Some disappointments with fresh food shopping

At least once, and when possible twice a week, I’ve been finding farmer’s markets or flea markets that have farm stands to grab as much fresh local items that I can while I still have the freezer space. The theory is, I’ll use them all winter while those items are out of season so that I don’t have to buy as much non-local stuff during the winter from the grocery store. I should be able to keep stockpiling through the end of October. During the winter, there may still be some items from local farms like root vegetables, but the major amount of the fresh items we consume most often (tomatoes, bell peppers, fruit) will probably have passed. Peaches will be out, apples will be in for a few months, canned items will be on sale, but we’ll be back to bagged lettuce and store-bought melons. This is my first year trying a major stockpile of the local items, so I’ll evaluate after the winter’s over and see how it went. As the freezer space opens up, I’ll fill it with meat deals and other items that freeze well that will go on sale during the winter. At the end of the winter, I usually end up with two or more large hams, three or four turkeys, and lots of bacon. That works out great because chicken and ground beef are mostly on sale during barbeque times in the summer and early fall.

The biggest disappointment I’ve had so far has been in the local farm steaks. We really enjoy a tender ribeye steak, and I have yet to find one. They are so expensive – $20-$24 a pound – that they had better be perfect when you pay that much. So far, we’ve had nothing but tough, gristly meat from the farms we’ve tried. Even the ones that brag about how good their steaks are. I’ll keep trying, but I’ve wasted so much money, it’s so discouraging. So far, the only good ribeye steaks we’ve had have been from mail order companies out West that sell online, or in a restaurant. I’m not sure what the secret is, and I’m not sure why these local farms think that having to saw and saw and pick and pry to get their steaks apart in a way that you can actually put it in your mouth is a good thing. I don’t get it. I’ve had good steaks before, I know what they are like. I don’t understand the poor quality standards at all.

No, we don2015-09-03 17.39.50‘t have a problem with our knives. They’re sharp. And on the steaks we order online from meat distributors out West, they cut very easily. I’m old enough to know the difference between a tough steak and a dull knife.

When you put the bite in your mouth, and you have to chew and chew and still can’t break it down, and you end up giving up and spitting it out … that’s a tough steak. It really burns to spend $20 on two 8-ounce Delmonico cut steaks just to have a third of it left on your plate because you can’t cut it, or spit out in your napkin because you can’t chew it. It’s really irritating and I don’t understand why these farms do not know that tender steaks do exist.

So … I have this beautiful plate, with home grown roasted butternut squash, fresh salad ingredients, dressing from a local farm, mushrooms and onions, and an inedible slab of chewy meat. It looked great and smelled great, and we could only eat about two-thirds of it and the parts we could eat, weren’t that tasty. Disappointing.

I guess the only other disappointment I’ve had lately has been inconsistency in the size and quality of some of the fresh items, such as, when you buy a bag of onions, there are often one or two bad ones in the bag. Same with a basket of peppers, tomatoes, or peaches – most of the ones on the outside will be great, but in the middle they tend to be bruised, squished, and sometimes have bugs or mold. I just feel like there should be a little more pride in your product, in general.

They aren’t all like that, but it happens more often than I feel it should. It is true that the taste of most local items are far superior to the grocery store ones, and I believe in the evidence that the nutritional content is better the longer something stays on the vine/stalk/branch, so I will still continue, but I am winnowing down my list of the places to which I will return to be a repeat customer. Quality and consistency matter as well as price and location, and I do believe in supporting local businesses, so I’ll keep trying. The ones that deliver on these important qualities, I hope to be their customer for a long time.

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