Jonathan and I have been living in Italy for over a month now and have slowly come to figure out the Ins and Outs of the cheapest way to eat while enjoying a culinary culture that we do not get to experience back home. We quickly realized that just like back home, eating out is not the cheapest option. There are three small markets in Capranica where we are staying and each one carries different things. One market has the biggest variety and cheapest produce while other one carries more grocery shelf items.

While it can be easy to begin to miss eating habits of home and plan out a day of pancakes and burgers, this is definitely not the cheapest way to eat or the best quality. After one walk through the market, we quickly saw that the freshest ingredients and items on sale were items that Italians eat in large quantities: tomatoes, spinach, onions, zucchini, basil, peaches, fresh mozzarella, hand-cut pasta, ravioli, pastry and pizza dough, and coffee.

We started buying fresh fruit and eggs for the morning and occasionally baking some homemade pastries with coffee and coupling pasta or individual pizzas with veggie stir fries at night. The amount we were spending on food each week was very little while at the same time we were able to feel like locals.

One thing I was confused about is that I could not find alfredo sauce no matter how hard I looked all over the market. I expected pre-made jars of alfredo to be right next to the tomato sauce jars in the pasta aisle but when I couldn’t find them, I concluded that alfredo must have been concocted by the Americans. Then one day I stumbled upon little cartons next to the eggs called “Panna Da Cucina” which means “cooking cream” but is specifically for making alfredo. After adding 1/2 cup of grated parmesan, 2 tbsp of butter and 2 tsp of salt to one container of cooking cream and stirred it constantly on the stovetop until it heated, I had the best homemade alfredo sauce I had ever tasted. (I am probably never going back to Olive Garden! :))

Other things we learned shopping and preparing our own food:

-Wash all produce before you use it to avoid a gritty dirt texture in your prepared dish.

-Always weigh each produce and put a sticker price on it before going up the the cashier for them to scan.

-Throwing pizza dough up in the air and spinning it really does work.

-Italian chocolate cereal isn’t nearly as good as American chocolate cereal.

-Bring your own bags to the market if you don’t want to get charged for one.

-Wine is ridiculously cheap in Italy. Seriously. 

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Meghan Mathews