Price Comparisons & My Top 10 Recipes

6 Aug

Well, I’ve come to the end of my 30 Day Locavore experiment. If it seemed to last longer than a month, you’re right. I extended this project by a week, because I was out of town one week during its 30 days; and even though I still did some shopping at farmers markets and cooking local in Montreal, I still wanted a full 30 days of doing this experiment at home. The Locavore project ended this past weekend, and this week sees my last two blog posts about it. Stay tuned in a week or so for my new project: 30 Days of only buying things with coupons, daily deals, deep discounts, etc!

My Bokashi compost bin is almost full!

First of all in this wrap-up post, I want to show you my price comparison between farmer’s market foods, two local supermarkets and Greenling. Susan Liebrock of the Sustainable Food Center (which manages several Austin farmer’s markets) challenged me to do this, so here are my findings. Two weeks ago, I visited the downtown farmer’s market and noted prices on the in-season foods for sale there. I then comparison-shopped at two local grocery stores: Whole Foods for high-end, and HEB for typical, as well as Greenling since I have written about them before.

Remember that we are comparing apples-to-apples so to speak, i.e. comparing organic foods (although I did note the non-organic prices when available on some items, and some HEB items weren’t available in organic). Note that a pint is about a pound across the board.

Click on the table to download a PDF version

The folks from W Farm & Ranch

So, here is what I would have spent if I had bought ALL OF THE ITEMS in this list (buying one pound or pint of each; in cases where there is a price range I used the average, and included organic at HEB when available for more direct food comparison):

Farmers Market: $105.17
Whole Foods: $113.96
HEB: $78.19
(but many things not available organic)
Greenling: $115.19
(with free delivery)

Beautiful spread at Green Gate Farms

As you can see, for most things the local, organic food at the farmer’s market does not necessarily cost more than at supermarkets, and in some cases is less. The same is true of Greenling. What I found interesting as well, just between the two grocery stores, is that Whole Foods is not always more expensive than an HEB or similar store.

Another thing I wanted to end this project with is some of my top recipes. I’ve posted information about my meals, recipes, ingredients and food photos throughout the experiment, so I would like to share some of my favorites, as well as a few that got the most interest and feedback. I also want to let you know about a terrific resource, Food on the Table. FOT is a great, easy-to-use website that helps you plan meals, organize a grocery list, take advantage of sales and coupons, and source good recipes. It’s also available as an iPhone app!

FOT was started by a fellow Austinite, Manuel Rosso. He used to be in the tech industry, and planning meals after work and with four kids was stressful. He combined his technology expertise, interest in food and compassion for families struggling in the same way, to create FOT. I heard about it when James Kim of the organization found this blog and contacted me. James provided a terrific, useful resource for me and my readers – definitions of the sometimes-confusing terms used with food, such as “local,” “organic,” “natural” and “fair trade.” Download it here!

My Top 10 Recipes

Voila! My chicken & veggie casserole

Chicken, Carrot & Potato Casserole I’m a fan of the one-dish meals! To me, this was sort of a French-country style dish. I used organic chicken thigh pieces, and regular red wine instead of sherry. I also threw in a little fresh purslane. It was filling and savory, and my guy really loved it.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup This is one of two recipes from Kathryn Hutchison, aka the Austin Gastronomist. I love soups, and I really love butternut or acorn squash soup. Anything with curry is just a bonus for me. I garnished it with some fresh basil and lemongrass from my herb garden, since cilantro isn’t growing locally right now. Too hot Texas summer! This is easy to make in big quantities, and refrigerate for lunches or to go with a dinner all week long.

5 Ingredient Peach Crisp This was extremely quick and easy to make. I used nectarines instead of peaches, because those are what came in my Greenling box. I also added blueberries, and a bit of vanilla. It was so good, just the way I like a dessert – fresh and light tasting, not too rich or sweet. The fresh fruit flavor was amazing, and the crust topping tasted just like an oatmeal cookie. I recommend eating it warm from the oven…

Shrimp & Okra Gumbo

Shrimp Gumbo I wanted to do something with my okra, so I decided to make a gumbo with shrimp. I did it the very long, totally from scratch way, which was well worth it. This was seriously one of the best things I’ve made or eaten all year. Unlike the recipe, I did not use frozen okra but fresh; and I did not used canned diced tomatoes, but rather fresh tomatoes that I long-simmered. I also did not put any sausage in my gumbo. Although it sounds like a lot of work, it isn’t as much as it seems because it’s all done in a slow cooker. It does take a lot of time, but not as much actual work/cooking time as you’d think. I started by letting the chopped tomatoes and okra slow cook in a little water and salt for several hours in my crockpot; then I continued with the rest of the recipe. I also use butter instead of oil for my roux; making your own roux is a big part of making this recipe stellar!

Create Your Own Pizza I really like making homemade pizza, and do so pretty frequently. It’s always good when you want to just throw in different things you have in the fridge, and it’s so much tastier and cheaper than most pizzerias. This is a new pizza crust recipe that was recommended by a fellow blogger, and I loved it.

Baba Ganoush I am a huge fan of both hummus and baba ganoush; they’re great for parties, as an appetizer, and just for general snacking. Plus, baba ganoush is just as fun to say as it is to eat. I had a lot of eggplant from my Greenling and farmer’s market hauls, so I decided to whip up some of this. And the recipe post is great – David Lebovitz starts with a great story about the French and their dining customs, and he calls this food “caviar d’aubergines,” which is a far better name if you ask me. Very tasty recipe.

Fig & Lemon Chicken

Fig & Lemon Chicken I got a whole pint of figs from Greenling, and looked up main dish recipes. I really like figs with savory things, like on pizza with prosciutto and blue cheese. This is an Egyptian recipe, and it was very easy to make. The lemon and fig together were zesty in a great way. I used local ground chicken; I find it to be much more tender and really soaks up the flavorings from such ingredients. I served it with plain rice with a little fresh cilantro and pepper stirred in.

Eggplant & Tomato Casserole I made this one night when my daughter came over for dinner. It was really easy, hearty and filling. Another one dish meal!  This recipe calls for sausage, which I did not put in. Also, I used small Asian eggplants, and I think the thicker globe eggplant would be better.

Potato Salad with Lamb's Quarter

Potato Salad with Lamb’s Quarter Paige Hill of Urban Patchworks told me about lamb’s quarter when I interviewed her, and gave me some to try. I added it to this terrific old-fashioned potato salad, and it was a refreshing taste addition. The potato salad was my favorite part of the meal that night!

Tomato-Watermelon Salad This was a big hit, as you can see in my previous post. Many people were intrigued and tried it. Delicious, with avocado, onion, oil & vinegar. The watermelon just adds some surprising sweetness.

And I’ll add a drink to this list as well:

My blueberry version of this lemonade

Nectarine Basil Lemonade What better refreshment is there on a hot summer day than lemonade? Although making your own sort of “infused” lemonades looks like a lot of trouble at first glance, it’s actually quite easy. And once you do it the first time, it’s a pretty quick cinch afterwards. I have adapted this recipe to use other fruits and herbs too; I last made it with blueberries and mint, and I would like to try another fruit with ginger.

As a last push for eating local before signing off this project, I have to say that the food really tasted better and of course, the fresh and organic aspect is much healthier. I enjoyed going to the farmers markets, visiting local urban farms and trying new recipes. And if you need any more reason to eat local, check out this chart that shows just exactly what happens on the non-local food route. Eat Well, and I’ll see you soon on the next project!

4 Responses to “Price Comparisons & My Top 10 Recipes”

  1. MaryAnn Reynolds August 6, 2011 at 11:19 am #

    This is very valuable data, Shelley! Thanks for doing the research. Might be handy for someone who has the time to print this list and comparison shop at Sun Harvest, Wheatsville, Central Market, and some of the newer organic grocery stores as well.

    I see more farmers’ markets in my future.

  2. stitchknit August 6, 2011 at 12:05 pm #

    What a great post! I learned alot, and you confirmed things I thought were true but hadn’t taken the time to research.

    I frequently do 30 day experiments too, and find them an easy way to change behaviors. Once I get the 30 days done, it seems easy to just incorporate my new finds into my daily life here.

    Just signed up to follow!

  3. lindayoga August 6, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

    This quote came to mind after looking at your beautiful dishes.
    “Cookery is not chemistry. It is an art. It requires instinct
    and taste rather than exact measurements.”
    – Marcel Boulestin

  4. Amanda August 8, 2011 at 2:54 pm #

    Great post! Thank you so much for including Food on the Table. I’m happy you found it useful for comparing sale items across your local grocery stores. Let us know if there is anything we can do to make it better!

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