If you are looking for fresh food that’s locally grown, farmer’s markets are wonderful places to visit. They stock a wide range of goods from fresh, local produce to homemade sweets and breads to interesting craft products that will brighten up any room in your house. Visiting them can be a great way to pick up healthy food and fresh food from local vendors. Unfortunately, if you’re not careful, you can end up spending quite a bit of money, but there are some simple tricks to help keep the costs of shopping there down. Here are ten things you can do to save a bit of money the next time you’re at your local farmer’s market:
Make a Loop
People often pay more than they need to when they buy the first thing they see instead of checking out every vendor. Farmer’s markets can be overwhelming, so when you visit them, make a habit of doing a loop around the market. Check our every vendor and see what they’re offering – and for what prices – before deciding what you want to buy. Sometimes the people at the front don’t have as inexpensive of prices as the people stuck in the middle or at the very end.
If you’re favorite farmer’s market is open from 7 am to 7 pm, consider going at 5:30 or 6:00. Sometimes vendors will lower their prices towards the end of the day in an effort to get rid of their produce so that they don’t have to take it back with them. If you’re buying a pound of berries, wouldn’t you rather pay $1 per pound over $3 per pound?
Buy Blemished Produce
Now, this doesn’t mean you should buy spoiled produce. But if, for example, you’re planning on making banana bread or fruit smoothies, you don’t need to buy pristine, unblemished fruit, do you? A lot of people will ignore the fruit with a small bruise or bananas that are too ripe. But if you’re not eating them whole and you don’t have a problem with a little bruise you can cut out, why not buy them? You can usually haggle with the vendor to get a cheaper price since they’re always looking to sell their blemished produce.
Haggling won’t always work, especially since it’s a European concept that many American vendors don’t agree with. But it never hurts to try, especially if you know your farmer’s market is receptive to the idea. But remember, don’t be rude about it. The vendor is trying to make a profit just as much as you’re trying to get a deal. You’ll be more likely to lower a price if you’re polite and offer something reasonable.
Go with a Budget
Most farmer’s markets only accept cash, which actually works out in your favor. This will help you limit yourself. It’s easy to want to buy everything you see, especially when it smells and looks so delicious. If you give yourself $50 to spend in cash and don’t bring along any other money, then you’re only going to spend $50. Setting a budget for yourself is the best way to save some money.
Buy in Bulk
If you’re planning on making a lot of food or canning fruit or vegetables for later, why not buy bulk? Deals are often better for bulk items. For instance, say you’re planning on buying 12 pints of strawberries and one pint is $2.99 individually, but all 12 pints are $25 bulk. You’re saving yourself $10 by buying bulk rather than buying all 12 individually.
Know Your Prices
Supporting a farmer’s market is great, but before you go, you should really compare market prices to those in the supermarket. A lot of produce will be cheaper at a farmer’s market, but sometimes it’s larger at a supermarket. That $4 deal on a vine of tomatoes might seem great, but it won’t be so great when you realize that you could have gotten tomatoes twice the size for half the cost at a supermarket.
Visit Rural Farmer’s Markets
Farmer’s markets in the city tend to be more expensive than rural markets, which is unsurprising since most things in a city are more expensive than their rural counterparts. If you have a car or access to transportation, consider visiting markets outside of the city. Prices will usually drop by a couple of dollars. If you don’t mind the trip, it’s worth it to save a few dollars on all your meats and produce.
Know Seasonal Items
A lot of people are completely unaware about what fruits and vegetables are in season. If you’re looking to save money, don’t expect to get a great deal on, say, asparagus in the middle of the winter. If there is any out of season produce, it’s going to be expensive and it probably won’t be fresh. In season produce is abundant and prices are usually cheaper. If it’s possible, plan your meals and shopping trips around in season items to lower your costs.
Be a Frequent Shopper
If you always go back to the same vendor to buy the same type of produce, you might be lucky enough to strike up a friendship that eventually leads to discounted prices. Most businesses like and reward frequent customers, after all. Of course, this might not happen, so don’t count on it, but it doesn’t hurt to try!