Farmers’ Markets are really great places to find local products and support local businesses. Although not everything you find there will be handmade and grown local (unless the market you visit only permits local goods,) you are certain to find a very wide variety of products, some of which you may be needing in your kitchen or home. A lot of people who live near a market (like myself) have incorporated visiting the farmers’ market into their weekly schedule. However, with the cost of food continuing to rise and an increasing interest in local foods, you want to make the most out of your visit. You may need a few tips and tricks that will help you save some cash and find the best products as well as making good relationships with growers in the market.

  1. Familiarize yourself with a Crop Calendar and know your seasons
    Knowing what crops grow in each season gives you an idea of what to expect when you get to the farmers’ market and making decisions on the produce that you should buy when you get there becomes a lot easier. While you are at it, also talk to the growers and see what’s coming in the weeks to follow.
  2. Think about your timing
    Start by figuring out exactly when your farmers’ market is open. You usually don’t want to arrive just as the market is opening, because many of the stands won’t be quite finished with setup, and they won’t want to sell to you yet because you’ll basically be getting in their way. And many markets don’t even allow the vendors to start selling before the market officially opens. Going early gives you the best selections of local produce. As you may know very well, the best goods are always the first to go and if you want to have the first pick, you need to be there first. Also, popular but limited items may sell out before it even gets midday. Going there a little earlier than the rest gives you the chance to go around without the place being too cramped with buyers.For the best deals, you probably want to go shortly before closing. You may not get everything you have on your shopping list (because things are already sold out) but for bulk produce, flowers and other perishable items, you can sometimes get a good deal. Many times, farmers would rather sell their products at a reduced price than to have to load them back up the truck and bringing them back. So if you are on a tight budget, this may be the right time to look for great deals and products at discounted prices. Remember, though, that some markets may actually disallow these end-of-the-day discounts. Also, keep in mind that farmers raise and grow these foods for a living, be considerate when you ask for discounts. Keep it reasonable and don’t expect super deep discounts.
  3. Plan out meals for the family ahead of time
    Before you head out to the market, do a bit of meal planning. Once you have planned out your meals, you are able to shop according to what you will need and be able to estimate how much you need of a particular product.
  4. Leave some room for spontaneity
    Even though you have planned for the meals that you are going to be making for the week. Give yourself a bit of wiggle room for when you see very fresh strawberries you didn’t really expect to be available or some other product you aren’t really familiar with. Trying out and exploring new things can be a real joy.
  5. Buy in bulk if you’ve got the means
    You want to be eating local foods whole year round, buying products in bulk is not such a bad idea. The best deals can also be available for you once you buy in bulk. Not to worry about spoiling everything you got, consider preserving the harvest by canning or freezing items, and make it available in your homes for a long time. Or you can seek out and test new recipes to use the product up.
  6. Bring out your big shopping bags
    Shopping at a farmers’ market can keep your hands full so make sure you bring something extra to help you carry everything. Some vendors may offer bags but they can be thin and flimsy plastic that cannot stand the pressure of everything that you put in it. To make sure that you get everything home safe without anything crashing to the ground, bring your own trusted shopping bag. Backpacks can be easier for hauling products as well. Plus using reusable bags is more earth-friendly too!
  7. Invest in carts
    If you are one who is fond of purchasing in bulk every week, you may want to invest in a wheeled cart or wagon. This will allow ease while you go around looking for products to purchase, shopping bags can get pretty heavy and exhausting to carry around. And if you have kids with you, it’s a great way to transport them if/when they get tired of wandering around.
  8. Aside from your shopping bags or a pull cart, bring a cooler or cooler bag (especially in warm weather.)
    If you pick up things like fresh cheese, milk, butter, yogurt or even meats, it’s often a good idea to bring a way to keep those items cooled so that they don’t spoil before you get back home. You can also try to buy these things last during your shopping trip so they have less time to spoil.
  9. Don’t forget lots of small bills and change
    Purchases go easier and faster if you can give the vendors the exact amount. Plus they often don’t have much change at the start of the day to break large bills…and are constantly running low on change during the day anyway since so many people don’t use exact change. If you always go in with the exact amount, the vendors may remember you more quickly as well, which usually leads to a little discount or extra goodies.
  10. Ask your vendors for produce advice
    Vendors may have products that you are not quite familiar with but want to try out. It doesn’t hurt for you to ask the farmers how you can prepare it. They usually will be able to offer you some advice on how to prepare unusual produce — and even recommend other items which will pair well with it.
  11. Take your dog or child
    I fully believe that people remember you more quickly if there is something that distinguishes you from the crowd. Because Ayla thrives on it, we usually take her to the market with us each week. And people LOVE here, especially the vendors. Each week she seems to get more and more goodies from sausage to cheese to whatever else people can think of…and she is in heaven (not surprisingly). Kids also can score a free breakfast at the market if you’re lucky. And when the vendors remember you, you’re more likely to get at least a few cents knocked off of your regular purchases.
  12. Keep it simple
    What you get out of a farmers’ market are very fresh produce. To retain the products natural flavors when you make a meal out of it, keep your preparations simple so you can taste the natural goodness of everything you’re using in your meal.
  13. Don’t be turned off by the weather
    Even though it’s turning cold, that’s no reason to abandon your local market. Many vendors will still be there year round and it’s a great chance to get to know them more personally since the traffic tends to slow down.

Do you have a farmers’ market in your area that you visit often? What have you learned by visiting the market often?

photo credit: Brandon Doran via photopin cc

Featured Posts from Last Week’s Natural Life Linky

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