Tips for Shopping the Farmer's Market

The trend of shopping locally at farmer's markets is not only good for your health, it's good for your community and your wallet too. But shopping your local farmer's market is not the same as going to the supermarket, so utilize these tips to make the most of your experience.
  • Become a regular. Frequently shopping the same farmer's market is beneficial for several reasons: you'll become familiar with the layout, the selection, and you'll get to know the farmers. This will come in handy if you ever have special needs, like pre-ordering a bushel of peaches or arranging special delivery or pickup options.
  • Shop early or shop late. The early shopper gets the best selection and the late shopper gets the best deals. (Many farmers would rather sell off remaining products at a discount rather than transporting them home.) And both shoppers beat the crowds.
  • Bring your own bags. Get in the habit of carrying your own reusable shopping bags. They are sturdier, hold more, and can be slung over your shoulder to make shopping easier. Plus, it's better for the planet!
  • Carry cash and change. Though more and more vendors are able to accept credit cards, don't count on it. Cash will always work, so have small bills and change on hand. Quarters are a hot commodity and vendors usually run out. You might even strike some good deals if you can give up some of those shiny coins.
  • Shop like a European. Instead of shopping with a traditional list, visit the market and build your menu based on what's available, what's most fresh, and what excites you.
  • Ask for input. Use the market to learn about produce and products you've never tried before. Get to know the farmers and vendors. Ask for advice for preparation and cooking.
  • Bring a cooler. Either a small portable cooler or even a reusable ice pack in your bag can help you keep meats and perishable items safe while you shop, especially on a hot summer day.
  • Bring the kids. It's not just an educational experience for you, bring the kids in tow. Let them pick out fresh fruits and vegetables to incorporate into your diet.
  • Be friendly. As you form a relationship with farmers and vendors, you're more likely to get better deals and special selections.
  • Buy in bulk. Like any shopping, you'll save money by buying in bulk. Consider splitting purchases with friends or neighbors.
  • Become a volunteer. Most farmer's markets are organized and staffed entirely by community volunteers. Volunteering your time will often give you access to more selection, deep discounts, and that warm-fuzzy feeling of doing something good for your community.
Do you have any other tips for shopping your farmer's market? Share your ideas.
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