Due to a recent move from a vibrant and diverse urban area to a quieter suburban neighborhood; I’ve found myself seeking out ways to add some variety to my meals. A weekly trip to a local meat, produce or international style market helps to change things up and keep me within budget.
I did a bit of asking around as well as searching online and have found two markets that have a unique variety of produce, protein and specialty items from all over Latin America, Asia and Europe. What I absolutely love is that even though some of the items I find aren’t ones that I use every day, I am able to get my staple vegetables and meats while trying something new from a different corner of the Earth – all at a fair price.
My visits have also provided me with an education. Because these markets are usually family owned, they have all the perks of people who truly care about their own business. The butchers tend to be great guys that want to teach customers how to get the most out of their protein purchases. I especially love my fish guy who will prep and portion out a whole fish in such a pretty way (no extra charge!) I’ve even learned to ask for extra bones when I am buying a roast, this way I can use them along with my leftovers to make a delicious meat sauce for my linguini.
One of my favorite things to do is visit the market, walk around and uncover new things. I have found inspiration in new ingredients while at the store, taken a picture of them and gone home to search online for a recipe. One thing that I have discovered in my local markets is that vegetables with only a day or two of life left in them are gathered in groups, wrapped in plastic and sold for 50 to 75 cents a bunch.
I enjoy trying some of the packaged, imported ingredients. These however, can be a bit pricier. Once a month, I might pick up some Italian cookies or Japanese noodles that I just can’t find anywhere else. One thing that I do not buy at these markets is name brand, packaged products that can easily be couponed for or found on sale at your standard grocery store. Nine out of ten times, they are more expensive at these smaller stores.
I encourage you to do a search for a market in your area and try it out. You will be reaping the rewards from a business that has relationships with local farmers as well as manufacturers that create unique goodies on the other side of the world.