Did you know that August 6th through August 12th is National Farmers Market Week? Farmers markets are an amazing way to support local businesses and eat in season, but unfortunately, many people avoid farmers markets due to fears that farm-fresh groceries will be more expensive.
While prices will vary depending on when and where you shop, the truth is that farmers markets can actually help you save money. Read on for some ideas on how to shop the farmers market on a budget.
Scout Deals Ahead of Time
When you find a farmers market you like, check out their website or Facebook page, and try to get on an email list for any farms that attend the market. Vendors will often share a sneak peek of what vegetables are coming that week and anything that will be on special offer. You can use this information to pre-plan your weekly meals, so you’re only buying produce you need, produce that’s fresh, and produce that’s a great deal.
Don’t Give Up the Grocery Store
Farmers markets are an excellent way to supplement your weekly shop, but it’s still a good idea to visit brick-and-mortar grocery stores for staples like pasta, peanut butter and canned goods. While these types of items may be available at farmers markets, they tend to be more expensive. Still, you might be able to find surprising deals on bread, spices and jam—so take a few minutes to browse the market stalls for a price comparison.
Forget About Appearances
Food that looks funny can still taste delicious! Farmers markets are often a lot more casual than supermarkets about leaving ugly fruits and vegetables available for sale, so don’t be afraid to grab it. Browning strawberries can be blitzed up for smoothies, and bruised tomatoes still taste great in salsa. Plus, farmers markets often leave the “ugly” parts of a vegetable intact, so be sure to boil or stir fry those cauliflower stems, radish tops and broccoli leaves to get more bang for your buck!
Know Your Produce
The more you understand about how various vegetables grow and how to use them creatively in the kitchen, the better prepared you’ll be to shop smart and save money.
- Tomatoes: Look out for bulk deals towards the end of summer, when farms are usually inundated with the tomato harvest. Buy a 25-pound case now and lower your grocery budget for the next year, by either canning the tomatoes or making pasta sauce to freeze.
- Zucchini: Summer squash and zucchini also grow in abundance in hot weather, and you’ll usually find better prices at a farmers market than at the store. Turn them into bread or muffins, wrap well and freeze, and you’ll have delicious gifts to dole out during the holidays.
- Cucumbers: If you’re not a big fan of pickles, it’s hard to know what to do with a cheap bushel of cucumbers. One option is to turn your cucs into a smoothie with lime juice, sugar and mint, for a tasty dessert that costs far less than a pint of ice cream.
- Winter squash: When the days cool off, keep an eye out for good deals on winter squash—and think beyond the butternut. Less common squash such as acorn or kabocha are still delicious, and usually cheaper. Roast until soft, then freeze or can your squash to use in meals and desserts.
- Herbs: If you see a great deal on herbs, grab as much as you can and preserve your bounty by pureeing with olive oil and freezing in an ice cube tray. When the cubes are frozen, pop them into a Ziplock bag for easy—and cheap—access to herbs throughout the year.