5 Tips on Shopping Smart at Farmers’ Markets
My favorite grocery shopping place is farmers’ markets, where farmers (not resellers) offer their freshly picked produce for you to sample and purchase. They taste more favorable and have a higher nutritional value. The crisp kale presents such vitality, the tomatoes come with a sun-kissed glow, and the summer squash still has dirt specs on them…
Shopping at farmers’ markets can introduce you to unfamiliar produce, and inspire you with many new dinner ideas just by talking with farmers at the market!
With inflation comes a higher price for groceries. If you’ve been thinking about cutting food costs, shopping at your local farmers’ market might be the solution for you. The quality is much better than what you’ll find at a grocery store. You can also score great bargains if you know how to shop smart.
Over the years, I’ve learned a few tricks regarding shopping at farmers’ markets:
Farmers’ Markets Tip No. 1 – Go Near Closing Time.
This is when farmers are more likely to sell their produce at a discount to avoid taking it home with them. Many farmers are open to negotiating prices, especially if you’re buying in bulk. By going near closing time, you’ll be more likely to get a discount on your purchase.
Some vendors even throw in a few slightly bruised vegetables or fruits for free to lighten their load home. If you’re interested in multiple items they offer, the sellers usually give you an even bigger discount for cleaning out their inventory. It’s truly a happy ending for everyone!
Another added benefit of going late is parking is much easier than at peak hours. I used to spend 30 minutes circling the farmers’ market for parking, while watching for distracted shoppers crossing in all directions and other drivers vying for parking spots. Now I park near the middle of the market, which makes it convenient to drop off the produce I bought instead of carrying them with me for the entire shopping trip.
The downside is those popular specialty stalls might have sold out by the time you arrive. If you have particular items in mind, go when markets first open. That’s when all vendors are ready for business, and fewer shoppers are around to compete with you. Sometimes, I shop at the farmers’ market before work and finish my shopping list within 30 minutes. Talk about efficiency.
Farmers’ Markets Tip No. 2 – Walk Around Before Committing to Buy.
Most shoppers start from one end of the market, buying the first thing that catches their eye. Usually, the best price and selection are in the middle of the market, where people find they’ve overpaid for the same items earlier.
Doing a walk-around also helps you identify the most popular and unique offerings in the market. You can purchase them before they’re sold out or before you’ve spent all your grocery money.
Farmers’ Markets Tip No. 3 – Buy Seasonal Produce for the Best Pricing.
Shopping at farmers’ markets is all about taking advantage of seasonal produce. Fruits and vegetables in season will be fresher and cheaper than those out of season. Farmers typically grow various crops, so you’ll find different produce items throughout the year. You’ll get the best fruits and vegetables for your money by shopping according to the season.
Not sure what’s in season? A quick Google search will tell you what fruits and vegetables are currently being harvested. You can also ask the farmers at the market – they’ll be happy to give you some tips on what’s fresh and what’s a good deal.
Farmers’ Markets Tip No. 4 – Don’t Be Afraid to Haggle.
One of the great things about shopping at farmers’ markets is that you can often haggle with the vendors for a better price. Don’t hesitate to negotiate if you see something you like, but the price is too high. In most cases, the vendor will be happy to give you a discount, especially if you’re buying a lot of produce.
Of course, you don’t want to be too aggressive when haggling, as this could put the vendor off, and they may not give you the discount you’re looking for. Instead, offer to buy more and see if the vendor is willing to cut the price. You can always walk away and look for better deals elsewhere.
Farmers’ Markets Tip No. 5 – Bring Cash and Shopping Bags.
While some farmers’ markets now accept credit and debit cards, many still only take cash. It’s best to bring smaller bills when shopping at a farmers’ market. No one takes pennies anymore. The vendors usually round the price down to the nearest nickel or dime.
It’s easy to get excited at farmers’ markets and buy more than you can eat for the week. A handy way to keep track of your spending is to count out the money you plan to spend on grocery shopping. I usually set aside $80 for each farmers’ market trip, putting $40 in one pocket and $40 in another.
When I use up the first $40, I know I’m halfway through my budget, and will be more conscientious about my subsequent purchases.
Bring your sturdy shopping bags with you for the trip. Although vendors provide plastic bags for your purchases, carrying many bags at a time is challenging, especially when it’s crowded, rainy, or hot. Putting your produce in a large shopping bag makes it easier to move around. You can always bring your purchases back to the car (like I mentioned earlier) and continue shopping with an empty shopping bag.
Bonus Tip: Where to Find the Nearest Farmers Market
Eatwild.com is now the #1 clearinghouse for information about pasture-based farming and features a state-by-state (plus Canada) directory of local farmers who meet Eatwild’s criteria and sell their products directly to consumers. Many of them can also ship or deliver their products to you.
Shopping at farmers’ markets is a great way to get fresh, seasonal produce at a reasonable price. By following these tips, you can make the most of your shopping trip and get the best value for your money!