One of my favorite places is the farmer’s market, especially now that I live right down the street from the biggest farmers’ market I’ve ever seen. Now this might not fit into a frugal mindset, considering that farmer’s markets aren’t necessarily known to have low prices. But I love the farmer’s markets despite the higher prices for the following reasons:
1. The produce is local. Local produce is the freshest possible produce meaning it has the most possible nutrients. The longer produce sits around and the more that is done to preserve its life, the fewer nutrients it contains.
2. I’m helping out local farmers. I am not politically involved in this issue at all, but I do feel sad sometimes to see small family farms giving way to new construction. I also feel that over all, if our food supply was more local, it would be healthier. Quality control is easier on a small farm than on a huge corporation-type farm.
Besides, it is possible to find good deals at the farmer’s market, or at least comparable pricing. Here are some tricks to combine health and frugality at the farmer’s market:
1. Go later in the day. Farmers will begin to mark down produce that hasn’t sold – they don’t want to bring anything home. Of course, selection will not be as good.
2. Be willing to buy seconds. Some farmers offer produce that’s not quite perfect at a discounted price.
3. Shop around. Before I purchase anything, I walk through the entire market and scope it out. Usually, the farmers are offering essentially the same things so I find out who has the best price. I’ll buy cantaloupe from one farmer, apples from another, zucchini from another… you get the idea.
4. Compare apples to apples. Funny, huh? But seriously. Don’t compare the farmers’ market price to the sales price at your local grocery store, because those aren’t the same kind of apples. Compare farmers’ market prices to organic prices because they’re a lot closer to each other in terms of comparable quality. You’ll probably find that you come out better in the end when shopping at the farmers’ market.
5. Stick with cheaper produce items. If you’re tight on money, focus on what gives you the biggest bang for your buck: compare serving sizes to prices. A watermelon and a pint of berries might be the same price, but which gives you more servings? I also prefer to buy lettuce and squash (when they are in season, usually not simultaneously!) to other types of produce that don’t go quite as far.
What are your tips for getting the most out of your farmers’ market?