Going Local: How to Shop at a Farmers’ Market

Go back to last fall. You and your young family spent a number of weeks canning or freezing pounds of summer and fall produce in preparation for the cold winter months. Now, your pantry and freezer are almost empty and your garden hasn’t’t started to sprout quite yet. You need to find a place to satisfy your cravings for seasonal produce. The supermarket is out, since most of the items there aren’t to your liking. So, where can you go to stock up on fresh fruits and veggies?

The nearby farmers’ market, of course. Now until mid-fall is the perfect time to head toward this gathering of local vendors to pick up the freshest produce as well as homemade sauces, baked goods, and other food items. A trip to this market does two things. First, it allows you to support nearby businesses. Second, it helps you plan the next few months of recipes, thus saving you and your young family large sums of money that could go to unnecessary dining out trips..

In order to avoid buying too much, too little or something you would never eat, here are a few guidelines to help you shop the smart way.

Get there early

Ever visit a garage sale? Think of when the best items are available. Is it when the sale is about to end? No, it’s usually the first thing in the morning. Same can be said for farmer’s markets, especially for stands that sell fresh produce or bakery items. These products are normally plentiful at opening then slowly dwindle throughout the day. Make sure you schedule an early time slot to get the best items. And if you can’t make it until later, see if you can deal with a vendor to purchase their remaining inventory at a discount.

Cash and bags rule

Farmers’ markets aren’t like the local supermarket. Sure, they can make change and may provide boxes to carry your product to your car or bike but that’s about it. There’s no guarantee they take credit cards or will have something available to carry a purchase. Make sure you take enough cash for the items you want and plenty of bags to carry them, even if it means making a few trips back to the car to lighten the load.

Determine needs

Don’t make a list for a supermarket trip and what you think will cost a few dollars could burst your grocery budget due to the purchase of impulse items. Needless to say, prepare a list of items you want to look for at the farmer’s market in order to avoid missing some and making a return trip to purchase them. Remember, you might not be able to find something later in the afternoon.

Purchase what’s needed now

Farmers’ market products tend to be organic, which means no pesticides or preservatives. This means the shelf life of the products can be much shorter. In the end you either need to eat the items within a week or freeze and can the them for future use. On the list of items to purchase, detail the measurements of the ingredients you’ll need for future recipes.

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