If you’ve ever left a farmers market with more of an armful than you can manage, or if you’ve ended up with too much produce that goes to waste, it’s time for a game plan. Planning your farmer’s market shopping list in advance makes it easier to stick with the list without getting overwhelmed at the market.
Make an inventory
To make a farmers market shopping list, first, you need to figure out what you have in your pantry, fridge, and freezer. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What do I already have?
- What do I need to buy?
- What don’t I have or need?
- Is there anything on my wish list that would be fun to try making at home with the ingredients I already have on hand?
Make a meal plan.
- Make a meal plan. Don’t worry if you don’t get to all the meals in your plan, but having a plan will save you time by keeping you focused at the market.
- Do not buy more than what is on your list, especially if it’s just for one meal. The temptation to buy things like fresh herbs and fancy cheeses can be overwhelming—but don’t give in! That’s just money down the drain because most of us end up throwing out most of our produce anyway.
- Take advantage of sales and discounts: If you know what items are on sale during specific times of the year (like apples), then stock up when they’re cheap and freeze them until later when they might cost more or aren’t available anymore.
Prepare varieties of produce
- How many people you need to feed:
- If you are cooking for just yourself, you probably don’t need to buy more than a few different types of produce. But if you’re feeding a family full of picky eaters, it’s worth it to stock up on some variety so that everyone is satisfied with what they are eating.
- What size of produce should I get?
- This depends on how much room your fridge has and how long your groceries will stay fresh once they arrive home. For example, if half an onion lasts my family of three over two weeks then I know we should only purchase one per shopping trip! On the other hand, if buying four apples means that I won’t have any left after a week—that would be wasteful (and expensive!).
- Variety goes hand in hand with quantity; buying multiple types/sizes will help ensure you have something fresh every day!
Make Your Shopping List
- Think about how many people you need to feed. This will help focus your shopping list on perishable items that will complement your meal plan.
- Consider different sizes and varieties of produce to meet that number. For example, if you’re making a dish for two people, buy one large zucchini rather than two small ones; if you’re making dinner for four, buy two medium-sized onions instead of one large onion and three small ones.
- Planning ahead will save time by keeping you focused at the market when it’s open (which may not be easy if there are many tempting options!). Use an app or website that can create a meal plan for you based on what’s in season—we love Edamamrkets!
Another way to create a meal plan is to use an app or website that can create a meal plan for you based on shopping lists and recipes from popular cookbooks. These are the websites and apps that I recommend:
- Meal Planner – An online tool that lets you create your own custom weekly meal plans. You can add grocery lists, recipes, and ingredient amounts right into your calendar so it’s all in one place!
- HelloFresh – A popular service where they deliver all of the groceries right to your door along with step-by-step instructions on how to cook them. You can choose between five or seven meals per week, which makes it really easy if you’re stuck thinking about what to make for dinner every night (or just want some good food).
Prepare for leftovers
One more thing to keep in mind: you can also think about making sure that you eat all the food you buy, so incorporating leftovers into your plan. You might not want to eat the same meal twice in a row, but it’s a great way of stretching your dollar when trying new recipes. Here are some ways that we like to use leftovers:
- Put them into salads and sandwiches
- Make smoothies with them (especially if they have fruit!)
- Top toast with them
- Freeze anything that won’t fit in your fridge!
Looks For Inspirations
When it doubt, look for inspiration for recipes on Pinterest or on food blogs that feature seasonal ingredient recipes. Once you’ve checked out all your favorite recipe sites and have a few ideas in mind, make sure to use them to create a shopping list. The last thing you want is to get home with a car full of groceries only to realize that none of them go together!
Here’s where meal planning comes in handy again: if you already made plans for what meals are going to be on the table this week, it’s easier to build off those ideas when writing down everything needed at the market. Write down what meals will be featured each night so you can see if anything needs extra ingredients–or if there’s anything specific missing from your pantry.
If all goes well, this process should result in some delicious meals served up with plenty of leftover leftovers (which might end up as lunch or dinner tomorrow).
Planning ahead is the key to not wasting money and time at a farmer’s market. If you’re organized, you can stick to your list without feeling overwhelmed by the variety of items available.
By planning ahead:
- You’ll save time. Having a plan helps you avoid getting distracted by attractive product that isn’t on your list, so it’s less likely that someone will end up with an extra item or two in their basket.
- You’ll save money! It’s easy to blow through a budget when at the grocery store—but if there are only three things on your shopping list, it’s much harder to go over budget (especially if those three things are expensive!).
- You’ll buy what’s best for YOU! When shopping at a farmers market, there are thousands of options for any given vegetable or fruit—and some may be better than others depending on where they came from or how they were grown/harvested/packaged/etc., which means knowing what type(s) work best for YOUR needs (e.g., organic vs conventional; local vs flown in from across state lines). With so many choices available these days—it’s hard enough just trying to decide which apple should go into my basket next week!
The best way to plan for your market visit is by using a detailed shopping list. That way, you’re not wasting time trying to figure out what produce goes together in each dish, or how much of each item should go into the recipe. If you’re planning a meal that requires more than one ingredient from the farmers’ market, consider making a menu for it so you can keep track of all your grocery needs at once!