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Let me make a couple of assumptions before beginning to offer tips. Advice will differ depending on the audience. For instance, some people love going to a farmer’s market as much for the social communion as for the food. Those people would be advised to arrive around noontime, or smack in the middle of market hours, to encounter the largest number of others. Some people simply want the most wholesome, local food, and may want to get in and out and be done, or to converse at length with just a few people, such as some of the farmers themselves. They would be advised to show up right at the beginning or the end of the market, when they had a better chance of conversation with the farmers.
My assumptions for this article are going to be that:
1.) The reader values wholesome food that was grown in a relatively ethical, natural process.
2.) The reader would like to get as much food as possible out of the shopping trip, while keeping the grocery budget as low as possible.
3.) The market offers locally grown produce and animal products as well as the stalls that sell ready-made food, treats, oils, and other items and services.
Without further ado, keeping those assumptions in mind, here are my farmer’s market tips:
- Bring the right amount of cash; don’t rely on a costly ATM machine.
- Skip the treats, unless this is your family’s special outing and you have a separate budget for the treats. You can get a pound of gorgeous produce for the cost of some of the mouth-watering but high-cost treats available at the market.
- Look at each stall once to get a feel for who has what and at what price before buying anything.
- Spend the bulk of your money on produce and one or two animal product essentials.
- If your family eats meat, carefully consider acquiring an extra freezer and buying a full or half animal from a farmer to freeze and use for a long period of time. Not only will this meat taste unbelievably delicious compared to what is sold in grocery stores, it will be cost-effective buying in such a large amount. (Freezers can be found on sale at home improvement stores from time to time and advertised on sites like Craigslist, Freecycle, eBay, and local classified ads.
- When you are satisfied with the amount of produce and animal products you have acquired, then look at extras. Depending on your family, these may or may not be optional: local honey, handmade bread, fair trade coffee, “exotic” meat such as duck, oils and vinegars, and handmade soaps. There is usually no shortage of products, only a finite budget that might stop your purchasing.
- Look for useful services. Our farmer’s market has a knife sharpener. We would have had to look hard to find that service if we had not stumbled upon him and asked his usual schedule so we could bring up our dull but good-quality kitchen knives.
- Avoid extra services. Do you really need a massage? Do your kids need a pony ride every time they see ponies? Yes, our market offers these things. We would spend a LOT of money if we said yes to these every time.
There is almost no feeling better than bringing home your farmer’s market purchases to eat as a family. You know that the food you are feeding your family is not only wonderful in taste but also wonderful in nutritional value. Regardless of what you buy at the farmer’s market, you can feel good about where your money is going. And if you have questions or qualms, you can go visit the farm or business to see it for yourself. That is the beauty of buying local.