Full disclosure, I went over budget.
I tried not to. I tried to stay within the $40 limit, I really tried, but my hands were tied. Tied by a near five-year-old’s stomach’s desires.
Last week I handed over the $40 market budget to my son.
Brave or ridiculously silly, I’m still not sure.
As a future dietitian, I try to instil in my son the knowledge of healthful eating, and the empowerment of knowing where your food comes from, how it was grown, and who grew it. In my view, you are never too young, or too old for that matter, to take up this practice.
My son has picked out vegetables and fruits before, but he’s never been in charge of the whole budget.
I gave him a few guiding principles: I told him we had to try and be more healthful than not; I told him sweets were okay, but they needed to be balanced with fresh fruits, greens, and other such vegetables. I also encouraged him to select a protein as well.
My brain was fraught with fear. Had my guiding principles gone in one ear and out the other? Were we doomed to be going home with a bag full of pastries, popsicles, pies and cookies?
No, we were not.
With caramel corn in one hand, he ran over to Ripple Creek Organic Farm and shouted with glee: tomatoes!!!! He picked a pint of sweet orange cherry tomatoes that I believe are called sunrise; they were super sweet, although my son liked the reds better. He purposely sauntered over to Zaklan Heritage Farm where there was a huge selection of greens, onions, radishes, and other such produce. Yet, his eyes were fixed on tomatoes.
He also grabbed a bunch of rainbow carrots (the colours win him over every time), he hemmed and hawed over radishes, but in the end determined they were too spicy, and instead grabbed a mini head of green lettuce because it looked “ninja green!”
He searched for the ice cream truck, but – thankfully for me and my desires for more produce – Rocky Point ice cream was not on the schedule.
He walked up the steps of Wild Westcoast Seafoods like he owned the truck. With his fingers curled on the surface of the freezer windows he peered inside to see if he could find anything appealing. We love fish in our house and when Ron pulled out a slab of tuna, the boy took one look and exclaimed “yum!”
When my son was mulling over a $20 container of cherries from the Harvest Direct stand, we were given a valuable teaching lesson. I suggested he look at the market money in his hands and count how much money he had left. At that point we had $6.50. Do we have $20, I asked him. No, he said. Do we have $5, I asked him. Yes, he said. I pointed to the containers of apples, plums, peaches and nectarines and told him that was the selection we were limited to. He grabbed the nectarines and was ready to go to the next stop.
We had $1.50 left to spend. I told him the options: we could get 2 zucchinis at Fresh Quality Produce for $1.50, or 2 cucumbers at Ripple Creek for approximately $2, or 2 ears of corn at both Fresh Quality Produce and Mandair Farms for $2, putting us over budget by 50 cents, or a (pretty, pretty, pretty please) head of spiky purple lettuce for $2.50. He flat out said no to the lettuce and the zucchini 🙁
I thought for sure he’d opt for the corn as he LOVES corn, and he almost did. He squeezed in next to the ladies husking the cobs and was about to pounce on the perfect two, when his eyes veered over to the brown box of green beans.
He thought they were peas. I told him they were green beans, which we often have on the barbecue. He looked at the corn, looked at the green beans, walked away from the corn, and grabbed a bag to fill with beans.
I’m not sure if he recognized that he would get more by choosing green beans over corn, but it was pretty hilarious watching him fill his bag – meticulously counting every single bean he placed in the bag. At 20 beans, he went over to the scale. We had 77 cents worth. I told him to grab 20 more. Jeff, the vendor, was howling as he watched him count. He went back to the scale. Gilda, who was manning the cash, told him to run back and grab three more. She told him he could leave the bag with her. He gave her an incredulous look. Are you kidding? No way, nope, he was not gonna leave that bag unprotected. He got his three more beans, giving us 43 beans in total, and we were right at $1.50.
This kid knows budget!
Gary’s Kettle Corn
- 1 small bag caramel corn $3.50
Ripple Creek Organic Farm
- 1 pint sunrise tomatoes $5
Zaklan Heritage Farm
- 1 mini ninja lettuce $2
- 1 bunch rainbow carrots $3.50
- 1 pint rainbow cherry tomatoes $4.50
Wild Westcoast Seafood
- 1 lb tuna $15
Harvest Direct Farms
- 1 container nectarines $5
Fresh Quality Produce
- 43 green beans $1.50
Total spent: $40
Now, while my kid had the budget down, I did not. It was a bit hard for me to give up control. I tried. I really, really did. But I could NOT walk away from a farmers’ market without a bunch of mustard greens and purple spiky lettuce in my hands. They might not be there the next week, I told myself. We would have to buy more greens mid week; the mini head would not get us through, I reasoned. I needed more greens.
When the boy wasn’t looking, I scooted under the Zaklan tent and added to the weekly loot.
Zaklan Heritage Farms
- 1 bunch mizuna mustard greens $3
- 1 head purple spiky lettuce $2.50
Total in the red: $5.50
After the market adventure, our hungry bellies went home for dinner. The first thing the boy asked for was a salad of his own that included his green ninja lettuce, his purple carrots, and a huge handful of his tomatoes.
Yep, pretty sure that’s a win 🙂
Originally published on local blog Tenth to the Fraser, The Farmers Market Challenge, written by Katie Bartel (and the odd guest star) seeks to challenge the notice that you can’t get hardly anything for $40 at the farmers market. Each market, Katie explores what’s the best deal, and discovers food she’s never heard of.