With inflation rising, everyone is looking for a way to save money, especially when it comes to groceries. Farmer’s markets are a summer tradition and great places to find fresh seasonal produce at more affordable prices.
The epitome of what shopping local is all about, they can also be overwhelming and unfamiliar; mazes of stalls selling everything from heirloom tomatoes and Asian spinach to a thousand different types of radishes.
The following simple tips will help make a trip to a farmer’s market cost-effective and enjoyable.
Although many vendors have portable debit machines or accept credit cards, some don’t. As I’ve learned the hard way, these vendors will be the ones you want to buy from. Small bills and coins will simplify payment and give the vendor much-needed change for other customers.
Many vendors won’t have bags, so bringing something to carry your purchases is a good idea. A small, lightweight cooler bag is great for keeping fruits and vegetables from wilting or spoiling on a hot day.
Before making a purchase, walk around to see what’s available and compare the prices and quality of the produce.
Everything looks enticing at a farmer’s market, and it’s tempting to want to try and buy all that catches your eye. But, before you head out, think about your weekly meal plan and list what you’ll need. Doing so will save you time and money.
Keep Harvest Times In Mind
Even though you may have your heart set on Brussels sprouts, remember that in most areas, this crop is harvested later in the growing season. On the other hand, veggies like zucchini, snap peas, or pole beans are ready mid-summer.
Pick Your Time
Arriving as the gates open helps you avoid crowds and get first pick at the produce. But I like going at the end of the day. The selection may be less, but vendors are anxious to pack up and often will mark down what they haven’t already sold. It’s a great time to get bargains.
It’s tempting to try and negotiate deals, but remember, for most vendors, this is how they make their living, and the prices are already better than the supermarket.
Farmer’s markets are great places to showcase niche crops, like heirloom fruits and vegetables. A purple heirloom tomato may not be something familiar, but give it a try; you might like it. I did.
Buy More Than Vegetables And Fruit
Farmer’s markets also sell locally made artisan and baked goods, fresh eggs, local honey, preserves, beauty products, wild foods, and speciality wines and spirits. Don’t limit yourself. Remember, it’s about supporting local as much as getting a good deal on lettuce.
Finding A Farmer’s Market
Farmers’ market associations provide days and times when markets will operate in your area. An online search should provide a comprehensive list. Check them all out, then choose a favourite. By supporting a local farmer’s market, you’re helping the local economy, getting nutritious products at reasonable prices, and encouraging a growing movement towards local and regionally sourced goods.