7 Ways to Score Cheap Locally Grown Food

Photo (cc) by Bruno Girin

The way many Americans buy their food is changing. According to a study by the market research group Mintel, more people are choosing locally grown produce over fruits and vegetables that are labeled “organic.”

Between 2008 and 2011, organic (also called “natural”) fruit sales declined 58 percent. Vegetables with a natural or organic seal declined 77 percent. One reason could be the big price tag for these products, combined with the recession.

It’s not secret organically grown food typically costs more. As Fox News detailed a few weeks ago, it requires more labor and costlier fertilizer, among other things.

So what are healthy but cost-conscious consumers to do? Well, 52 percent of the people surveyed by Mintel have decided it’s more important to buy locally grown foods than organics.

“Natural and organic produce items aren’t completely passe, but local varieties are steadily gaining ground,” says John N. Frank, a Mintel manager. “Interestingly enough, senior citizens are even more likely to believe that buying local produce is more important than organic.”

I agree with them. While not certified organic, many local growers I’ve met claim to use organic farming techniques, and their prices easily beat organic prices you find in most supermarkets.

5 reasons buying local is a good idea…

1. It supports local farmers. Farmers get to keep the majority of the profits they make at food stands and farmers markets, rather than sharing them with distributors and retailers.

2. You’ll reduce your carbon footprint. The average produce in America travels 1,500 miles before reaching your dinner table, according to advocacy group Sustainable Table. Locally grown food only travels a few miles.

3. You’ll waste less packaging. Local produce doesn’t need heavy packaging for shipping. Less packaging means less waste.

4. The food tastes better. Nothing beats the taste of berries fresh off the vine.

5. It costs less. I just bought a flat of strawberries (12 half pints) for $8 at a food stand. Organic strawberries cost $3.50 per pint at my grocery store. I saved $2.17 per pint!

7 tips for buying locally grown foods…

1. Find a farmers market – then find another. My city has one large weekly market and six smaller markets throughout the week at different locations. By shopping at more than one, I’m able to find different fruits and vegetables. LocalHarvest has a searchable database of farms and farmers markets by state.

2. Bring cash. The biggest farmers market in my area accepts Visa, but most farmers markets are cash-only. Even if the farmers market has an ATM, bring cash – because you might have to pay the ridiculous “non-bank fee.”

3. Shop in season. You’ll save money by shopping in season. Some farmers have year-round greenhouses so they can offer out-of-season produce, but you’ll pay a premium for it. In-season produce is the cheapest during peak harvesting times when everyone is competing with the same stock. Keep in mind that not all produce is in season at the same time everywhere. You’ll find the best prices if you know your regional seasons. The Field to Plate website has an excellent guide for produce seasons by state.

4. Show up late. If you’re fashionably late, you won’t get the best selection, and some produce may already be sold out. But you will get killer deals. Toward the end of the day, many vendors start slashing prices so they don’t have to lug all the leftovers back to the truck – and let’s face it, this stuff doesn’t have a long shelf life. Use that to your advantage.

5. Shop in the rain. Outdoor farmers markets don’t do well in any kind of bad weather, even a light drizzle. If the weather is bad, the vendors have fewer customers – making them way more willing to offer you a deal. I once got two flats of Satsumas for the price of one because a storm rolled in, and the vendor hadn’t made his quota for the day.

6. Comparison shop. When I shop the farmers market, I make a quick sweep around the aisles before I start buying anything. Since vendors can set their own prices, you might find a better deal a couple of booths down. The differences can be substantial for the same stuff.

7. Ask for a deal. It doesn’t hurt to ask, especially if you frequently buy from the same farm or want to buy a large quantity. Just be fair about it. If the vendor wants $9 for a flat of blueberries, don’t try to get them for a buck. If you’re easy to deal with, the vendor will remember you – and fond memories lead to better deals on your next trip.

If you still want organic produce at the grocery store, check out Saving Money on Organic Food for some cost-cutting strategies. If you’re living the vegan lifestyle, read 5 Ways to Save Some Bread on Vegan Food for vegan-friendly savings. And if you’d just like to save money whether you shop at a farmers market, grocery store, or taco truck, check out our 28 Tasty Tips to Save on Food.

How to find cheaper car insurance in minutes

Getting a better deal on car insurance doesn't have to be hard. You can have The Zebra, an insurance comparison site compare quotes in just a few minutes and find you the best rates. Consumers save an average of $368 per year, according to the site, so if you're ready to secure your new rate, get started now.

Read Next
7 Mistakes Guaranteed to Ruin Your Retirement
7 Mistakes Guaranteed to Ruin Your Retirement

Make even one of these money mistakes, and you’ll probably end up eating ramen noodles in your golden years.

16 Products You Absolutely Do Not Need
16 Products You Absolutely Do Not Need

There are plenty of great ways to spend your money, but you can safely leave these products on the store shelf.

7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile
7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile

A pandemic or natural disaster could leave you reliant on your existing food supply. Is your pantry prepared?

7 Things You Should Do Before Claiming Social Security
7 Things You Should Do Before Claiming Social Security

To get the most out of your Social Security retirement benefits, you have to think ahead.

How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck in 8 Steps
How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck in 8 Steps

Does it feel like your paycheck is gone the moment you get it? You can break that vicious cycle.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
Will I Get My Ex-Husband’s Social Security When He Dies?
Will I Get My Ex-Husband’s Social Security When He Dies?

Two factors determine how much money is coming to you.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store
21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store

Dollar stores have great bargains on these familiar purchases.

5 Household Disinfectants That Can Destroy the Coronavirus
5 Household Disinfectants That Can Destroy the Coronavirus

You likely already have some of these products at home.

6 Reasons I Will Never Trust Suze Orman
6 Reasons I Will Never Trust Suze Orman

Beware: The self-proclaimed personal finance expert has a track record that suggests more sizzle than steak.

20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling
20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling

You probably don’t need a year’s supply of toilet paper to survive an outbreak, but consider stocking up on these items.

10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are all steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

America’s Most Reliable Appliance Brand Is a Surprise
America’s Most Reliable Appliance Brand Is a Surprise

Have you heard of this appliance manufacturer?

This Type of Social Security Benefit Is Often Overlooked
This Type of Social Security Benefit Is Often Overlooked

The Social Security Administration is not helping certain people get money to which they are entitled, a report says.

16 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
16 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

Getting These 2 Shots Could Reduce Your Risk of Dementia
Getting These 2 Shots Could Reduce Your Risk of Dementia

These vaccines may lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by up to 40%.

9 Everyday Problems You Can Solve With Vaseline
9 Everyday Problems You Can Solve With Vaseline

Forget expensive specialty products. Good ol’ petroleum jelly can address many common annoyances.

19 Purchases That Buyers Almost Always Regret
19 Purchases That Buyers Almost Always Regret

Think twice before buying these things.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

8 of the Worst Things to Buy at a Dollar Store
8 of the Worst Things to Buy at a Dollar Store

Not everything sold at dollar stores is a great bargain or a safe purchase. Here’s our list of products to avoid.

41 Things You Should Never Buy
41 Things You Should Never Buy

Some purchases are just plain dumb. Give yourself — and your budget — a break. Don’t spend money on this stuff.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

9 Indestructible Products That Are Worth the Price
9 Indestructible Products That Are Worth the Price

If you’re willing to pay a little more for these products, you may never have to shop for another again.

8 Award-Winning Products That Impressed 40,000 Shoppers
8 Award-Winning Products That Impressed 40,000 Shoppers

The Product of the Year awards help shoppers find the best pet products, personal care items and everything in between.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.