Last Sunday I made my usual rounds at the Dupont market, but this time I kept track of exactly what I spent. For $35 dollars, I brought home:
A half gallon of creamline milk, a wedge of specialty cheese, a quart of lard (more on that in future posts), a pound or two of green beans, two ears of corn, six medium purple peppers, one medium zucchini, a head of romaine, a large slicing tomato, a peach, two onions, and a half dozen eggs.
For the cost, is this a lot of food or a little? To me it seems like a lot, but maybe I’ve just gotten used to the prices. Farmers markets are (sometimes wrongly, often rightly) accused of being expensive. But as I’ve said before, with regard to local free-range eggs, it all depends on your frame of reference. In absolute terms, many of the items at the market are not exorbitantly priced, it’s just that mass-produced supermarket food can be so damn cheap by comparison.
But then, of course, there’s the issue of quality. Even skeptics would agree that the average farmer’s market item is of higher quality and superior flavor than the average supermarket item. The question is whether it’s worth the added cost. I say yes, but others might have valid reasons to say no.
There is also a behavioral element. The high quality, I have noticed, inspires positive changes in my eating and cooking patterns. I am more likely to make a lunch to bring to work with me, which saves me money (lunch in downtown DC is pricey). I am less likely to let things get old in the fridge and have to be tossed. I am more likely to have friends over for dinner instead of suggesting we go out. So from an economic standpoint, I am not convinced that there is a huge gap between what I currently spend on food and what I would spend if I stopped going to the farmer’s market.
Have any other locavores out there experienced similar behavior changes? Or is this all just meaningless justification for being a bourgeois food snob?