1. Go diggin’.
This is the best time to be taking a thorough look at your pantry and freezer space and clean it out. Reach deep toward the back wall of the freezer and pull out the peppers or zucchini that once multiplied like rabbits in your garden from last summer, then throw it into a soup or a frittata. Itemize what you’ve got on hand already and plan some of your meals around those things. Then by the time the lettuce and peas and rhubarb come shooting up from the ground, you’ll once again have a place to put the goods. And a good tip for a nearly empty freezer? Place gallon jugs of water in it to maximize its efficiency.
2. Hit the streets.
Winter farmers markets are an absolute diamond in the rough in places like ours. The St. Paul Farmer’s Market for instance, though not its normal size, still boasts a jolly crew like Love Tree Farm cheese and Wolf Honey Farm raw honey on Saturdays. All participating farmers brave cold and wind to provide you with excellent local products, ranging from meat to winter veggies to handmade soaps. Here are a few more links to Winter farmers markets in the Twin Cities and beyond:
St. Paul Farmers Market Downtown - open every Saturday until April
Mill City Farmers Market (Minneapolis) - second Saturday of the month, (March 9 and April 13th)
Rochester Farmer’s Market - March 12, 16, 30, and April 20, 27
Winona Farmers Market - March 9, 23, and April 13, 27
Hands down, for the best value for your buck for organic produce, it pays to sign up for a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture. With Featherstone Farm’s CSA for instance, the range of savings can be between $95 and $330! Even if you opt for another CSA, the savings can be significant. Foodtank.org listed it as one of ten ways to slash your grocery bill while also eating healthier. But the money isn’t the only benefit; you also have the peace of mind of knowing where your food is coming from, have a relationship with your grower, and are involved in a community of like-minded people.
As long as we’re dreaming about spring, why not pine away for our favorite spring recipes and plan ahead? When you see a mouth watering recipe that uses asparagus or rhubarb or other spring specific dishes, organize them in a web clipper site such as Evernote, or take a screenshot of the page and stash it away in a desktop file. Then you have easy access to your finds for when the snow turns into fiddle ferns and green sprouting plants.
5. Get creative.
Potatoes again? Shake up your rut and experiment with some new methods of meal making. If you opt for oregano and thyme in casseroles, try Indian spicing with curries, paprikas, or cumin. If frittatas are your go-to, try a stir fry or some enchiladas. Thousands of great recipe sites abound on the web, but culinate or 101cookbooks might be a couple good places to start. Breaking out of your recipe routines or turning to a different culture for inspiration brings about a new enthusiasm for cooking and will give your taste buds a different culinary pleasure.
Unfortunately finding a wide selection of Minnesota produce year round is rather difficult (read: it’s cold), so when the going gets tough, choose food grown within the country. California is probably going to win out most of the time, but with a little snooping at local food Co-ops you may find some hydroponic tomatoes or basil grown in Wisconsin or Iowa. It’s great if we can give our state and those surrounding it some “love” instead of New Zealand, for instance.
6. Stay in the know.
Buying local is part of the answer, but understanding how to store your produce for maximum freshness is the other part of the equation to saving money and ensuring. With a little bit of scouting on the internet, you can learn how to store your veggies to keep them lasting as long as possible in the fridge/pantry. A Veggie Venture has great information on refrigerator micro climates and best storage practices, and here’s a great tip sheet on extending the life of your produce without using plastic.
-Katie Sherman is Community Outreach Coordinator for Featherstone. She blogs and writes for the farm as well as dishing out samples of our delicious produce at local markets.
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