11 Farmers Market Shopping Tips

by MyFitnessPal
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11 Farmers Market Shopping Tips

Nothing beats hitting up a local farmers market, especially in the summer when stalls are bursting with beautiful, ripe fruits and veggies. Still, it can be a little overwhelming — dozens (possibly even hundreds!) of shouting customers, strange-looking veggies with names you’ve never heard and winding layouts. But once you get over the intimidation factor, supplementing your weekly grocery trip with locally grown produce can help you save money and eat more whole foods. Find your local farmers market, arm yourself with these tips and start eating amazing produce today.

1. Eat Before You Go 

Sure, you’re going to want to taste-test the ripe peaches, cherries and tomatoes, but it’s much easier to walk past the kettle corn and mini-doughnut stands when you’re not starving.

2. BYO Bags

Skip the thin, flimsy plastic bags offered by most stalls in lieu of your own reusable cloth or canvas ones. It’s environmentally friendly and you eliminate the risk of bag blowout — watching an assortment of heavy veggies break free and hit the sidewalk isn’t fun.

3. Take a Lap Before You Buy

While prices are typically similar from stand to stand, you might find better looking apples at one end and the most delicious kale you’ve ever seen at the other. Walking the entire market first gives you the best game plan before you pull out your wallet — plus, you’ll get a little extra exercise.


READ MORE > WHY I FRICKIN’ LOVE FARMERS MARKETS


4. Have a Flexible List

A shopping list is a great tool to make sure you’re buying what you’ll need for the week ahead. But the items offered at your local farmers market vary from week to week, based on quantity and availability, weather conditions and other produce-growing factors. Be prepared to buy broccoli instead of Brussels sprouts, if necessary.

5. Ask Questions

Farmers markets offer a chance to learn more about where your food comes from and how it was grown. If you’re curious about where the farm is, what it’s like or how they grow their food, ask! The truly savvy farmers market shopper also knows to ask how they might prepare an item. This is the food they feed their own families and the farmers often have great cooking suggestions.  

6. Get Your Hands Dirty

Many growers don’t wash or process produce before bringing it to market. You’re going to see carrots and beets with dirt clinging to them and their leaves still attached, muddy greens if it’s been raining and even Brussels sprouts on their stalks. As long as you wash everything carefully when you get home, it’s perfectly fine to eat.

7. Be Choosy 

Take your time to sort through fruit and vegetables before they’re weighed and paid for to prevent disappointment later. All those juicy apricots look so pretty in the daylight, but if you’re not careful you might find a few bad ones when you’re unloading at home. It’s OK to take them out of the cute pint box for a look-see.

8. Buy at the Peak

The first crop of tomatoes isn’t always the best — and that goes for most produce. Some varieties of fruits and veggies take a week or two into the season to really hit their peak. Make a mental note of what’s new to market today, so you can grab some on your visit next week. And don’t forget: You can always ask to taste before you buy.


READ MORE > HOW I LEARNED TO LOVE ZOODLES


9. Don’t Be Afraid to Haggle

If it seems like a stall has an abundance of one item, see if they’ll give you a deal if you buy a certain amount. Most reputable markets have rules against day-end discounting, so don’t expect to sweep in as the market closes for stellar deals.

10. Bring the Kids!

Farmers’ markets are bustling with energy, and getting your kids around all that fresh produce helps get them excited about eating it. Encourage them to pick colorful vegetables and new fruits to eat later in the week.

11. Think Beyond Produce

Lots of farmers markets have stands selling other yummy from-the-farm foods (Think: eggs, honey, meat and grains). You may visit for the super-ripe juicy tomatoes, but the range of farm-fresh products and constantly changing selection will keep you coming back.

Related

  • Charlene Mattson

    11. Get to know some of the vendors 😀 We go to our farmer’s market every year, every weekend and as a result, we know several vendors pretty well which nets us discounts on sausages, free toys for our son and other goodies. Plus it makes the whole trip more enjoyable!

  • science_chick

    Sometimes washing produce also washes off natural waxes that keep the fruit or vegetable from spoiling or rotting. That’s why your grocery-store cukes, zucchinis, and tomatoes are waxed – and why your farmer wisely brushes off but doesn’t wash off soil!

    • SKW

      Wash your produce only right before you use it. This counts for grocery store produce, too!

  • 77tes

    1) Only take a limited amount of $$, or you will spend the rent money, lol.
    2) Get a wheelie cart for those days when you buy three heads of celery, twelve ears of corn, and a watermelon.

  • 77tes

    1) Only take a limited amount of $$, or you will spend the rent money, lol.
    2) Get a wheelie cart for those days when you buy three heads of celery, twelve ears of corn, and a watermelon.

  • Megan

    Ask questions! A few of the vendors at my market don’t make or grow ANYTHING. They bulk sale things online and sell them as their own.

    • Jaxta65

      I went to one a couple of weeks ago. I asked about watercress and brocket and she had no idea what I was talking about. So I went to the supermarket for it.

    • jofjltncb6

      Sad, but true. Some vendors at “farmer’s markets” buy wholesale from conventional sources (just like the grocery stores) and then resell them…so instead of delicious small-farm grown produce, you’re buying overpriced conventionally grown produce. (Not that I have a particular problem with conventionally grown produce, but I don’t want to pay a premium for it…and I don’t like being mislead either.

  • Megan

    Ask questions! A few of the vendors at my market don’t make or grow ANYTHING. They bulk sale things online and sell them as their own.

  • Rob

    Ask for samples….especially with fruit. Most will cut one open on the spot and give you a taste.

  • Rob

    Ask for samples….especially with fruit. Most will cut one open on the spot and give you a taste.

  • Organic Farm Mom

    Not all farmers haggle. A good portion of us run on a very thin profit margin (or none at all) and asking for a deal is not helpful to the farmer since most of the time we are only lurking for $2 or $3 an hour.

  • Organic Farm Mom

    Working, not lurking

  • nunnia_bidness

    I don’t have kids so suggestion #10 is of no use to me!
    Thus this is a list of only 9 Farmers Market Shopping Tips!
    Thus I and all others who don’t have kids have been ripped off of one useful tip!
    This is an outrage!

    • Katina Smith

      Bring the kids, could be your kids, your neighbors kids, you sister’s kids or what ever. The point was to introduce kids to the idea of supporting farmer’s market

  • Linda

    #6) You can bring your produce home and wash it with the hose on the lawn, saving your kitchen a lot of mess. Bring a paring knife out with you too to cut off things that can go in the trash or compost.

  • ls

    I used to compost the beet greens, but now I cook them up just like spinach or kale. Greens aren’t attached to vegetables in grocery stores, because they would be wilted after a week, but the farmers pick them the day before so they’re still fresh.

  • Laughing Gull

    I live in the Caribbean, but I’m not from here. The farmers at my local markets are happy to share tastes and preparation suggestions when I ask them about produce I’m unfamiliar with. I usually report back to them as to how it worked out and whether my family liked it.