My Best Farmers Market Shopping Tips!
I absolutely love the farmers market! Before we moved to Portland we came up for a visit from Texas, visited the farmers market in October and I was in love.
Our local farmers market in Texas probably had maybe 15 vendors on a good day; some days there were about 5. Here we have between 90-100 vendors. It’s heaven for anyone who loves fresh, local produce. We go every Saturday and make a day out of eat, we eat gluten free buckwheat crepes, play on the playground, splash in the splash pad on hot summer days, listen to live music, buy a balloon unless I can steer clear of the balloon guy, and of course we buy our produce for the week. I buy 90% of my produce from the farmers market. Broccoli and asparagus are two things that stay on my shopping list whether or not they’re in season just because Annabelle loves them so much and she’s still acquiring a last for sautéed leafy greens so we eat those every few weeks as well.
I’ve learned a few things from all my farmers’ market trips so I thought I’d share a few tips and tricks and hopefully you’ll fall in love with the farmers market too! Most farmers markets continue well past summer and depending on where you live they may even go year round so get out there and find your favorite one!
- Don’t assume everything is healthy! A common misconception is that if something is sold at there it must be healthy. Sadly that’s not the case. A lot of food vendors sell the same junk you’d find at a local fair, packed with fillers, preservatives and chemicals so choose wisely and ask about the ingredients.
- Ask about pesticide use. Not everything is organic; the produce that is organic will be proudly displaying a sign that says so since they have to pay for organic certification. Many farmers also post signs that tell you they don’t spray or use any pesticides (some choose to go this route to save money from the process of being certified organic). If you’re unsure just go ahead and ask, they’ll tell you what they use.
- Talk to the farmers. Ask them questions about what they’re selling, if you don’t see something you want ask them about it and they’ll tell you when they’ll have it or how the crop is doing. If you’re not familiar with something they can give you advice on how to cook it, how to store it and they may even give you one to take home and try. Sometimes my daughter gets her own little bag of one offs, different things she wants to try and then if she loves them we know to buy it again next week.
- Be prepared with Bags. Most stands do have bags for you to use but if you’re planning on doing a good amount of shopping I highly recommend bringing your own bags. We always bring two, one for the produce and one insulated bag for eggs and animal protein, we buy more fish in the winter time and more beef, lamb, and wild game in the winter months. I keep wanting to invest in one of those nifty farmers market carts with wheels on them but haven’t gotten around to it yet.
- Stack your produce properly. Keep the sturdy, heavy things like potatoes and squashes at the bottom and then layer in order of squishability. I like to keep my berries in little bags and I get them last so I can place them right on top and avoid them from getting squished.
- Bring cash and small change. The last thing you want to happen is to run out of money and then spot the one thing that you absolutely can’t live without! Know how much you want to spend, and don’t bring more than that, because surely you’ll find plenty of delicious treats.
- Find local favorites. If you spot something you usually buy at the grocery store check out the price – chances are farmers’ market prices will be better. Our favorite bread, Happy Camper gluten free bread is a little bit less expensive at the farmers market, so if I have room, and spare cash I’ll grab some when I’m there – it just tastes so much fresher!
- Go early or go late. Especially in the peak summer months. If you don’t do well with crowds I highly recommend going as soon as they open. We usually can’t get out of the house to do that so I like to go on the later side, we can usually get a better parking spot but we risk missing some of our favorites so sometimes we do brave the peak hours.
- Shop around. In terms of produce, many of the stands sell the same things, with a little variety between them. When you first start shopping the farmers market shop around, compare prices and look for deals. Chances are you’ll find a few stands that you love and keep going back to them.
- Try something new every week. It’s great to have a plan and know exactly what you want to buy and how you’re going to use it but one of my favorite parts of the farmers market is trying new things. Buy a new vegetable, find a great way to prepare it and you never know you might find something you just can’t live without. The only problem is you’ll be extra sad at the end of the season when you can’t buy your new favorite anymore. Trust me, it happens.
Bonus Tip: Buy in bulk and freeze. If there’s something you just can’t live without buy keep a stash in the freezer. I’ve been waiting very patiently for organic corn to make an appearance at out local farmers market and as soon as it does I’ll be stashing some in the freezer!