How much food does $20 buy at the Market?

How much food does 20$ buy at the Market?

Hello, everyone. My name is Emily Sirota and I am the Davidson Farmer’s Market Summer Intern for 2017. This past Saturday, I was determined to answer the question above and so I set out to the Market vendors for answers. While my experience sifting through the market for the least-costly (unprepared food) items proved to be somewhat of a challenge at first, it was ultimately rewarding. Before I explain, you might be wondering why I set out to accomplish this feat in the first place. 


This upcoming Wednesday, the Davidson Farmer’s Market will host its first Chef Demo at the Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry at the Ada Jenkins Center in Davidson. The Pantry’s mission is to provide “nutritionally balanced groceries to individuals and families in Charlotte-Mecklenburg who are in a short-term crisis” ( Shoppers who qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are given an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) that may be used at a food pantry or the Davidson Farmer’s Market. The goal of the Farmer’s Market Chef Demos is to introduce market goods to Pantry shoppers and inform shoppers of an alternative for their food options.

Fact: The Davidson Farmer’s Market will match up to $20 on any SNAP funded purchases. My mission to discover how much 20$ will buy at the market was not only out of curiosity, but also for its valuable information which I could present to shoppers at the Market’s upcoming Chef Demo.


Here is what I purchased:

  • 2 tomatoes (one large and one small) ($2.25 approx.)
  • 1 large white onion ($2.50)
  • 1 kale bundle ($2.50)
  • 1 small zucchini ($1.25 approx.)
  • 1 small yellow squash ($1.25 approx.)
  • 1 Ciabatta bread loaf ($5.00)
  • 1 lb. pork sausage ($5.00)
  • 1 pepper ($0.25)
  • 1 free peach!

After about 45 minutes of scanning vendor prices, talking to my farmers, and purchasing fresh market goods, I left with a full basket of ingredients sufficient for at least one meal. 

Even more than the ingredients themselves, my $20 market challenge was important because….

The experience encouraged much-needed and important dialogue between me and local farmers at the Market, and my attention to specific pricing facilitated our conversations. I would ask questions like “how much would these two vegetables cost?”, “about what sized tomato(s) would cost $1?”, and “what can I buy with a quarter?”.

  • This entire process changed my perspective. As a college student living on a budget in an apartment off campus myself, I am always conscious of how much money I spend, especially when it comes to food. I have come to understand that food is expensive. When it comes to buying food on a budget, it is important to talk to farmers and plan shopping accordingly.
  • This experience also sparked new personal relationships. As I began to talk to my farmers about my food, I established a baseline of trust. I also began to understand how my food was grown and produced and learned it is important to spend money on food that is quality and comes from ethical food practices. I was then more conscious of my decision to support local farmers who farm for the right reasons.

Tips and thoughts for shopping the market on a budget:

  • In order to purchase foods for a balanced meal, I had to be conscious of my money allocation to different food categories. It was extremely helpful to go into the Market with a plan and guide for when I shopped. I suggest writing out different food categories with price estimates beforehand.

    Listing food categories with specific price estimates is one trick for buying Market foods on a budget.

  • Market foods are quality foods.  Later for dinner that night, when I tasted my goods, I cooked the pork and discovered what real pork is supposed to taste like! I also cooked up some zucchini for a side, (which I made into noodles or “zoodles”) and, from that moment, I decided I would continue to buy my meat and produce from the market every week.
  • Here is the dish I made with some of my fresh Market ingredients.

  • Proper food storage is key. If well stored and preserved, some of the Market’s more “costly” items are certainly a “bang-for-your-buck.” See pictures below for produce storage tips (courtesy of Davidson Farmer’s Market).




  • Talk to your farmers. Ask them questions, and trust me when I say this – they love it. Hey, as a result, you might even get a farm-fresh and free peach (just like I did) in the process.

Posted by Emily