Culinary Ambassadors: Grocery Shopping in Wisconsin
Serious Eats' Culinary Ambassadors check in from time to time with reports on food fare in their homeland or countries of residence. Here's the latest! —The Mgmt.
From spring to fall, my meal plans don't start with shopping. My husband and I pick up our CSA half-share Friday evening from the Basics Co-op in town. Then I sit down to go through my backlog of bookmarked recipes and search for new ones to use up the CSA stash. Saturday morning we hit the farmers' market to fill in the gaps in the CSA: usually tomatoes, garlic, hot peppers, more onions (we always need more onions), cheeses, the best bacon in the world, and some other meats (local bison, lamb, beef).
The rest of my produce, like things that are out of season or just unavailable at the farmers' market, I try to get at the co-op. I tend to wait until the beginning of the week for co-op shopping since they have 10% off all produce on Mondays. They stock a lot of local fruits and vegetables, including these irresistible "yellow doll" watermelons. They're also a great place to pick up a few local heirloom tomatoes if I run out mid-week or some fresh, local ground beef.
Finally, I hit the local supermarket chain, Woodman's, for anything leftover. It's a huge store and some people don't like the time it takes to get through, but their prices and selection are hard to beat. I try to pick up locally grown and manufactured products when I can, and they carry a lot of Wisconsin chips, pretzels, breads, and cheeses. The international section is also decent and essential when you live in a town with a pretty small Asian grocery. I will hit the Asian or Mexican grocery occasionally to pick up an unusual item or two.
I menu-plan and shop weekly in the summer, using up our CSA loot on the off weeks. The winter involves using more canned and frozen items, including foods from the CSA that I preserved in the fall. So, I only shop every other week, but I do hit the co-op on Monday first, then Woodman's.
Our shopping priorities go: local and organic (CSA, co-op, farmers' market), then local (farmers' market and Woodman's), then just organic (co-op and Woodman's). However, there are things (like bananas) that I do not buy from any of the above categories. When I lay it out like this, it sounds like a lot of work, but I actually enjoy the challenge of finding foods that align with our philosophy and taste great but don't drain our bank account.
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To find out more about the Culinary Ambassadors initiative or sign up, see this SE Talk thread »