Money Moment: Farmers’ Market on a Budget

By Dr. Jennifer Hunter

Dr. Jennifer Hunter

Welcome to Money Moment episode number 11, with your host Dr. Jennifer Hunter. In this episode, Jennifer discusses shopping your local farmers market on a budget.

Juicy tomatoes, fresh corn on the cob, and crisp green beans are all summertime favorites. From June until mid- to late October, the Farmers’ Market is a great place to find local fresh fruits and vegetables. The excitement at the farmers’ market might tempt you to overspend. Just like shopping at the grocery store, remember your grocery needs and budget when visiting the market.

Photospin/Valentyn Semenov

Support local business

Shopping at your local farmers’ market not only provides you access to fresh high quality produce but it also supports our local farmers and small businesses. Typically, at a farmers’ market you are purchasing directly from the grower. This unique opportunity allows you to learn more about the product and the production process. The farmers’ market can also be a great family event and your children can learn where their food comes from.

Shop early

Just like a yard sale, you will have the best selection of items early in the day. Farmers’ markets typically open very early in the morning. Consider making it your first errand of the day or stop by on your way into work.

Bring cash

Set a shopping limit and shop with cash. Some vendors may accept checks or credit but others will not. Shopping with cash helps you stay within your budget. Bring small bills if possible so that making change is easier.

Make a list.

Just like going to the grocery store, you will want to shop with a list. Shopping with the list will help you avoid impulse buying. Your farmers’ market list needs to be a little bit more flexible than your normal grocery store list. You might consider withholding a small amount of your shopping budget, such as $5, to try something new or different that catches your eye at the market.

Carry a pen and paper 

As you make your rounds through the market, write down items that are not currently part of your shopping list but that you might want to try in the future. Consider incorporating those items into your meal plan for the next week.

Only buy what you need

One of the great things about the farmers’ market is access to fresh fruits and vegetables and it can be tempting to stock up. However, the shelf life on some of these items may be less than what you’re used to at the grocery store. Try to buy in small quantities that you will use within the next few days. Otherwise, you’ll need to freeze or can the items to prevent them from going to waste. Most markets are open multiple days per week so you might consider buying less at a time and shopping more often.

Shop for produce that is in season

Items will be less expensive when they are most plentiful. For example, tomatoes may have been very expensive in early June but by mid-July prices have adjusted due to the large supply. The prices may rise again in September when fewer farmers have tomatoes available.

Use shopping strategies to get the best price

Your selection will be best early in the day. However, you will most likely get the best price late in the day, typically 30 minutes before the market closes. Normally, vendors will be willing to sell remaining items at a reduced price instead of hauling them back home.

Buy in bulk

Buy in bulk if you’re interested in canning or freezing items. Do not be afraid to ask for a bulk discount. If you know ahead of time that you would like a large quantity of a specific item, arrange the purchase with the vendor ahead of time. This assures you get the quantity needed and the vendor has enough produce for the customers.

Ask for seconds

This is one of my favorite tips: most vendors will have seconds, which are not display. These items may be overripe, blemished, or misshaped. If seconds are not on display, ask the vendor if they have any available. Seconds may be discounted as much as 50%. My family loves to get a bucket of peach seconds: delicious and much less expensive than full-priced peaches.

Get to know the vendors

Don’t be afraid to talk to the vendors. Get to know them and ask questions so that you find the best produce to fit your family’s needs and wants.

Hopefully these tips will help you maximize your trip to the farmers’ market!

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