It’s the most wonderful time of the year… for fresh, healthy produce that helps you lose weight and save money. From Spring through Fall, farmer’s markets are among the best places to find fresh fruits, veggies, and other foods you need to create delicious recipes that don’t come from a cardboard box. If you want to learn how to get the most out of your neighborhood farmer’s market, this farmer’s market shopping guide can help!
Farmer’s Market Shopping Guide
1. Plan your trip.
Smart produce selection starts with knowing what you need. Figure out your meal plan and then make a list of the ingredients you’ll find at market. Don’t plan for just one night, either—buy for multiple meals over the next few days. Check out these yummy Meal Plans.
2. Go early…or late.
Visiting the market early allows you the best selection. However, shopping later in the day will sometimes snag you sweet deals as farmers discount items so that they don’t need to haul them home. Learn more about saving money with 6 Ways to Eat Healthy on a Tight Budget.
3. Shop around.
When a market offers multiple stands, invest time in shopping around to find the best quality and the best value. For example, one stand might sell a bell pepper for 25 to 50 cents less than another—those savings add up quickly if you’re making a dish like Greek Stuffed Peppers.
4. Save money by choosing less-than-perfect produce.
If you’re preparing a smoothie, jam, or similar recipe, those fruits or vegetables don’t need to be magazine cover perfect. You can often save money by choosing produce that’s not pretty. It may not be on display, so ask the stand-holder if he or she has “seconds” under the counter. Try this tasty 5-Berry Sugar-Free Jam.
5. Be flexible.
You may have planned to buy fresh blueberries, but what happens when you get to market and they’re gone? Simply swap them out for another fresh berry. If the specific ingredient is so essential that substitution isn’t an option, check out SkinnyMs. Recipes or our Pinterest Boards to find an alternative dish. (Bookmark those pages on your smartphone so you have easy, on-the-go access to clean-eating recipes!)
6. Ask questions.
How can you tell when an avocado’s ripe? How long will rhubarb keep? Farmers really know their stuff, so they’ll share the best produce selection advice. He or she can also tell you exactly what kind of fertilizers or pesticides they use in food production–and that’s the kind of expert service you typically don’t get from many grocery stores. That isn’t the only reason to buy from farmers; check out 10 Reasons to Buy Local from Farmer’s Markets.
Bonus Farmer’s Market Tips
Take small bills. Although some farmers use smartphones or tablets to complete electronic transactions, others operate on a cash-only basis. Keep small bills and change on hand for your market trip.
Take reusable bags. Carry your bounty home in a heavy-duty reusable bag, or treat yourself by investing in a durable, pretty market basket.
Do you have farmer’s market tips to share? Let us know in the comments section below.