If you think buying locally grown food means spending a lot, you're doing it wrong. Here's how you can get good prices on super-fresh fruits and veggies.
This time of year, shopping at a farmers market is a great way to score delicious, locally grown produce and other goodies.
And despite what you might think, eating good, healthy foods doesn’t have to cost a fortune. In fact, I routinely find fresh produce for cheaper at my local farmers market than I can get it at Walmart, and you can do the same.
Here are five smart ways you can save money while shopping at a farmers market:
- Buy in bulk: Ask the farmer if he’ll cut you a deal if you purchase an item in bulk. We have several Hutterite colonies in my area that sell their produce at our farmers market. I’ve purchased in bulk from them many times over the years, and they’ve nearly always given me a break for buying over a certain quantity. Even if a farmer doesn’t advertise a bulk discount — and most of the farmers I’ve purchased from don’t — it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask.
- Be flexible: Although it’s usually recommended that you make a shopping list and stick to it to avoid impulse buys or overspending when you’re shopping, when you’re hitting up a farmers market, you want to shop with a flexible list. Produce that’s fresh and in season is going to sell for less than other items, so don’t be afraid to try new fruits and vegetables or swap in-season produce for other items — which brings me to our next money-saving tip.
- Shop in-season produce: I visited a friend in Oregon in late May a few years ago. I was delighted to find out that one of my favorite veggies, asparagus, was in season then so it was plentiful and selling for super cheap at the farmers market we visited. In my town, the farmers market typically doesn’t get going until after July 4, when area farmers are finally able to harvest some of their early crops, like strawberries, radishes and carrots. Not sure what’s in season in your area? Check out this helpful guide from the Natural Resources Defense Council.
4. Go late: You can oftentimes score great deals on produce and other farmers market goods if you skip the morning rush and shop later in the day, closer to the market’s closing time. It’s been my experience that the farmers don’t want to pack up their unsold goods and take them home with them, so they’ll often let them go for a steal. I’ve also had farmers approach me or seen them approach other shoppers with a bag of produce — like onions, corn or potatoes — and offer it for a low price, just so they can get rid of it.
5. Get to know your farmer: Building relationships with your local farmers is one of the best ways to save money on goods. The handful of Hutterite colonies that I purchase items from typically remember me and what I buy from them, and they’re more likely to give me good deals on their items or throw in a few free ears of corn or something similar. It also helps to chat with the farmers and tell them how you’ve liked their items. “If you tell a vendor that you absolutely loved the way his or her heirloom Brandywine tomatoes complemented the basil you bought from him last week, there is a strong likelihood he or she will cut you a deal on your next purchase,” says Eat Local Grown.
Check out “10 Ways to Get More Out of the Farmers Market.”
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