Wednesday, May 29, 2013

It feels good to be smart

Are you a savvy shopper?  Do you want to get the most bang for your buck?  Probably.  Most of us do.  There are a lot of small changes you can make in your behavior that can save you money - and a few dollars here and there eventually adds up to significant amounts.

I'd like to tell you a story (and start with a confession).  I am obsessed with food.  A poor meal is so disheartening, especially when I go out and and drop a significant amount on dinner.  One of my favorite things to do is go to a restaurant, deconstruct my meal, go home and replicate it.  It is a ridiculously fun game with big rewards.  

Here's the story part - I went out with friends a while back and almost ordered the daily special (and didn't).  But one person did - and it was incredible!  I was sad I didn't choose it, so the next day, I went to the store, bought an acorn squash, and was determined to replicate it (I told you I'm obsessed.)  Turns out, I made it better than the restaurant!  There's a point to this story...

I wanted to make this meal again a couple weeks ago, this time for my boyfriend.  I went to the grocery store and noticed how small the acorn squashes were.  Darn.  I wanted two large ones.  Then I went to the Brentwood Farmer's Market on Sunday - not a squash to be found.

Then the light went off.  Duh.  It's totally NOT squash season - I must have gotten the last of the large ones last time.  Then a second light went off.  Shop seasonally.  It's the freshest, healthiest, most economic way to shop.  I walked through the entire market again for inspiration.  What was I going to make for dinner that evening?  I saw beautiful berries, mounds of herbs, huge zucchini, heirloom tomatoes, peaches, beets, spring greens, colorful kale and chards.

The second walk-through helped me make an excellent decision: Raw Lasagna.  I'd recently been to M.A.K.E. in Santa Monica Place and had a wonderful vegan Raw Lasagna.  I walked away with zucchini, basil (to make fresh pesto sauce) and heirloom tomatoes for the lasagna.  And I bought all my produce for the week.

Buying fresh, organic produce from your local farmer's market is an excellent way to get the most nutritious food into your family's diet.  And when you shop seasonally, you're buying the best your local area has to offer at the best price.  This is the smart Tart-let way to shop.  You could hit one or two farmer's markets a week - the Los Angeles area has several every day of the week - you can certainly find one in your area.

I'll post and link my Raw Lasagna recipe soon - be forewarned that this is not a quick meal to make!  But it was wonderful (at least as good as M.A.K.E.'s).  My boyfriend said it might have been better (but he's also biased).

>Tip: when your produce is starting to wilt, quickly cook it up or pop it in the freezer!  Make sure you wash it first.  But sauteing your wilting Swiss chard in olive oil and garlic or Teriyaki sauce, or popping strawberries in the freezer for your morning smoothie allows you to have nutritious options available for later.  You're prolonging the life of the organic, healthy produce you brought home from the market.  And you're saving money when you don't throw your money in the trash in the form of your dying veggies.

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