Monday, May 8, 2006

Picking the Cream of the Crop at Farmers’ Markets

Author: Nick
Category: Money


So you’re looking to get a little more fruit and veggie into your diet, but you go to your local grocery store and find that a head of lettuce costs $82 and a sack of oranges costs roughly the same as a sack of diamonds. And heaven forbid you have thoughts of eating organic food on your limited budget.

Sorry, but an apple a day only keeps the doctor away if it’s not the only thing you can afford to eat all day. How is a health-conscious person like you supposed to afford a nice balance of fruits and vegetables when they cost so darn much? Farmers’ markets to the rescue!!!

The premise of a farmers’ market is simple: a bunch of folks who grow their own produce show up and sell it directly to people like you instead of middleman grocery store chains. The farmers benefit from higher profit, and you benefit from lower prices and typically better quality and more variety.

As simple as it sounds to score some sweet eats at your local farmers’ market, there are some guidelines you should keep in mind to help maximize your fruity savings.

  • First you need to find one! You can’t go to a farmers’ market if you don’t know where one is. Fortunately, finding one is as easy as the pie you’re going to make to thank me for pointing you to this link: the USDA’s list of U.S. farmers’ markets.
  • Get there early. The vendors at a farmers’ market don’t have the restocking abilities of your local supermarket. Once they sell out, nothing’s going to pop up and take its place until the next farmers’ market. Show up close to the market’s opening to scope out the best and juiciest pieces of produce.
  • Forget just about everything you know about grocery shopping. While list-writing and getting in and out quickly are vital to frugal grocery shopping, you should show up to a farmers’ market entirely unprepared and with plenty of time to browse. Look over the whole market to seek out the best quality and price, then go back around and make your purchases. Don’t bother bringing a pre-written list since you won’t know until you get there what the best offerings will be.
  • …But don’t overdo it. Only buy what you know you and your family will eat before it spoils. You may be tempted to pick up tons of fresh fruits and veggies, but the savings quickly evaporates if you end up tossing some of it. Still, you should load up on good deals if you don’t mind eating lots of yummy things that are good for you!
  • Get to know the vendors. There may be dozens or even hundreds of farmers at the market, but you should make an effort to get to know a few of them better. On your next trip, they may remember you and offer you better deals or hold high-quality produce for you if you’re a regular. Some may even offer to share super-secret farmer recipes that’ll help you turn those fruits and veggies into fabulous feats of culinary wonderment.

We’re going to check out one of the three nearby farmers’ markets sometime soon. Boy, I could really go for a nice watermelon right about now. Or chocolate cake, but that’s not a fruit or vegetable. But cherry chocolate cake is…

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