Money Moment: Planning Your Farmers’ Market Shopping List

Dr. Jennifer Hunter

By Dr. Jennifer Hunter

Welcome to Money Moment episode number 12, with your host Dr. Jennifer Hunter. In this episode, Jennifer continues the conversation about shopping your local farmers’ market by talking about how to plan your farmers’ market shopping list.

Part 1 in Episode 11 discussed budget tips for shopping your local farmers’ market. One of those was developing your shopping list prior to going to the market. Today, I cover this in more in detail.

Plan in advance to avoid temptations

Photospin/Valentyn Semenov

Summer is a prime time for shopping at your local farmers’ market. From early May to late October, the farmers’ market is a great place to find fresh fruit and vegetables. And shopping locally is a great way to ensure that you are buying the highest quality produce in food products while supporting your local community. Shopping seasonally at your local farmers’ market will provide you with the opportunity to cook fruits and vegetables that are at their peak, leaving the recipes bursting with flavor. Additionally, many market vendors enjoy answering questions and providing recommendations about the food that they are selling, which allows you the chance to learn more about the foods that you are consuming. Because of the extensive selection of fruits, vegetables and other local food products at your farmers’ market, it may be tempting to stray from your shopping list. However, planning a shopping list in advance of your shopping trip will help you avoid overbuying and exceeding your food budget.

Know your seasons

Learn more about your favorite fruits and vegetables before planning a trip to the farmers’ market. Doing so can help guarantee that you are eating your favorite local produce when it tastes best, is most readily available, and is least expensive. Also, be sure to learn about the ideal color, size, and texture of the fruits and vegetables that you are planning on purchasing.

Do your homework

Before heading to the market, look to see if your local market posts a listing early in the week about which fruits, vegetables, and local food products will be available. Use listings like these to plan your weekly meals and write your shopping list. You may also check with the market manager to see if they have a list serve for emails that are sent out on a weekly basis to let you know which vendors will be at the market.

Have fun browsing

When you arrive at the farmers’ market with your list in hand, make an initial loop around the vendors to see what is being offered and at what price. Some booths may contain higher quality produce at a lower price.

Get to know your local vendors

As you plan summer shopping trips, get to know the market vendors. They will usually share information about what they are growing and when it will be available. As you develop a relationship with the market vendors they will often hold special foods back for you or let you know the week ahead what might be available so that you are certain to get there in time to get your favorite pick of produce.

Go early

If you have a specific list of products that you are hoping to buy, go early in the day. Due to the hot summer season, many shoppers often go early in the morning when it is cooler outside. You will find the best selection of produce early in the day. But remember, you might also get the best deals late in the day if vendors have produce left and do not want to haul it back home.

Try something new

Consider leaving space in your budget and on your shopping list to try something new. Do not be afraid to ask the market vendors for a sample or to ask questions. Market vendors are often excited to share their knowledge of recipes, recommendations, and cooking tips. This is especially fun to do with our kiddos and it’s a great way to get them to branch out and to try some new fruits and vegetables.

Be discerning about the produce you purchase

Be willing to pass up on some items on your list. Avoid buying produce with any signs of bruising, tears or soft spots. Produce that is over ripe will spoil easily and may leave you throwing out food. In the case of buying seconds, you may be picking up produce that is a little bruised or a little overripe or has some soft spots. And in that case, if you know what you’re buying and you have a plan to use it soon, that is ok.

Keep future shopping trips in mind

Be sure to keep these considerations in mind when planning your trip to the farmers’ market. Shopping with a list is a great way to ensure that you will get everything needed for your weekly cooking needs, while avoiding overspending. While you are at the farmers’ market, start thinking about your future shopping trips. Ask the market vendors about what they plan on selling in the coming weeks so that you can take advantage of the best deals. Before you know it, you will be an expert farmers’ market buyer.

Hopefully, you are encouraged to get out and shop your local farmers’ market this summer. Stay tuned for the next episode where I discuss the ins and outs of warehouse shopping.

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