When it comes to food, nothing tastes better than fresh.
Yet most of us rarely eat truly fresh food. We might buy something at the grocery store that’s traveled in a truck for days before reaching us. Or, we might pay for a meal in a high-end restaurant, without knowing when the food we’re eating arrived.
The fresher the food, the more it’s teeming with life and vital nutrients. The better it tastes. And the better you’ll feel. Best of all, if you know what you’re doing, this food can also be the cheapest.
The secret is to know how to take advantage of your local Farmer’s Market. So read on to learn a few tricks that will help you pay less than grocery store prices for produce better than high-end restaurants!
Adopt a Flexible Cooking Style
One key to save at a Farmer’s Market is developing meals on the fly. For example, you may want to make a nice, fresh salad. So you go to the market. Romaine lettuce is just as much as the grocery. But you find a vendor selling Kale for a very good price. As you continue shopping, you find more deals on cheese and mushrooms.
When you finally leave the Farmer’s Market, you have all the ingredients for an incredible salad. It’s all in season and fresh as can be. If you are flexible enough at cooking to make a meal on the fly, not only will you save money, you’ll create unique, delicious meals that you’d normally never think of!
Ask the Vendor’s Questions
In a Farmer’s Market, vendors will often return for an entire season. Don’t be afraid to get to know them. Asking them what’s for sale or what’s in season is not just a way to save, but the potential start of a new relationship.
When you find a fair vendor, you can return every week for similar prices. The better you know them, the more they’ll clue you on to special deals. If you know them well enough, they may even give you a special price!
Know the Peak Season for Your Favorite Fruits + Veggies
You probably know that different fruits and veggies are “in season” at certain times of the year. When they’re in season, not only is the price lower, the food is as fresh as it’s ever going to get.
What you might know is that the price can change during the season. This is because most farmers want to be either the first or last person selling that food. If they’re the first-person selling Strawberries, they can set the price. If they have to compete with 50 other farmers, the market sets the price.
That’s why you’ll find the best deals during peak season. This is when every farmer is selling the same veggie.
The best way to find what veggies are in season in your area is to use a free tool provided by Seasonal Food Guide: https://www.seasonalfoodguide.org/
Run this tool before you go to the market. Then, only buy items that you see multiple vendors selling it. This means the produce is in peak season and will be the freshest—and cheapest.
Ask for “Ugly” Produce
Customers prefer their produce to look good. We want the crisp, clean apple over the bruised, malformed one. Yet the truth is, in most cases, ugly produce is just as delicious, if not more so, than pretty.
So when you’re shopping, you can specifically ask the vendor if they have uglier produce on sale for a discount. Take it home and cut off the bruises. I promise – it will taste just as fresh and delicious. And your bank account will love how little you paid for it!
Go on Bad Weather Days
When the weather is warm and sunny, everyone is out at the market. Vendors have plenty of customers. So they are much less likely to make a deal with you.
If you go when it’s raining, on the other hand, you might be uncomfortable, yet you’ll be one of the few customers there. If you’re shopping at a stall with a lot of goods and very few customers, don’t be afraid to ask for a deal. In most cases, the vendor would rather make less money than no money. And you can walk away from the market with tons of fresh goods.
Stay Until the End
At the end of the Farmer’s Market, vendors still want to make money. However, by this time most of the customers have left. This is the perfect time to go around asking for any last-minute specials. More often than not, vendors will be willing to give you a deal since you’re the last one around spending money.
Buy in Bulk
As a general rule, when you buy in bulk, you can save. This is even more true at Farmer’s Markets, where a vendor may be unsure if they will sell out of all their stock. If you have an extra freezer, this is the perfect way to stock up on delicious produce for a whole month or longer.
It’s a good idea to do this once you’ve visited the market a few times. By then you’ll know the vendors better. And you’ll know who is likely to give you the best price.
The Vipon Team