One of the biggest challenges facing anyone with a busy lifestyle and a tight budget is figuring out how to put healthy, nutritious meals on the table for your family. For starters, you need fresh, quality ingredients. Let’s be honest though…finding high quality, fresh ingredients that fit in your budget can be a little bit of a challenge. Thankfully, almost every community has a solution to your dilemma nearby. At the local Farmer’s Market, you can find fruits and vegetables that are grown in your hometown. The Farmer’s Market also often features hard-to-find items that never show up in your grocery store’s produce aisle.
We utilize our Farmer’s Market and it saves us a ton of money each year. Plus, the quality of the fruits and vegetables we get is much better than the ones we get at our regular grocery store.
If you’ve never shopped the Farmer’s Market before, here are some helpful tips to help you save big and get super tasty produce!
Farmer’s Market Shopping Tips
1. Arrive early.
To ensure you have the best selection of homegrown, fresh food available, plan to arrive at the Farmer’s market when it opens. Smart shoppers know that the best produce is sold fast. Arriving even a half-hour or an hour after the market opens could mean that much less of the good stuff is available to you.
2. Dress appropriately.
Most Farmer’s markets are held outdoors. Plan to stay a while and dress comfortably. If you’re in a hot climate attending a Farmer’s market in the summer, wear a hat and sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun. If it’s cold, wear layers to stay warm for as long as you wish to stay and shop.
3. Buy what you like when you see it.
If you see something you like, remember that it’ll likely be gone the next time you pass by that booth. Farmers work hard for their money, and they’ll seldom hold produce for you if a buyer walks up and is ready to pay for it. You miss out on some excellent deals unless you jump on them right away.
4. Prepare for variety.
Depending on your location, its climate, and the time of year you visit to the Farmer’s market, the selection can vary widely from week to week. If you see something you like, jump on it. It may not be available next week.
5. Bring an open mind.
Many who are new to Farmer’s markets make the mistake of only purchasing items they’re used to cooking with. The Farmer’s market is your opportunity to experiment with flavors that are foreign to you. You’ll find palate pleasing fruits and vegetables that add variety to your home’s menu.
6. Be willing to leave your comfort zone.
Even produce you’ve never heard of before can add zing to your food. While you may not know how you’re going to use each ingredient you purchase while you’re at the market, it’s easy to find recipes that use each ingredient online.
One thing that’s been really helpful for our family is to ask lots of questions of the sellers. Keep in mind that the farmers selling their goods are experts in the produce they’re selling. If you ask them for examples of how to use unfamiliar produce in your cooking, they’ll often be more than happy to give you an idea or two. We’ve discovered some awesome new recipes this way!
7. Bring cash.
We use the envelope system at our house, so I’m a big fan of paying for everything with cash anyway, but I know not everyone is like me. In most Farmer’s markets, the only way to pay is with cash. Stop by the ATM on your way to the market to ensure you’re able to enjoy the unique, homegrown produce that you find there.
8. Give yourself time to look around.
I know this kind of goes against #3, but by doing so, you may save money by finding a different vendor with the same produce at lower prices. Even if you buy what you like when you see it, look around and compare prices. You may discover a new favorite vendor to shop from on a weekly basis because they have better prices or better produce. Also, by looking around, you may find items other than fruits and vegetables that suit your fancy. We buy honey, jams, maple syrup and some gluten-free baked goods at our local farmer’s market.
Often, some of the best breads and organic jellies can also be found at your local farmers market at prices lower than the stores. In addition, nonfood items like homemade soaps and crafts can be found at the Farmer’s market at bargain prices.
9. Get to know the vendors at your local Farmer’s Market.
Most Farmer’s Markets have the same vendors week after week. When you get to know your local vendors, you increase your chances of getting good deals, learning about new fruits and vegetables, and be exposed to awesome recipes. In the past, we’ve had vendors at our Farmer’s Market make special things just for our kids…and they didn’t even charge us for them!
By visiting your local farmers market and using these tips, you can enjoy fresh food and fresh savings. In addition, you’ll be supporting your local community while cooking with and eating healthy, mostly organic ingredients. Your local Farmer’s Market offers affordable prices, a unique selection, and a chance to try new foods that’ll make you smile.