I collected my expenses on food for 2019 and found I spent less than the average American, despite those costs including feeding at least fifty people with my famous no-packaging vegan stews.
Wait, aren’t farmers markets more expensive? Shouldn’t I have paid more?
I’ll leave for another time launching into the perverse incentives in the billions of dollars subsidizing crops and factory farming, forcing me to pay for doof making the nation sick, while the government subsidizes nearly nothing of fresh, local vegetables and fruit (do I sound bitter?), and focus on how I found even with government distorted prices, I still saved money buying local and fresh.
First, I buy in season. While others might lament missing strawberries in December, buying seasonal to me means every week’s shopping trip finding something I haven’t eaten in ten months. A fruit or vegetable being in season means it’s at its most delicious, plentiful, and cheapest. I think most of spinach and collard leaves the size a brontosaurus eats. Tomatoes that taste like sunshine, so plentiful that nearby supermarkets have to drop prices for their product, shipped green from 3,000 miles away, bred for durability, not taste.
But my favorite technique is how farmers give me free vegetables, smiling as they do it. I’m almost scared to mention it since I want many people to read this book and don’t want to lose my free vegetable source, but I’m writing this book for you. Even at farmers markets, many people don’t want the whole vegetable. They’ll buy beets, carrots, or cauliflower and ask the farmer to cut off the leaves. Farmers cut the leaves off broccoli and the outside of cabbage to charge more for the glory parts more people prefer.
All those leaves, along with bruised fruits and vegetables, they put in a box to bring back to the farm to compost. I learned this practice by frequenting the same stands and getting to know the people, not that they hide it. Well, all those greens are perfectly edible. They’re also extra work for them for little benefit since they don’t lack for compost at the farm. It benefited everyone for them to give me those beet greens and so on, or from their perspective, to lighten their load. I often walk away with more free vegetables than ones I pay for, with them thanking me. Any wonder why I haven’t spent more then a few dollars at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s in the past five years? I suspect if you weighed all the food they sold and its packaging, they move more waste than food.
On my train trip to Los Angeles and back, I stayed in L.A. and Houston with friends and made famous no-packaging vegan food for them. I also found their local farmers markets, which they’d never visited, and showed them how to shop at them. Each time, the farmers happily gave me their vegetables. My friends also told me they returned to the markets more.
Read my weekly newsletter
On initiative, leadership, the environment, and burpees