How to Shop the Farmers Market on a Budget
One of the best things about the arrival of spring is the re-emergence of farmers markets. Who doesn’t love a good weekend stroll through rows of locally grown produce? But although the produce is fresh and beautiful, it can also be quite expensive. Instead of dropping $10 on two apples and a carton of berries, use these dietitian-approved money saving tips to spare your wallet during your next trip to the farmers market.
Farmers are people too! Because they spend all day standing around in what can be rough climates, they like to break up the day and have a conversation about the produce. “Farmers are passionate about their work and they'll appreciate when you are too,” says Christy Brissette, MSc, RD of 80 Twenty Nutrition. She adds that striking up a conversation with a local farmer will not only provide insight into the origins of your food, but you may also find some extra veggies added to your bag. Plus, you’ll have made a knowledgeable friend, who can help you navigate the ins and outs of the market.
Did you know that fruits and veggies that are considered “ugly” or have minor cosmetic irregularities are often discarded before packaging? Many think this produce is bad or doesn’t contain the same nutrients, but Stephanie McKercher, MS, RDN, of The Grateful Grazer says otherwise. “Ugly fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious and flavorful as the produce in your supermarket, and they're typically sold at much lower prices.” she says. Not only will buying ‘ugly produce’ spare your wallet, but it will also prevent excessive food waste.
Going to the market without a list of your “must-have” items can cause aimless wandering. You may also be more likely to blow your budget on a fancy bag of pretzels and some homemade baked goods, only to return home with virtually no produce and an empty wallet. Instead, make a list of items you need, and take seasonal produce into consideration. Whatever is in season at the time is usually abundant on the farm, which makes it a cheap option. Having a list stocked with seasonal produce ensures you will get the most bang for your buck.
Saving money is not always about the short-term. “To save money in the long run, I buy a potted herb plant that will continue to produce in the future, rather than buying one pack of cut herbs,” says Ginger Hultin MS RDN CSO, owner of ChampagneNutrition. If you have a real green thumb, some farmers sell seedlings so that you can plant your own produce at home. And since these farmers are experts in growing, you can pick their brains about how to get the most out of your crop.
Since produce doesn’t stay fresh forever, farmers are very eager to sell it at the market, rather than take it back to the farm. “If you shop in the last hour of the day, you can get amazing produce, seafood and other perishables for great deals,” says Brissette. This means less work and cleanup for the farmers and more money in your pocket.
Natalie Rizzo, M.S., R.D., is a media dietitian, food and nutrition writer, spokesperson and blogger at Nutrition à la Natalie.
*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.