Nutrition Education: Eating Well on a Budget with Farmers Market Produce

Brunch egg frittata with spinach, roasted red peppers, mushrooms, cheese and herbs, in cast iron skillet, horizontal, top view

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Eating nutritious meals on a budget can seem challenging, especially when you’re trying to include fresh, local ingredients from farmers markets. However, with a little planning and creativity, it’s entirely possible to enjoy healthy, delicious meals without breaking the bank. Here are some tips and tricks for making the most of your food budget, plus a simple recipe that uses fresh produce you can find at your local farmers market.

Tips and Tricks for Nutritious, Affordable Meals

  1. Plan Your Meals Around Seasonal Produce: Seasonal fruits and vegetables are not only at their peak of flavor but are also usually more affordable when they are in season. Check out what’s in season at your local farmers market and plan your meals around these ingredients.
  2. Buy in Bulk and Preserve: Take advantage of lower prices on bulk purchases by canning, freezing, or drying some of the seasonal bounty. For example, buy a large batch of tomatoes to make sauces or salsas, or apples for sauces and pies, and preserve them for use throughout the year.
  3. Incorporate More Plant-Based Meals: Plant-based ingredients like beans, lentils, and seasonal vegetables are often less expensive than meat and are full of nutrients. Try having meatless days a few times a week to reduce costs and boost your intake of vegetables and legumes.
  4. Use Whole Grains: Whole grains like brown rice, barley, and quinoa are excellent, low-cost staples that can serve as the base for many meals. They are not only filling but also offer fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
  5. Be Smart About Protein: While meat can be expensive, there are other ways to get protein without the high cost. Eggs, canned fish, legumes, and tofu are all affordable protein sources that are versatile and nutritious.
  6. Reduce Food Waste: Plan to use every part of the foods you buy. For example, vegetable trimmings can be saved to make stock, and stale bread can be turned into croutons or breadcrumbs.
  7. Shop Smart: Compare prices, use coupons, and be aware of sales at local stores. Sometimes, buying certain staples like grains or canned goods in a conventional store and fresh produce at a farmers market can balance your budget and diet.
  8. Grow Your Own Herbs: Herbs at the grocery store are expensive and often go bad quickly. Growing your own herbs in pots or a garden can save money and enhance your cooking.

Simple Farmers Market Recipe: Fresh Vegetable Frittata

A frittata is a great way to use a variety of vegetables and can be served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Here’s a simple recipe that showcases fresh, local produce and eggs, often found at farmers markets.

Ingredients:

  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cups of mixed vegetables (e.g., bell peppers, zucchini, spinach, and tomatoes), chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese (such as cheddar or feta)
  • Fresh herbs (like basil, parsley, or chives), for garnish

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the Oven: Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C).
  2. Prepare the Egg Mixture: In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
  3. Sauté the Vegetables: Heat the olive oil in a 10-inch oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 3 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and mixed vegetables, and cook for another 5 minutes, until the vegetables are just tender.
  4. Combine and Cook: Pour the egg mixture over the sautéed vegetables in the skillet. Stir gently to ensure the eggs cover all the vegetables. Sprinkle the cheese evenly on top.
  5. Bake the Frittata: Transfer the skillet to the preheated oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the eggs are set and the top is lightly golden.
  6. Garnish and Serve: Remove from the oven, let sit for a couple of minutes, and then sprinkle with fresh herbs. Slice and serve warm.

 

This frittata is perfect for using up any leftover vegetables you have on hand and pairs well with a simple salad or some whole grain bread for a complete, nutritious meal.

Conclusion

Eating well on a budget is all about making smart choices, being creative with your meals, and taking advantage of what’s locally available at farmers markets. By incorporating these tips and trying out simple recipes like the Fresh Vegetable Frittata, you can enjoy delicious, healthy meals without spending a fortune. Embrace the bounty that your local farmers provide and make every meal an opportunity to support your health and your community!

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