fish market

Not far from where I grew up in Brooklyn, there was a fish market and a butcher shop. I remember my mother and grandmother shopping at those stores every week. The meat and fish were clearly displayed in clean window cases, and customers spoke with the butcher or fishmonger about what they wanted.

Mom shopped with a meal plan in mind. “I am going to make flounder fillets for Fridays supper,” she might say. After she selected the fish from the case, the fishmonger would scale and fillet it for her. He weighed the fish and wrapped it in paper and it was exactly what she wanted, never a bit of waste.

And the butcher was sure to give his regular customers the best and even trim it to look pretty. “Take off the fat,” Grandma Jennie might say, or “Take off a little, I don’t need a whole pound,” and he was happy to comply. Making those fussy ladies happy was his bread and butter!

These days, I am so happy to have a fish counter in my local market where I can buy a single filet of cod (instead of a big family-size package). And the man at the counter remembers that I like my fish wrapped in paper, not the plastic they usually use. Two crab cakes or one piece of fish is enough for me tonight; I get what I need and there’s no waste.

Although I seldom eat red meat, there are two butcher shops near where I live where I can go and — just like my mom and grandma — talk to the butcher about what I want. I can ask for “one chicken breast, bone in and skin on for soup,” and get just what I need. By asking for my purchase to be wrapped in paper, I avoid lots of packaging and unrecyclable foam trays. And I like supporting these smaller, local businesses.

I kind of enjoy my little trips to these shops. As a single person, they make it easy to tailor my purchases to my needs and avoid food waste. The men who work at the counter are very friendly and have even passed along a recipe or two!

Feature image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay 

By Joanna Lacey

Joanna Lacey lives in New York and has collected thousands of ideas from the frugal habits of her mother and grandmother. You can find her on Facebook at Joanna the Green Maven.