Farmers' market season has officially arrived. For some, these outdoor markets are just a weekend activity to peruse the stalls and for others it's time to stock up on the week's worth of groceries. No matter what category you fall into, it can be easy to break the bank while roaming the market. Before you even make it past the first few stalls, you may find yourself with a bag of lettuce, box of donuts, hand-made jewelry you probably don't need, and no cash in sight.
To avoid random purchases and keep your budget in-check, follow these seven farmers' market tips:
- Make a Shopping List Beforehand: You need to be even more prepared than when going to the grocery store. Arrive to the market with a clear game plan, whether that means meal prepping for the week, buying for an exact recipe, or just buying what's in season. Along with your list, don't arrive on an empty stomach to avoid impulse purchases.
- Walk Through The Entire Market: Before buying the first tomatoes you see, do an entire lap around the market. Check the prices, quantity, and quality of the items you want to buy, along with which stalls accept cash versus cards. If you are wanting to buy any frozen or perishable items, find those stalls and make a note to return to those last.
- Know What's in Season: Not only will in-season produce be cheaper, it will be the most fresh and flavorful - truly getting the most bang for your buck. Avoid buying out of season produce all together to embrace the current season and ask the farmers for samples of their favorite in-season produce.
- Know What's Worth Buying Organic: Follow this updated list of produce you should always buy organic. The dirty dozen are worth the few extra dollars, but any other produce is completely fine without the organic label.
- Small Talk with Farmers: Get to know the farmers and ask them about their produce, especially if you are buying for a specific recipe. They might be willing to negotiate the price or quantity of the items you want to buy, and it's always good to know more about the people who grow your food.
- Bring Cash: This means bringing cash before even arriving to the market. Don't use the farmers' market ATMs to avoid high service fees and long lines. Most farmers still prefer to only use cash for transactions so don't arrive with just credit cards.
- Timing is Everything: Depending on the goal of your farmers' market outing, you should either arrive early or an hour before the market closes. If you arrive early, you will avoid crowds, get the best quality produce, and more face time with the farmers. However, if you are purely wanting to save money, arrive late. Farmers want to sell everything so when the market is about to close, you'll see prices drop and items bundled together. However, you risk the chance of fewer options and picked-over produce.