Shop at a Farmers’ Market (205/365)

For some of you, the CSA idea from yesterday won’t work. It might be too expensive up front. It might be difficult to pick up your share every week. You don’t want that many vegetables at once. However, the appeal of low-cost and ultra-fresh vegetables and other items remains appealing.

The solution for that is a farmers’ market.

Shop at a Farmers Market (205/365)

A farmers’ market is a place where vendors – usually farmers – can set up a booth to sell their produce to the public. Although the focus is on selling fresh produce, there are oftn booths selling other goods such as prepared foods and beverages.

Many communities host a farmers’ market once or twice a week. Ask around in your own community to find out when and where you might find one.

My experience with farmers’ markets has been that the prices are pretty good and are usually a bit lower than what you find in the stores for comparable goods.

However, the items you buy at the farmers’ market tend to be much fresher (as they’re grown and picked locally and not shipped in) and the money goes straight to others in the community, not through a chain of people that leads out of the community.

The important thing to remember, though, is that a farmers’ market won’t necessarily have everything that you might find at a supermarket. You’ll likely find that some things are missing, but you’ll probably also find some unusual things that you don’t see at the supermarket. That’s because the produce at a farmers’ market is based on what crops are in season in your area when you attend.

There are a few tactics that will help you save a few bucks at the farmers’ market, too.

First, don’t hesitate to negotiate, particularly if you’re buying several things. If you’d like to buy a pound of three different items, make an offer for all three at once. The farmer may or may not take the offer, but the possibility of success makes it worthwhile and it will likely start a negotiation process. You can’t negotiate like that at the local supermarket.

Second, if you see an item in abundance, wait around. Farmers do not like to take extra produce home with them. If they have an abundance of an item and the end of the market draws near, they’ll often drop the price to unload the extra goods. This is also a prime time to negotiate, particularly on significant quantities of an item. I recently got a dozen ears of wonderful sweet corn for $1 this way.

Third, bring your own bag. I always bring my own canvas or cloth bag to a farmers’ market. It makes it easier to carry whatever I find and doesn’t leave me relying on the vendors, who may or may not have bags. It also makes it much easier to impulsively buy three pounds of okra at a discounted price, for example.

Another tip: remember you can always freeze things that you pick up in abundance. If you can get an amazing deal on a large pile of produce at the end of a farmers’ market, take it home and freeze most of it, then eat it slowly over time.

Farmers’ markets are a great source for incredibly fresh produce at a very reasonable price. Don’t miss out!

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. Images courtesy of Brittany Lynne Photography, the proprietor of which is my “photography intern” for this project.

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4 thoughts on “Shop at a Farmers’ Market (205/365)

  1. Katie says:

    As usual, hilariously inapplicable to city dwellers. I do my summer vegetable shopping at Farmers Markets, but pay 3-4 times what I’d pay in a grocery store, minimum.

  2. Johanna says:

    My experience is in between Trent’s and Katie’s. The markets I go to are more expensive than regular supermarkets, but nowhere near 3-4x as much.

  3. Johanna says:

    Also: Freshness isn’t why market produce tastes better. (Put your market veggies in the fridge for a week and they’ll still be better than ones from the grocery store.) It’s better because it’s not commodified, so producers have an incentive to focus on quality over quantity.

  4. Johanna says:

    (Actually, come to think of it, there are a lot of super-expensive things at the markets I go to. I just don’t buy them. Unless they’re garlic scapes. Nom nom garlic scapes.)

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