Backwards meal planning at the farmer’s market | Seventh Generation
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Backwards meal planning at the farmer’s market

Author: Alexandra Pecci

Isn’t it easy to slip into a recipe rut? We’ve all been there: Falling back on the same handful of meals to get us through the week, hitting the grocery store to gather the ingredients needed for each. But a recent trip to the farmer’s market made me realize that I’d been doing my meal planning backwards: I should find local ingredients first and plan menus around what’s available.

Our family has several go-to recipes, like spinach pizza, which we find ourselves making all year long, regardless of whether everything’s coming up spinach at our local farm or whether the spinach had been shipped across the continent to our local grocery store. But this approach to cooking has some major downsides. The most obvious one is the fuel it takes to ship spinach to my grocery store. Plus, this kind of meal planning leads to boring eats, to making the same old recipes with the same old ingredients week after week.

Buying what’s local and in-season not only helps families and farms stay healthy; it puts some inspiration and diversity back into mealtimes. On the day our local farmer’s market opened for the season, I was surprised to see little round zucchinis labeled “cousa squash” sitting in a basket. The named jogged a memory of my husband, Brian, talking about the stuffed cousa he used to eat as a kid. So I bought three of them and for dinner that night we ate the Lebanese dish of ground beef, rice, and spices stuffed into the hollowed-out squash. It was a huge hit with my husband and daughter (and me!)

Over the next few weeks, I found more recipe inspiration at the farmer’s market. Not only did these dishes break up the monotony of our regular rotation of dinners, but they tasted super fresh and came with the added bonus of supporting our local farms and economy. Crispy lettuce and farm-made cheese and sausage became a meal of sausage sandwiches with salad and crumbled feta. Pretty little eggplants became eggplant parmesan. Zucchini became zucchini bread for our breakfasts and pan-fried zucchini rounds coated in crispy breadcrumbs for a savory side dish. And when I spotted a bag of freshly picked spinach at the farm stand, I snapped it up. Sure enough, our stand-by spinach pizza tasted better than ever.

What meals have you created around seasonal food finds?


Photo: mellowynk


Jude113 picture
I love cooking fresh locally grown food in the summer/fall months! Our summer/fall meals are completely different from what we eat in cold months. Greek nachos are one of our favorites(whole wheat pita chips, topped with ground lamb cooked with onion and Penzy's greek seasoning, sheeps milk feta, tomatoes, red beans, red onion and tatziki) I absolutely love the local pastured meat available at my Farmer's market. We also like lamb kabobs with tatziki, caprese salad/paninis, salad nicoise, whole wheat pancakes/waffles topped with fresh fruit and veggie scrambles. I also make a yummy tomato and zucchini bake topped with bread crumbs fresh herbs and Parmesan cheese. Some days we just make a meal out of corn on the cob, veggies and fruit. Even our dessert of the week changes. We went from eating desserts made with rhubarb, to strawberries, then peaches, raspberries, sour cherries, zucchini and soon it will be apples and pumpkin.
JG3778 picture
I work a couple hours a week on a csa farm in exchange for bags of fresh produce. I also have a decent vegetable and herb garden in my backyard. I plan my meals around what I get every Sunday in my share as well as what I can pick right out of the garden. I prepare for my family as much fresh as I can, but toward the end of the week I will toss it all in a crockpot and make soup, then freeze it for future meals. I also will process, can & freeze these wonderful jewels so we can enjoy them in the off months. I rarely buy produce on the off months, have been lucky enough to make the bounty I save last the balance of the year I don't have the fresh items. The farm I work on also sell fresh grains (whole wheat, rye & corn), eggs and honey. We fish and freeze some of that as well. One of my favorite and new to me ingredients from the csa farm is kohlrabi (sp?) Love to make fish tacos and top with shreaded kohlrabi and fresh made salsa.
HylaBrook picture
Just yesterday for breakfast I sauteed onion and chopped summer squash, then steamed chopped kale with it. I made a cream sauce, added the veggies, and a bunch of chopped garlic. I cracked eggs into wells in this simmering mixture, covered it, turned off the heat and walked away for 10 minutes. When I came back, the eggs had cooked through. I sliced tomatoes for the side. All of this is exactly what is coming from my garden at this time. I think of eating seasonally as being grateful for what God has given and appreciating it fully. It is not so easy on my hubby who still thinks in terms of recipes his mother cooked.