and trying to stave off an anxiety attack I discovered that Iovine’s did not have squash blossoms.

How? How do you not have squash blossoms? You had them in April when it made absolutely no sense to have them but you do not have them in August?

As I stood there in a sea of shoppers with little regard for my personal space trying to decide what to do, I felt my motivation leave my body like a possessing spirit that got bored. I half-heartedly looked at a few Amish stands for squash blossoms, and although I could still have easily made the chicken cacciatore, I couldn’t bring myself to stay in the Terminal any longer.

The next day I stopped by Whole Foods to pick up witch hazel and briefly considered buying ingredients but since I don’t make a habit out of flushing money down the toilet I opted not to. So here we are. I have failed.

I do not buy groceries at Whole Foods anymore. I used to back when my room mate worked there because we got a very generous discount and I was going through a vegetarian/health food phase, but over the past few years I’ve become more concerned with saving money, so much so that I’ll happily shop at three different places to get the best price on my groceries.

Here is what I have learned in my frugality:

1. There is never any reason to buy produce from Trader Joe’s. Bagged greens and bananas are fine, but other than that you’re really just throwing your money away. It’s over priced and has been shipped from so far away that it’ll go bad almost instantly. Same goes for their deli meats. Just don’t even bother.
2. Trader Joe’s is amazing for anything frozen. Sides, last minute h’ordeuvres, meals for one, popsicles, whatever. Try the gnocchi sorrentina. It’s fantastic.
3. Whole Foods blows. Although I love their olive bar and can’t find anywhere else that sells my toothpaste.
4. Farmer’s Markets are hit or miss, but worth taking a chance. If you don’t mind inconsistency and allow yourself to be inspired by whatever is seasonal and available to you, there’s no reason to buy your produce anywhere else. Shop around though, not all stands are created equal especially when it comes to price. Example: the Tuesday stand on Drexel’s campus sells giant Jersey tomatoes for 75 cents. I have seen identical quality tomatoes go for $5-$6 each.
5. Reading Terminal is heaven. Unless you’re agoraphobic. Frankly the Amish stands are usually overpriced, by Iovine’s and OK Lee are fantastic. Martin’s has giant sirloin steaks that can feed an army for cheap and Hatfield has inexpensive cold cuts as well as giant hunks of Amish butter that cost so little it should be illegal.



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