Shop Smart at Farmers' Markets

April 23, 2013

Spring has sprung! And so have farmers' markets across the country. Here are SupermarketGuru's top tips for shopping at the farmers' market

Spring has sprung! And so have farmers' markets across the country. Shopping at farmers' markets allows us to choose from fresh farm picked local produce, to get to know our farmers and where our food is coming from, shop and eat seasonally, and sometimes even score on some great deals! To avoid feeling overwhelmed, unprepared or leave the market with a ton of produce that will end up rotting in your fridge, SupermarketGuru has gathered some great tips for getting the most out of a trip to the farmers' market, and being a savvy shopper as not all vendors are selling locally grown goods.

Bring cash, and change! Vendors appreciate small bills and having exact change expedites purchases. Some larger markets accept credit cards.

Prepare ahead of time: Bring your own reusable tote bags or backpack for stashing fresh produce. Most vendors have plastic bags, but these are not as sturdy when stuffed with fresh veggies. If you know that you won’t be heading straight home from the market, bring an insulated bag or cooler so that foods won’t spoil in a warm car.

Arrive early and take your time: Early bird shoppers always get the first and best pick, take a lap around the entire market before making any purchases - this way you can scope out the best of the best and also find the best value.  Do keep in mind that at the end of the market, most vendors will be selling what they have left for a discount, as they don’t want to head back to the farm with unsold items. But choose wisely as these items may have been sitting out for hours un-refrigerated.

Make a general list, but keep an open mind: plan recipes ahead of time but allow for substitutions - there will be a plethora of produce that you may want to include in your weekly meals, so don’t pass on it just because your recipe calls for another (similar) vegetable.

Don’t assume certified organic or even local: Many farmers’ market vendors do use traditional organic farming methods, but are not USDA certified. Look for the USDA stamp, and get to know your farmer. Making connections with the vendors allows you to understand what type of farming they practice, where they are located, and they might have some great recipe suggestions as well!

So get out there enjoy the spring and eat more veggies!