When the summer months start to roll in, farmers markets start to pop up in communities all over the country. These can be great local gatherings where you can get your hands on fresh, locally sourced fruits and vegetables, see some local art, and sample delicious food.
If you’re living on a tight budget, shopping at local farmers’ markets can be a great way for you to save money on produce. It’s a great place to visit if you want to stock your kitchen with fresh produce, maintain a healthy diet without breaking the bank, and avoid having to settle for fruits and veggies that are nearly expired and on their last legs.
Another great aspect of shopping at a farmer’s market is that they’re filled with local farmers and vendors, which means that while you’re finding great deals on fresh foods, you’re also supporting the local community.
It’s important to keep in mind that shopping at farmer’s market isn’t the same as shopping at a grocery store, and if you’ve never been to one, you may feel a little intimidated among the hustle and bustle of the market. You also may not know how to take full advantage of the potential savings you could be seeing. So, here are seven tips to help you take advantage of farmers’ markets.
You may be able to find some vendors that’ll take credit cards, but if you don’t want to be restricted by who will and won’t accept credit, it’s a good idea to bring cash. It’s also a great way to make sure you stick to your budget and don’t overspend. Figure out exactly how much you want to spend at the market and bring a few extra bucks in case you find a great deal on something you need and don’t want to fall a few dollars short.
Knowing exactly what time to arrive at the market to best suit your needs is an art, and the time that will work best for you depends on your preferred shopping habits, what your shopping goals are, and what you’re looking to buy.
If your goal is to find the freshest produce possible and have the widest selection you can, you should aim to get there right when it opens. If you’re trying to the best deals and stretch your money as far as possible, you’ll want to be there at least an hour before the market is set to close for the day. This is because farmers and vendors generally don’t want to take their products home with them, so they try to offload as much as possible by the end of the day. This means that they’ll often drop their prices dramatically and sometimes start bundling items together.
When you arrive at the market, the first thing you should do is take a lap around the whole market. Try to take a brief look at every booth possible and make a mental note of what they’re selling and which booths you want to visit again. After you’ve seen everything that’s out there, you’ll have a better idea of what you want to spend your money on. If you’ve seen a few bigger items that you think you’d like to take home, try to make these purchases just before you head home so you don’t have to lug them around all day.
Because grocery stores carry produce that’s sourced from all over the world, they’ll typically have a wider selection than what you’re going to find at a farmer’s market. While you might not be able to find as wide of a selection, you’ll mainly find fresh, organic, and locally sourced food. Buying what’s in season is a great way to save money on produce, and farmers’ markets are a great place to do that! Talk to the farmers and vendors to find out what’s in season and try to stick to those foods.
As we mentioned earlier, farmers and vendors are looking to offload as much of their product as they can before they head home for the day. This means that it’s usually in their best interest to sell things in bulk. They may not make a lot of money on a single container of strawberries, but selling an entire flat of them can make a big difference. This is why you may be able to get a better deal if you offer to buy things in bulk. While you may not be able to eat an entire flat of berries before they start to go bad, you can always freeze a portion of what you buy and use it later for smoothies or desserts.
While a clerk at a grocery might not have any idea of where the meat they’re selling came from, a vendor at a farmer’s market should know everything there is to know about what they’re selling. When you’re browsing through their products, don’t hesitate to ask any questions. You might want to know things like:
You may find that most of the people you talk to will be more than happy to answer all of your questions. They know that if they’re excited and happy to talk about their products, you may be more likely to buy what they’re selling. They also know that you may be more likely to visit their booth again if they make a personal connection with you.
If you plan on running errands after your trip to the farmers market, or you have a long trip to get there and plan on buying things that need to be kept cold, make sure you bring a cooler in your car. You should also bring your own bags since a lot of vendors may not have any.
If you never been to the farmer’s market in your community, now is the time to start! It’s great way to save money on produce, stock your kitchen with fresh and locally sourced fruits and vegetables, and support surrounding farmers and the local economy.
Like we’ve mentioned, shopping at a farmer’s market is a great way to support your community. But for these markets to continue to survive, they need plenty of local support. That’s why you should try to make a point to let your friends and family know when you’ve come across a great find at your local market. Keep in mind that a large portion of vendors are farmers, sole proprietors, and craftspeople from the area that need support, so don’t keep your favorite market a secret.
It’s not always easy to find room in your grocery budget for fresh fruits and vegetables when you’re living on a tight budget, but buying in season produce at a farmer’s market – and having a few tips in hand to stretch your money – may help you do just that!
If you need help finding farmers’ markets in your area, start by visiting Local Harvest, then get ready for your next trip to the market!