During the summer, an urban farmers’ market is the best place to get fresh produce, yummy bread, and local meats and cheeses. Purchasing locally grown food is becoming “all the rage” because more people are coming to terms with the countless benefits of eating locally and the unfortunate side effects of munching on produce that has been shipped from across the country. Plus, urban farmers’ markets are a great place to enjoy the weather on a Sunday morning! Unfortunately, costs can be through the roof (or tent) at neighborhood markets. Here are some tips to keeping the bill under budget and your pantry stocked.
Bring Cash and a Bag
It’s really easy for stands to have credit card scanners now, but cash is much easier. Plus, some vendors will give you a deal if you’re buying a few items and paying for cash. When farmers’ markets are busy, sometimes vendors can’t get service on their phones–which are used to run your card–so you don’t want to be the one holding up the line! It’s also a good idea to carry a couple reusable bags to toss your stuff in, and a mini cooler if you’re expecting to buy some meat, fish or cheese.
Patience, grasshopper. You’ll find the best tomatoes in the bunch, don’t fret. An urban farmers’ market can get crazy busy around mid-afternoon, leaving little to choose from and hectic crowds. We know, waking up at 8AM on a Sunday sounds dreadful, but you’ll be glad you did it when you’re done with your shopping before noon. You’ll also want to take your time meandering through stands: You may walk up to one at the entrance selling grass-fed meat, but later realize there is another stand with a larger variety and cheaper prices (hence, getting there early).
If you’re shopping for in-season produce, which you should, you may want to wait two or three weeks later than you’re anticipating. As the season carries on, produce tends to get less expensive because more farms have more of it in stock.
Talk to the Vendors
Slapping the word organic on items is really expensive, and although a lot of farmers follow the specific guidelines, their produce may be lacking that sticker you’re searching for. Vendors are usually super friendly and willing to chat about their products, so strike up a conversation and get to know where the items come from and what practices the farm has in place. This is another great reason to arrive early–vendors won’t be swamped!
Buy What You Need
Remember, the local produce you’re buying likely has not been affected by pesticides and preservatives, meaning the products will go bad more quickly. Buy the appropriate amount of fruits and veggies that will last you the week and resist the rest–you can just go next week! Look for homemade jellies and sauces, bread, natural baking mixes and non-food items if you’re in the mood for an all-out shopping trip.