Farmers Market Tips for Saving on Food
Depending on where you live, your local farmers market could be a year round attraction or a short seasonal experience. Either way, when these markets are open, they provide a great opportunity for you to meet some of the fascinating people behind your local food supply. Plus, it’s a lot of fun to sample new fruits and vegetables while strolling the bins and bumping into friends and neighbors.
“Picture yourself at the Farmer’s Market on a beautiful Sunday morning,” said Jean Prominski, founder of home and life organizing service, Seattle Sparkle in her blog about aspirational grocery shopping. “You feel good because you’re supporting local farmers, your social tank is filled up because you got to see some of your friends, and you’re feeling optimistic about the fact that you’ve finally decided to start eating more vegetables and less take-out food or microwaved meals. Fast forward to the end of the week and half of all those once beautiful vegetables are now wilting in the back of your fridge. Trust me, it happens to the best of us! Many families in the US could save $1800-$2000 on wasted food per year.”
We’ve got a few tips to make the most of your next stroll through the farmers market:
- Take a full lap first – On the first round, make note of what’s in season, what looks appetizing, and what’s on sale. On the second round, prepare to buy! In between laps, take a snack break at a local food truck or coffee stand.
- Wheel and deal – but don’t lowball. Your local farmer isn’t some large multinational corporation riding big margins to pay off shareholders. The person you’re buying from likely has helped nurture the produce you’re about to buy from seedling to harvest. Pay the prices listed, or ask what deals they’re willing to make – perhaps on slow moving produce or if you’re willing to buy a lot.
- Get to know the vendors – This is a relationship that’ll pay off in more ways than dollars and cents. Get to know the people behind the stands, their names, and their stories. Share yours, too – especially what types of foods you love. Share recipes and give feedback on how you’ve enjoyed previous purchases. Genuine friendships are priceless – and you just may score some sweet deals (or free samples), too.
- Help vendors pack up – Near the end of the market’s day, if you see a vendor with a lot of leftovers, don’t assume it’s all going to waste. That product might be sold elsewhere or be donated to a food bank. Still, you can step over and ask if there are deals to be had for you helping to lighten their trip back to the farm.
- Bring cash – While many vendors now offer digital payments, they have to pay fees for those transactions. Cash, especially small bills, helps you pay exact amounts and helps vendors save money on extra fees. Go even further by telling them to “keep the change” when it comes to coins – sure this adds less than a dollar to your purchase, but the kindness does wonders for the vendor who may have challenges having enough coins on hand.
- Visit the slower booths – While certain booths may have long lines, others – such as homemade jams and jelly, soups and honeys, cooking oils and artisan foods may be a bit slower; get to know these vendors – They will appreciate the traffic and may be willing to offer deals to encourage sampling with hopes of repeat business.
- And most importantly – make a plan to eat what you buy! Prominski recommends her clients have an organization plan for that crisper drawer in your fridge. “I like to recommend coming up with a system that encourages you to use the older vegetables first so that they don’t get neglected,” she says. “Rotating older items to the left and filling in the new items on the right seems to work for a lot of people.”