7 Tips to Make the Most of Shopping at Your Local Farmers Market

One of my favorite things about Spring and Summer is shopping at local farmers markets. Four years ago I decided I was going to live a more sustainable life and one of the easiest switches I made was shopping for more groceries and household items at the farmers market. Shopping for local produce and meat cuts down on shipping materials and gas though minimal travel time from farm to table. It’s also an incredible way to support your local economy by buying directly from the famers themselves.

Buying from farmers markets hosts some incredible wellness benefits too. Eating fruits and vegetables that are out of season is not only a less sustainable choice, it’s also not giving you as many nutrients as you’d receive from what’s currently in a growing season. Shopping your local farmers market ensures you’re eating produce that’s in season and packed with the maximum amount of nutrients for your body.

Your first grocery trip to the farmers market can be pretty overwhelming. It’s really easy to overspend or show up completely unprepared. With the right strategy you’ll be surprised at just how little you might need from the grocery store after a visit to the farmers market. Here are my favorite tips for getting the most out of your weekly farmers market visits.

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Find The Right Farmers Market For Your Needs

If you’re lucky enough to have multiple farmers markets in your area make sure to find the best one to meet your personal needs. We have so many options for farmers markets in the area of Tennessee that I live which is great, but it took a while to find the best one’s for my family’s needs. Some markets don’t have as big of a variety as others making it hard to do a week’s worth of shopping in one market. Some markets may have no meat or dairy products at all, and others may have more crafty things than actual produce or grocery items.

Do a google search of local farmers markets before venturing out at the crack of dawn on a Saturday to get your hopes up for a market that’s not as functional as you’d like. Most markets will have a website that lists their vendors/ farmers. I also like to check out their social media pages for photos of past markets to get an idea of how much it might fit my needs.

Show Up Early!

If you ignore everything else on this list don’t ignore this one- I promise you’ll regret it. Try making it to the market at least an hour after they open to get the best selection and top tier produce. I’ve made the mistake of wanting to sleep in a little and getting to the market a few hours after they open and it’s always a total bust.

If you show up late chances are the produce will be picked through or your favorite fruits and veggies won’t be available at all. Hot commodity items like meat, dairy, or artisan breads will be long gone, and you’ll only be left with homemade soaps, pies, and woodworking gifts. Don’t get me wrong, all of those make great gifts- but you’re here to grocery shop today.

Have Cash on Hand

While most farmers and vendors at the market are starting to accept cards or cash apps you’ll probably run across a few that only take cash. I’m a fan of paying for everything at the farmers market in cash because it cuts out the processing fees vendors have to pay when using a card processing system. Remember they are small business owners, not Wal-Mart, every expense counts when running a small business. You’d also hate to miss out on a grocery item you really want because all you have is a card on hand. Some markets also have ATMs but if you’re unsure bring cash with you.

Bring Bags or a Cart

Remember, this isn’t the grocery store so you wont have a buggy or basket to pick up on your way in to the market. Some vendors do have plastic bags, but it’s best to bring your own to cut down on waste. I like to use inexpensive cotton sacks to hold produce. If you plan on shopping for the whole week I also recommend bringing a portable cart or market tote for a more pleasant shopping experience (strollers work great for storage too). Depending on the market, sometimes a trip back to the car for storage can be quite the trek- plus you don’t want food going to waste in a hot vehicle.

Only Buy What You Know You’ll Eat

Your first trip to the farmers market can be such an exciting experience, but don’t lose your head and go overboard. Food waste in the United States is estimated between 30-40 percent of food supply. When you think of all the people going hungry in the world this is quite sickening.

Buying only the items that you know you’ll eat reduces waste and keeps you from overspending. What produce do you commonly purchase at the grocery store? Stick to that. What produce do you use most in your weekly recipes? The farmers market can be a mecca of culinary excitement, but it’s important not to get too lost in the selection of goods.

Make A List

This tip goes hand in had with our last tip. Take the time to plan out your meals for the week. Once you have your meals planned out make a list of what to search for at the farmers market. This helps cuts down on food waste and overspending.

When I first started shopping at the farmers market I made the mistake of going in totally unprepared and without a grocery list. I bought things I never cooked and more produce than I even needed. Of course I overspent and ultimately a lot of produce went to waste. I now keep a farmers market list on my phone that’s really helpful in cutting down waste.

Talk to the Farmers

Make sure to talk to local farmers while you’re there! This is an experience you’ll never get at the grocery store. It’s honestly one of my favorite parts of the farmers market experience. When you connect with the farmers who’ve grown your food, your making an intimate connection to the food itself.

If there’s something in particular you’re looking for but can’t seem to locate ask the farmer if they grow it or know someone else who might. They can offer you insight on new recipes and preparation tips too. Some of my favorite conversations with local farmers have been when they offer to show me photos of their farm, crops, or livestock. It’s an incredible experience to make such a connection with the nourishment you’ll be putting into your body.

In a world where most of us are mindlessly eating, the farmers market experience is a great way to bring more mindfulness into your diet. It’s helped me create a deeper appreciation to the food I eat and the farmers who help feed my family.

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