Wandering through a farmers market without a game plan means you can miss some of the best bargains. We’ve culled nine tips to make sure your trip is successful, and your larder is happily full.
Before you go take a moment to review some of our other frugal foodie tips. We recommend a general menu plan and knowing your budget so you can maximize every dollar.
Frugal Farmers Market Tips
- Walk the market first before you buy. Scope out what’s fresh and what appeals to you and check prices. Then go back to your favorite spots and purchase what you need.
- Ugly produce is your friend. Belinda Hankins of Ninja Poodles said, “buy the ugly produce especially for canning or sauces.” Look for them and ask for discounts if none is marked.”
- Bargain for quantity. When tomato season is underway, I ask my favorite farmer if I can have a discount on a case of tomatoes. He is happy to give me a discount, and I get to batch tomato sauce for the winter.
- Go late and bargain. Kelly Whalen from the Centsible Life suggests “haggle with the vendors for bread and other things that they don’t want to take home.”
- Flower vendors are cheaper. Often flower vendors are cheaper than the store down the street because there’s no middleman. They are also picked that day so you’ll enjoy the blooms for longer.
- Cash only. “I love the market!” wrote Kate from Magnifeco. “I could blow so much money there so I make sure to take only cash. Keeps me on budget and helps resist all the little (costly) things – jams, flowers, baked goods, etc. I only buy those treats if I have money left over.”
- Food stamps are accepted. Most Farmers Markets accept food stamps, according to Brandi Koskie of DietsInReview, “You pay with your EBT card and get tokens for the farmers market. And a lot of them often do a 2:1 exchange.”
- Have a general idea what you’re going to purchase. Check season vegetables and have a general menu plan to fill out with your purchases. Staying focused on your purchases will keep the food budget from expanding.
- The more in season, the cheaper. When there is a bumper crop all the farmers will lower their prices. Purchase those items or even buy in bulk for canning or preserving when the prices go back up.
While there are lots of ways to save money at the farmers market there are some things that are generally more expensive. If you buy artisanal product such as cheese or pasta sauce it is “right-priced” for the farmer to make a profit and that is often more expensive than purchasing at the grocery store. To us, this is a judgment call. Paying a little more and supporting a local farmer/artisan is worth it, but if you’re budget is squeaky tight, we understand.
The other thing that is often more pricey is meat. Beef, pork and chicken are more expensive at markets for the same reason as above, the animals are likely better cared for and that costs more money. We really think this is worth the extra money to ensure we’re eating meat that has been raised humanely and organically (always ask to make sure the animals are well-treated).
What are your frugal farmers market tips? How do you maximize your budget while eating locally?
Recipe: Brussels Sprouts Salad