Many towns offer more than one farmers’ market. Because of this, the U.S has tripled the amount of farmers’ markets within the last 15 years – to about 8,500 – because of the demand for health and locally grown produce. A study has shown that farmers’ markets are cheaper than grocery stores when it comes to organic produce, as well as many conventional items. Some farmers’ markets even take food stamps and cards.
Farmers’ markets are filled with a wide variety of fresh, clean, organic and healthy produce so there’s no question you’re going to want to splurge and buy everything if you could. If you want to eat healthier but are afraid that those good-for-you foods are too far out of your tight nit budget, follow these simple ways to save money.
1. Explore your options.
Set out to look for your favorite produce and the best deals, at markets in or around the town you live in. Each market will have different prices, produce and producers, depending on where you go.
When it comes time to do the actual shopping, explore a little more. Before you buy anything, make your way through the market and check out all the stands. Make an actual note or just a mental note of which stands have the best looking produce on the more affordable side. Instead of impulsive buying, exploring your options first can save money. When you’re done, you can circle back around and make your purchases.
2. Just use cash.
Before you venture to a farmers’ market, get cash to budget spending and save money. (Most markets don’t take credit cards anyway) Maybe just get one or two 20’s and see how far you can stretch it. Your bag might get surprisingly full.
3. Buy at peak season.
Farmers’ markets scream “supply and demand”. If a produce is ripening faster than a farmer can pick them, the prices for this item might be lower so they sell faster.
If you’re wondering what items are at their peak, markets may have charts they pass out, or you can check out seasonal produce maps by state. If you enjoy peaches year round, consider buying several during their peak season. Freezing them allows you to have them on hand all year.
4. Stay flexible.
Instead of making a list of what you need before you go to the farmers’ market, research what’s in season instead, and have some general categories of what you could use. Stay flexible while there and focus on what produce is plentiful at that time because those items will be cheaper.
5. Get to know farmers.
If you’re a regular and loyal customer week after week, you might get to know many of the farmers. Once you get to know some of them, many are so kind that they may show you a little love by slipping in an extra apple or two in your basket after your purchase. From conversations with the farmers, you might be able to pick up on what produce will be in peak soon so you can be ready when your next visit comes around.
6. Stop by at the end of the day.
This might sound odd at first but you should wait until the end of the day to do your shopping. Farmers are more likely to give you a discount when you purchase because they want to get rid of the rest of their produce.
7. Stick with basics.
You might have a certain type of produce you think is the best but at a farmers market; all your choices are healthy and fresh. Look for more ordinary varieties rather than rare ones and you’ll find lower prices and this as a way to save money.
8. Be a brave taster.
Explore and try different fruits and vegetables if they’re what’s cheap at the time. If you don’t know how to cook with a product, ask the farmer.
9. Tolerate blemishes.
Don’t turn away products that have little imperfections such as a small bruise. Produce that was picked that morning isn’t going to taste different with that one bruise. Being open to imperfect foods might get you a price break and save you money.
[Read: Learn Our Money Saving Ideas]
10. Smartly buy organic.
Look at the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists that EWG publishes every year: For Dirty Dozen by organic, produce with the highest pesticide load, and save money on the Clean Fifteen – produce that doesn’t have pesticide residues – by buying smart.
The Bottom Line
Eating yummier food doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Farmers’ markets are a great way to get healthy and fresh produce and support your local farmers. Just shop smart and save money.