Farmer’s Market Season: 5 Tips for Shopping the Market

The following post is from Kate of Modern Alternative Mama:

source: photoskate

Very soon, it will be farmer’s market season.  May opens the market in my area!

For awhile, people have touted farmer’s markets as “the” place to shop for local foods and get a great deal too.  But farmer’s markets have become trendy and also more business-like, and some have found that they really aren’t a cheaper options anymore.

It’s still awesome to support local, so how can you shop the market and still keep to a budget?  Luckily, there are ways.

Buy specialty items.

I really love basswood honey.  It is a specialty honey that is almost impossible to find anywhere.  It costs $5/lb. at the farmer’s market, and I could get honey for about $3.79/lb. at a local health food store (also raw/local).  I save up to buy a few pounds of this basswood honey each year because I love it.  I don’t pay extra for a basic wildflower honey, though.  I stick to the specialty honey that isn’t available elsewhere. Choose a few items at your market that you just can’t find anywhere else.

Look for “seconds.”

“Perfect” fruit might be $2/lb., while the “seconds” (bruised, blemished, overripe but perfectly fine to eat) might be $1/lb. or less.  Try to buy these “seconds” especially if you will be cooking the food before eating it and no one will even notice the blemishes. Ugly tomatoes still make great soup.

Shop late in the day.

Sometimes, farmers will offer whatever is left at the end of the market for really cheap, just so they don’t have to carry it back with them.  Come towards the end of the market and see what kind of deals you can get.

Connect outside the market.

Farmers bring their best to the market and have to compete with other vendors for business.  Part of that means keeping their prices fairly competitive, or similar to other farmers in the market.  Especially if you are looking to buy in quantity, ask if you can come to their farm and if they’ll give you a deal for doing so — many will, if you buy a lot.  While I often see farmers selling tomatoes for $1.50/lb. or more at the market, talking to them about hooking up outside the market has led to buying canning tomatoes for $0.50/lb. or less!

Splurge sometimes.

Sometimes I save $10 or so in my weekly budget and go and buy something that just looks delicious.  Maybe I’m having some people over and want to make a nice salad, or I’m dying for a bag of the first apples or strawberries of the season.  Nothing’s better than fresh and local!

How do you shop the farmer’s markets?  Do you find good deals in your area?

Kate is a wife and mommy to 3 and is passionate about God, health and food. She has written 7 cookbooks and is planning to release more in 2012. When she’s not blogging, she’s in the kitchen, sewing, or home schooling her children. You can find her at Modern Alternative Mama or contributing to Keeper of the Home.