Shopping at the farmers market means all of your money goes to the farmer, and none to the middlemen and advertisers, which often means cheaper prices for you. Here are some tips for making your dollar go even farther at the farmers market.
Shop when the prices are lowest. If you want the best selection, go to the farmers market in the morning. But if you want the best prices, go shortly before the close of the market, when farmers are often willing to haggle, especially if you buy a large amount. Always go when it rains. When the weather is bad and turnout is poor, farmers are often willing to make deals.
Find out when specific fruits and vegetables are cheapest. Ask the farmers, when will this be the cheapest? It might be a specific week or month when it is peak season or it might depend on the weather. You could also ask the farmer what is the cheapest price a product is sold for and then watch for that price.
Buy in bulk and preserve. Most farmers will give you a discount for buying in bulk. Buy in bulk at peak season, on a rainy day, or when the farmers market is about to close and you will save even more. But then you have to be able to use or store all that produce. The easiest way to preserve produce is to freeze it. If you have a dehydrator (or a friend with a dehydrator), you can dry it. You could also learn to can produce. I recommend finding a friend who already knows how and has the equipment. I canned tomatoes for the first time last year. It wasn’t rocket science, but I was very glad to have an experienced friend at my side.
Ask the farmers questions about the produce. What tastes the best? When was this picked? How long will this last and what is the best way to store it? Buying the freshest and tastiest produce will give you the biggest bang for your buck and minimize your food waste.
Prioritize what you buy organic. If you can’t buy everything organic, prioritize shopping organic for the “Dirty Dozen,” a list of the 12 fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide load. The Dirty Dozen is published annually by the Environmental Working Group based on data collected by the USDA. Although the list changes a little each year, the Dirty Dozen are generally those fruits and vegetables with thin skins that you can eat (apples, peaches, celery, etc.).
Look for non-certified organic farmers who don’t use pesticides and fertilizers. Some small family farms don’t use these chemicals but can’t afford or haven’t yet achieved organic certification. Buying from these farms will give you the benefit of organic farming for a lower price.
Pay with food stamps/ EBT (electronic benefits transfer), WIC and Senior checks. In general, you will pay cash at your farmers market. Many markets are also now accepting forms of government assistance, such as WIC checks or food stamps.