5 Tips for Shopping the Farmers’ Market

by Jessica Sommerfield · 0 comments

Summer is prime time for buying road-side stand or farmer’s market produce, one of the best options for getting fresh and often organic fruit and vegetables while supporting local farmers and your community.  Farmers’ markets are certainly a better choice for fresh, high-quality, in-season produce, and are often cheaper than retailers; it is possible to spend more there than you would elsewhere.  Just like grocery shopping at the supermarket, there are ways you can save money while still enjoying the benefits of fresh, local produce. Here are some tips to make the most of your summer farmer’s market.

  • Go early, and go late.

This may seem like a contradiction, but there are advantages to getting to the market as soon as it opens, and passing through right before it closes. First thing in the morning when the market opens, the produce selection is at its best. If you are someone who is most concerned with quality, you will have your pick of everything. You’re also more likely to get in on exclusive deals or low-stock items before they’re sold out.  One of the disadvantages of this strategy is that you’ll be charged full price and less likely to negotiate a deal while there’s still plenty of time for vendors to sell their stock to other customers.  A compromise is to scope out which types of produce are in over-abundance so you know what kind of deals to strike later on.

To save the most money, you should definitely swing by later in the day. At this point vendors are eager to get rid of their remaining produce so they make as much money as possible without having to re-load and haul it back (perhaps with no remaining opportunities to sell it). Many times vendors will try to sell you their entire remaining inventory at extremely discounted prices. If you’re able to use all of it before it spoils, by all means take advantage of a deal; but  beware of getting too caught up in the excitement of the deals that you forget your actual needs.

  • Buy in bulk and shop seasonally.

Buying in bulk is a sure way to get a discount any time of day. Individual items are pricier because the farmer needs to ensure a profit in case he can’t sell everything. When you buy in bulk, you eliminate the gamble of whether or not he’ll sell and encourage friendlier pricing. Pay attention to the prime harvest windows for various types of produce. When items are most abundant, prices will be lower. Plan your menus to coincide with what’s in season to save the most (and enjoy the best quality).

  • Establish yourself as a regular.

When you buy consistently from a particular vendor or group of vendors, you establish yourself as a regular, loyal customer. Vendors will look for you and cater to your preferences because they can count more solidly on your purchases than on someone passing through. You’re also more likely to get better deals on everything you buy as well as freebies.

  • Bring your own bags.

Re-using plastic bags or utilizing recycled canvas bags is not only more eco-friendly; it saves the farmers money acquiring bags for their customers. This trait also marks you as a regular, serious shopper since you took the time to come prepared. The more bags you’re carrying, the more the farmers’ eyes will sparkle with the anticipation of a good sale, and the more willing they’ll be to negotiate.

  • Don’t be afraid to haggle.

Haggling in a farmer’s market is entirely appropriate and even expected. Ever notice that prices are hardly ever posted? You stand a greater chance of negotiating a spoken price than a written one. Just remember to be courteous and professional.

Saving money at the farmer’s market is not a given, but by practicing a few of these tips, you can make the most of the opportunity for fresh produce while still supporting you local farmers.

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