Spring is often the kickoff season for farmers’ markets. Fresh produce, local meats, and even tasty baked goods from nearby artisans are all more accessible in one easy location. While you could continue to find your fare at the supermarket, farmers’ markets are often a healthier choice for both you and the environment.
Doing your food shopping in an outdoor market can turn what usually feels like a chore into a treat, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t the danger of overindulging or becoming overwhelmed. Farmers’ markets offer lots and lots of choices of both your old favorites and edibles you’ve never seen before. It’s easy to buy too much, only to have it go to waste once your home. On the other hand, with the seemingly endless options, it’s easy to feel paralyzed by too many decisions, leaving your bags empty at the end of the day.
Before you make way for your next farmers’ market, give these tips a try to make the most of your shopping trip.
‘Tis the Season: Where you live and what the weather is like will determine the kind of produce that will be available. Get to know more about what’s locally grown in your area so that you have an idea of what might be available for purchase.
Map Out a Menu: Treat your farmers’ market as an extension of your grocery store. Plan out your meals for the week, keeping in mind in-season produce from which you can build. Since you likely won’t be able to get everything you need from the farm stands, create two shopping lists–one for the farmers’ market and one for the supermarket.
Farmers’ Market First: Mother Nature doesn’t always make it easy on farmers, creating low-yielding crops or damaged produce. With your lists in hand, make your farmers’ market the first stop. If you’re able to get everything on your list, great! However, if you had to pass on some produce or it just wasn’t available, you can always pick it up at the grocery store later without making a second trip or ruining your meals planned.
Be Comfortable: Depending on the size of your farmers’ market or its popularity (i.e., lots of people to navigate around), you could be on your feet for a while. Wear comfortable shoes and clothing so that you can last as long as needed to get great food. Also, bring your own reusable bags, which tend to be easier to carry more items in and cuts back on taking home yet another plastic bag.
Weight Watch: Most farm stands will offer similar items, so don’t feel like you have to buy the first watermelon you see. Save your shoulders and hold off on heavier items until the end of your shopping trip.
Control Your Cash: Hey, big spender. If you typically shop ‘til you drop thanks to little willpower with your money, put a cap on your cash by only bringing a small amount. Estimate from your shopping list how much food you actually need to buy, and bring just enough for that plus a little extra for one or two spontaneous “splurges.” Not only will you save some money but also likely cut back on food waste, too.
Ask for Advice: See something you want to try, but it’s new to you? Ask the farm stand attendant for prep and cooking tips. Growing it means they usually are eating it, too. Some farms offer recipes on their websites or as paper handouts. Purchase a small amount so that you can expand your palate, and potentially your meal options, too.
Farmers’ markets should be a chance to have a little fun, all in the name of fueling your body with healthy and tasty goods pack with nutrients. Stick to keeping it simple and enjoying the experience, and you can’t go wrong.
What is your favorite farmers’ market food to buy? Tell us in the comments!