If you're following my posts, as promised: here is the addendum for my previous post Ways to beat soaring prices where I cited shopping at your local farmer's market is one way of saving some bucks!- Which I can vouch for, being a farmer's market shopper for a time now. Shopping at the farmer's market not only keeps the money in your local economy , helping your friendly farmer neighbors but also improves your diet since it ends up cutting all sorts of processed and packaged foods in favor of raw, whole ingredients. Best of all, since they're locally produce, they're cheaper & fresher compared to store bought ones. Whether you're a new convert to the joy's of farmer's market or a long time supporter, here are some expert tip I have collected along with my own experience to help you buy wisely and make the most of the experience:
1. Be prepared - plan your day ahead. If you prefer to pay in cash, make sure you have enough small bills (Most vendors/farmers accepts credit card payments anyway, so no worry there, if you don't have cash) - but to be in the safe side, hubby & I usually stash some cash in our pockets for instances where we encounter cash only vendors. We also bring our own recyclable, reusable bags. If you love mother earth, ditch the plastic bags and provide your own eco-green bags. Put a cooler in your car too, to store perishable produce especially when you'll have to do longer rounds. Aim to arrive early to get the freshest variety available or late in the day, just before closing, to get the best bargain (but may not be as fresh).
2. Talk to Strangers - Strike up a conversation with the vendor: It may land you a better deal & discounts too. I usually chat with either the vendor or his assistants to get "inside" scoops on his produce which makes for essential choices. It also creates a relationship which will be beneficial in the long run. Also, connect with other shoppers, they are the best tools for finding best priced produce & customer-friendly vendors.
3. Be mindful of Prices - Don't jump on the 1st banana you see on sight. Some vendors sell their produce higher than others. Scour the premises for price comparison first & as soon as you find the best deal, then dude, you can grab that banana! A tactic hubby & I learn when perusing the farmer's market is to "divide & conquer". I prowl half of the premise while he scours the other half of it, then we meet in the middle and compare notes. By doing this, we get the best deals & getting the best produce we needed.
4. Sample the Goods - I love this portion especially when watermelon is in season! Since most vendors will encourage you to stop, smell and taste before you buy- just go for it! My daughter loves the free-tasting too. It makes for an instant snack! Keeps her happy, makes our shopping a happy experience! There's also nothing compared to savoring the goodness of something you're paying good dollars for before actually buying it. It's worth each penny you spend!
5. Bring the Kids - taking the kids can be fun & educational. Kids are a lot more likely to eat their veggies if they help pick them out. Not to say, if you have a toddler, the stroller becomes a useful tool for hanging your grocery bags! My daughter loves looking at all the fruits she knows and loves being able to help select the veggies & fruits when we do buy them. It keeps her entertained & also learning a few other things in between.
6. Don't insist on organic - A lot of small farms don't get certified because the process is just too burdensome and expensive. Most of them are pesticide free or no spray. If you're not sure about the produce you're buying, you can always ask the farmer. This is where striking up a conversation with them comes in handy.
7. Make it last - Buy fruits & veggies you can pickle or jar or freeze them to use as jams & sauces later on. I don't have the talent for this, so I just buy what we need. Sorry, not perfect! (",) - but hey, if you do - go crazy and stock up on seasonal fruits & veggies that you can make use of at any given season.
8. Be a composter -If you don't know how to do it or care to do it, some markets provide compost stands. Composting helps prevent pollution, cleans up contaminated soil and reduces the need for water, fertilizer, and pesticides. If your market doesn't offer a composting drop-off, suggest one.
I hope this will make your trip to the Farmer's market an exciting experience. Do you have any shopping tips to share to make shopping at the farmer's market pleasant? I would love to hear them.
*complimentary resource: vegetarian times