We all know that there is nothing I love more than a little farmer’s market action on the weekend. 10 months ago I started buying all of my produce, eggs, honey, and some bread from local farmers markets. I love my weekend farmer’s market routine and since switching over last June I haven’t looked back.
So why do I advocate for shopping at farmer’s market? Well, in LA there has been some controversy around the authenticity of farmer’s market goods, but those concerns aside, I think the quality of the food from the farmer’s market is far better than you can get from supermarkets. I like that the food is available on a seasonal basis and that I’m supporting local business and agriculture. Plus, in Cali our farmer’s markets are kinda bomb. Not taking advantage would just be WRONG.
We all know that I’m a law student (fully funded by the feds, heyyy) and obviously a bit short on cash so I thought I would give my tips for how to concur the farmer’s market while on a budget.
1. Go consistently to the same market
I always make sure that I work the same two markets. If you go to the same markets frequently you know what to expect from the vendors. It will also help you build relationships with the farmers (see #4). If you go the same market consistently you will be able to monitor the prices of the produce and know when you are getting a great deal or being overcharged. If you go to the same markets you know what produce is coming in and out of season and when it is at peak freshness. Another advantage of going to the same market is that if something amazing, like mini artichokes, has just come into season you can remember that it’s there and plan a meal around it for the next week!
2. Have a strategy
Every week when I get to the market I make sure to take an entire lap before purchasing. This way, I can see if there are any good deals, new produce, or new venders. I also make sure to look at the freshness vs. price. Sometimes the price will be lower but the item will be not at peak freshness or it will look a little rough and then I can make a determination of whether sacrificing the freshness for price point is worth it. After completing my lap I go back to my usual venders and any ones that have really good deals.
Plan, plan, plan
Before going to the farmer’s market, I always make sure that I meal plan. Basically, I plan out my dinners, snacks, and breakfasts for the week and make a master list of all the items I need for the week. This way I know what I’m getting when I go shopping. For me, I tend to get a little unfocused when I get into the FM. Typically, I see one huge eggplant and all bets are off. While it makes no sense I immediately think, “I need to have this!” No. I do not need it. I am one person and I will not be eating an eggplant the size of my face. I have a tendency to overbuy. Instead of 3 oranges I will end up with 7 because I want to try all the different varieties. If I buy too many they will end up going to waste. I might as well be throwing money in the trash can.
Sometimes I also get distracted by all of the amazing things we have in the farmer’s market. Squash blossoms? I don’t even know what to do with that, but that won’t stop me from buying it! Then I end up buying something that I’m not sure how to use and it either goes to waste or I over buy. Instead what I do now is restrain myself. When I get home I can look up new recipes and buy it the next week.
4. Know your farmers
The best way to keep costs low at the farmers market is to know your farmers. Make friends, chat, ask them what is best right now. If you start to build relationships the farmers may be more likely to give you special prices and freebies. For example, I have never paid for a knob of ginger. I have one vendor I go to for potatoes and eggplant so they don’t mind throwing in a small knob of ginger whenever I need it. I may or may not have also flirted by way to discounts also. I mean, if the seller says I’m “adorable like a mini eggplant” it would just be wrong to not accept a discounted mini eggplant. I know. We can revoke my feminist card right now.
5. Buy seasonal
It’s a well known fact, prices are best at the peak of the season. There were two magical weeks in the fall where Butternut Squash was 50 cents a lb and I went wild but when the squash started to cycle out of season I cooled it down. I feel the same way about apples. When honey crisps are cheap I buy them up but when they are out of season I show down my apple purchasing. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes in July I crave roasted Brussels sprouts and when I do I will buy the occasional bag from Trader Joe’s but for the most part I stick to seasonal eats. This is a good resource for finding out what is in season in your region.
Do you shop regularly at the farmers market? What is your favorite farmers market find?