No matter how often you’ve been to a farmers market, there’s always something new to see and explore. From vendors selling their wares to customers sampling fresh foods, the experience is never dull. If you’re looking for ways to make your next farmers market shopping trip better than ever, here are some of our favorite tips:
Go early for the best selection
Early birds get the best selection. If you want to nab the freshest produce and avoid a crowd, aim for an early morning or late afternoon visit to your local farmers market. The markets are often less crowded, so you can shop at your own pace and find out what’s in season while enjoying a leisurely snack on-site.
Sample before you buy
Sometimes you’ll want to try the food before you buy it, but you can’t because a particular item is too big or messy. In these situations, consider buying a sample of one or several other items as well. For example, when I see a vendor selling pizza by the slice at a farmers market and my kids are hungry for lunch, I often buy two slices of pizza (one for me and one for them) along with some chips from another booth that also has samples available.
- Single sample = 1-2 bites (e.g., 1 spoonful)
- Double sample = 2-4 bites (e.g., 2 spoonsful)
- Triple sample = 3-6 bites (e.g., 3 spoonsful).
- Bring your own bags, and be prepared to carry your purchases. A reusable grocery bag, a sturdy tote bag with a strap, or even an old pillowcase will do the trick.
- If you don’t have any of those things on hand, use another shopping bag as soon as you get home from the market. (Or use an old grocery store plastic bag if that’s all you have.)
You can’t go wrong by comparison shopping. If you’re on a budget, my first tip is to shop for the best deal. But if you have more resources available to spend, I also recommend shopping for quality and variety.
Farmers’ markets are all about supporting local farmers, so it’s important to get your food from them directly whenever possible. You can do this by buying directly from the farm or purchasing products that are produced in a way that is respectful of both animals and the environment (i.e., humanely raised meat).
Shop by season
Knowing what is in season is important. It helps you know which fresh fruits and vegetables to buy, and when you should be buying them. For example, if you are looking for strawberries in the wintertime, then don’t go searching on Pinterest or Instagram—you won’t find any there!
Instead, look up when strawberry season is in your area and make sure that’s when you buy the berries. You will also want to do this with other produce items such as apples (fall), peaches (summer), or grapes (late summer).
Bring a cooler
If you are going out of town, consider bringing along a cooler or insulated bag. This will help keep your produce fresh and ready to eat when you get home.
If you’re going alone, consider sharing the load with a friend who is also going to the market. If that’s not an option, consider purchasing an insulated grocery bag (available in most supermarkets) for transporting your purchases back home safely.
Whether you go just once or every week, there are some tips that will make your experience better than ever.
- You can find unique items that you can’t find in the grocery store.
- It’s a great way to support local farmers and businesses.
There’s no denying that farmers markets offer some of the freshest produce around. But it can be tricky to navigate these markets and make your selections without getting overwhelmed by all the options. These tips will help you get the most out of your market trip so you’re not left with only a few items or empty-handed at the end of it all!