As the weather warms up, Farmer’s Markets will become an increasingly popular place to spend an afternoon. The popularity of these outdoor, farmer-to-consumer markets has always been high, but Michigan State University says it increased even more during the pandemic. As many chain grocery stores shut down or shortened hours during the pandemic, more Farmer’s Markets popped up or increased their operating hours/days, becoming a valuable source for healthy foods.
Farmer’s Markets are also instrumental tools in areas that face food scarcity (or at least healthy food scarcity). In food deserts where grocery stores carrying fresh produce are hard to find, pop-up, traveling Farmer’s Markets offer access to nutritious fruits and vegetables. And it’s been long known that these food deserts are primarily in minority neighborhoods, making Farmer’s Markets especially valuable in Black communities. If you plan on visiting yours more this summer, there are some tips and tricks that will help you save money and make the most of the Farmer’s Market.
Walk With Cash
Cash is king at the Farmer’s Market. Though many vendors now take credit cards, the Wi-Fi is notoriously slow at these markets so these transactions can take a while. They can also mean paying credit card fees. Some vendors might even give you a discount if you pay in cash. Don’t forget to bring lots of small bills so that you can offer exact change – especially if you go early in the day before the vendors have had a chance to make change.
Bring A Rolling Cart
Perhaps you’re smart enough to bring your own bags (thick, canvas ones are best), but don’t forget to invest in a little rolling cart. After you’ve loaded up just two bags, your arms will get heavy. You don’t want to have to cut your shopping trip short because you’re tired of carrying your goods. If you live walking distance to the market, then using a rolling cart gives you the option to leave the car at home, too.
Befriend The Farmers
Most of these vendors will be the regular farmers at your market. Get to know them. You’ll see them every week. They sometimes give regulars a little discount, and happily share tips on how to cook and eat their produce.
Go Very Early OR Very Late
It’s best to hit the market either within the first hour that’s it’s open, or the final hour. The first hour is when you’ll find the best produce – things haven’t been picked over yet. However, if you’re looking for deep discounts, the last hour is when the savings happen. Farmers are packing up soon and would rather leave with empty trucks. This is when they’ll start slashing prices on their goods.
Get Recipe Recommendations
The farmers know the flavors of their produce. They know when their peppers are spicy that season or sweet. They know when their veggies are tending toward bitter or savory. And they can make the perfect recommendations on what to pair with their produce. Usually, you can find the ideal cheese, herbs or honey to use for the fruits and veggies, right there at the market, too.
Buy More To Spend Less
Another way to save money at the Farmer’s Market is to buy in bulk. Vendors tend to offer discounts when you buy in bulk. So see if you can get creative and find ways to eat asparagus every night for a week. And don’t forget that some produce like berries, corn, peas and carrots freeze well, so you can always stick the excess in the freezer and use them later.
Sample, Sample, Sample
Sampling the produce isn’t just fun – it’s also an important part of figuring out what you like and don’t like. One vendor might have granny smith apples that are super tart (which are good for baking) while another has apples that are sweet (great for snacking). Remember there can be a dozen vendors selling the same thing, so do a lap and sample everyone’s product before choosing which to buy.
Follow Your Faves
Many of your favorite farmers are likely on Instagram. Give them a follow. Sometimes they’ll give you a discount or a free product on the spot for doing so. Furthermore, if you know you love their stuff, sometimes you can DM them in advance of market day and ask them to put aside a box for you. Following them on IG also helps you know where they’ll be next, too.