Cooking on a College Student’s Budget

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By Courtney Kramer

I spent the summer of 2017 as a Saratoga Farmers’ Market intern. Before that point, I had no experience whatsoever with farmers’ markets. However, I did have an innate passion for fresh meals with locally grown produce.

As a result, I came to the internship with a desire to learn how to cook better for myself and to use farmers’ markets as at least one of my sources for fresh, locally produced food.

But I knew very little about how farmers’ markets operated. I did have a lot of questions:

  • Would every stand sell fruits and vegetables?
  • Would each week bring different vendors?
  • How would non-cash transactions be handled?
  • What would happen if it rained?

I got some answers to these questions through my internship. But I also learned something more important. I learned how to cook, easily and quickly, and most importantly on the budget of a 20-year-old college student.

My grandmother is Italian. I lived seven doors away from her my entire life. I grew up with home-cooked Italian meals featuring fresh zucchini, tomatoes, and peppers along with spicy sausages and pasta.

On my own as a college student, I came to realize how much those fresh Italian dinners spoiled me. In college, I can eat in the college cafeteria or cook in my apartment. The latter option is more appealing, but time also matters: there’s school work, extracurriculars, and a social life. What could I do to cook quickly, easily and on a budget?

Broccoli from Humiston’s Vegetables, photo courtesy of Pattie Garrett

Working for the Saratoga Farmers’ Market gave me answers to those questions. I spoke with farmers, Cornell Cooperative Extension food experts, volunteers and customers who are experts on how to use fresh produce well. A few go-to ingredients that I’ll bring back to college with me:

  • Spinach (or any other cooking green): Whether you steam it or cream it as a side dish, put it on a sandwich, wilt it into pasta, it’s flavorful, colorful and nutritious.
  • Zucchini: These massive summer squashes are the most versatile veggies around. Use them as an appetizer, a side, an entrée, or dessert. They also pair well with tomatoes.
  • Broccoli: I can bake it, steam it, or saute it in minutes.

The Saratoga Farmers’ Market is 3-6 p.m. Wednesdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays through October at High Rock Park. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.