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These farmers market shopping tips will help you to save time and money while picking out the best possible local food at your weekly market.
I love shopping at farmers markets. I don’t actually get to my own local farmers market that often because I have a weekly farm share, but I always stop at farmers markets when I’m on vacation. It’s a great way to catch the local vibe when visiting a new place. Jean Talon Market in Montreal and the Brattleboro, Vermont farmers market are a couple of my favorites, but I’ve yet to meet a farmers market I didn’t love.
It’s easy to get caught up in all the local artisan product booths at the farmers market. Next thing you know, you’re out $50 and you didn’t even buy any vegetables.
These tips will help you to save money and shop efficiently. Keep them in mind the next time you’re at the farmers market.
Farmers Market Shopping Tips
Plan Your Meals Before Shopping
There’s always room for spontaneity at the farmers market, but it’s best to also have a meal plan figured out before you shop. This will save you time because it will help focus your shopping list. Meal planning also saves you money because you don’t end up buying things that you’re not sure if you’ll use.
Come Prepared with Cash and Reusable Bags
Set a budget for your shopping trip and bring cash in small bills. This will speed up your purchases, and you won’t miss out on buying things from the farmers who don’t take credit cards. It’s helpful for everyone if you also bring your own shopping bags to the market.
Shop Early for the Highest Quality Produce
The best quality items, as well as those that aren’t plentiful on a given week, will always sell out early. If you want early tomatoes, corn, or eggplant, go to the market when it opens for the best selection.
Go Late in the Day for Bargains
On the other hand, you can get some of the best deals at the end of the day. The farmers don’t want to lug their produce back onto their trucks at the end of the market, so they’re often willing to sell items for less at the end of the day.
Limit Prepared Foods
Somewhere along the way, artisan cinnamon rolls made their way into the farmers market scene. I love cinnamon rolls as much as the next person, but keep in mind that you’re at the farmers market, not the bakery. Set a limit on prepared food purchases, and focus most of your shopping on fresh produce and responsibly raised meat.
Talk to the Farmers
The farmers know their products better than anyone, so talk to them. Ask if their items are organic or non-GMO. They may not be certified organic, but that doesn’t mean they have pesticides on them. Also find out what the farmers recommend you buy from one week to the next. In the fall, there are so many different varieties of apples available here in Massachusetts. It’s great to get tips about which ones are the best from the people who actually work in the orchards.
Try Something New
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut when it comes to food, but variety is so important. Challenge yourself to try something new from the farmers market every time you go. Fennel or fiddleheads may just become your new favorite thing.
Get Your Kids Involved
Many children “don’t like vegetables,” but they may surprise themselves if they try something new fresh from the farm. Give your kids a few dollars at the farmers market and tell them they can buy any non-prepared food item they want. Their natural curiosity may help open their minds to new foods that they wouldn’t even consider eating if you simply dropped them on their plates at dinnertime.
To find a farmers market in your area, visit Local Harvest.
What would you add to this list of farmers market shopping tips? Please share in the comments!