We did indeed shop yesterday at the Red Barn in Bradenton, where we bought what will probably be all the fresh produce we’ll need for the week. We began with a Mexican friend who runs one of the vegetable stalls with her husband and two sons. She has an endearing custom of packaging diverse vegetables into what we call ‘kits.’ And irrespective of the contents, she sells each kit at $1.00.
For example, one Saturday, we found a kit that contained all the necessary vegetables for the Sicilian vegetable stew, caponata. Today, we bought two kits: one with four huge green and red bell peppers, and another with a Florida onion, a dozen plum tomatoes, and four cucumbers.
Seperately, we selected some Florida white onions, 3 lemons, 3 limes, and a large Florida avocado. Total price: $5.40.
At another stall across the way, we found a very large head of Romaine lettuce, and two large bunches of flat-leaf Italian parsley. Total price: $2.50.
The first stall at the entryway to the market yielded two eggplants at 2/$1.00, a 5 Lb. Bag of red-skinned potatoes, and 3 sweet potatoes. Total price: $3.19.
Total for the Red Barn: $11.09.
On our way home, we stopped at Wal*Mart Super Center on State Road 70 to buy coffee (French Roast 100% Arabica. 2 Lb. 2.5 oz. for $5.58). While we were there, we found rotisserie chickens* on sale. The one we selected was approximately 1.5 Lb., came off the rotisserie at 11:35 a.m. and cost $3.98. And while we weren’t “shopping” per se, we also spotted some Barilla pasta in a hard-to-find shape we like, so we picked up a pound at $0.98.
Total for Wal*Mart: 10.80 – 3.98 = $6.82 (We had to pay for the chicken outside our food stamp allowance).
Total so far: $17.81. Total remaining: $24.09.
- Note: under the current guidelines, the chicken would not be eligible for purchase with food stamps. Florida eligibility guidelines exclude take-out and “hot foods.” We consider this unfortunate, because we’ll probably get two meals out of our chicken. And we think that beyond the price, it’s a great way to conserve energy—particularly during this hot weather. For two meals, our energy use for preparation and washing up will be practically nil.
- Note also: Just for fun, we took our Red Barn shopping list to Whole Foods this afternoon. Buying these ingredients at Whole Foods—not all of which were organic—would have cost us $55.48.
But we’re not here to fix a broken world. We’re merely trying to live within the guidelines and to report our experiences.
Considering the bounty we brought home, it seemed reasonable to use some of it right away rather than store it. And again, we’re also mindful of our fossil fuel consumption in hot weather. A salad seemed a great choice for lunch. We had some motivation to make this Tuscan bread salad, because we had two ciabatta rolls “of a certain age” in the fridge. Sometimes, even a stale ingredient can stimulate an idea for a meal.
Tuscans are particularly frugal when it comes to bread, and have found some creative ways to use leftovers no longer suitable for the table. Most notable among them are, papa al pomodoro, tomato and bread soup, and this salad, panzanella.
Tuscan Bread Salad
4 slices stale Italian bread (We used two ciabatta rolls)
1 Clove garlic, peeled, and halved
4 tomatoes, cut into 1″ chunks
1 Large Bermuda onion, peeled, and thinly sliced
1 Medium cucumber, peeled, and sliced into 1/4″ rounds
2 – 4 Tbs. Red wine vinegar
4 Tbs. Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt & freshly-ground black pepper
4 Tbs. Flat-leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped
Crumble the bread into rough chunks, and place in a bowl with three or four cups of cold water for about five minutes. While the bread is soaking, rub the inside of a salad bowl with the exposed portions of the garlic. One fistful at a time, squeeze as much water as you can from the bread and add it to the salad bowl.
Break up the bread with a fork, then add the tomatoes, Bermuda onion, cucumber, red wine vinegar, olive oil, and toss to coat all the ingredients. Taste for salt & pepper and add them to your taste.
Add the parsley, divide among four plates, and serve immediately. If you prefer, you can refrigerate the Panzanella for about 1/2 hour before serving. If you plan to do this, though, omit the salt until serving time because the salt will leach moisture from the tomatoes.
Note: This recipe, as written, will indeed serve four very nicely. But for us, it made an abundant lunch for two.
Links to the rest of the posts in our series:
Living on $42.00 Per Week—the Challenge
Living on $42.00 Per Week—Day 1
Living on $42.00 Per Week—Day 3
Living on $42.00 Per Week—Day 4
Living on $42.00 Per Week—Day 5
Living on $42.00 Per Week—Day 6
Living on $42.00 Per Week—Day 7
Living on $42.00 Per Week—Summary
Living on $42.00 Per Week—Redux