2. Learn what you should skip, and what’s considered a score.
There are some things that will always be cheaper at the supermarket, and if you’re trying to save money, it helps to know what they are. For example in my neck of the woods, I can get a bag of organic carrots at Trader Joe’s for 0.79 cents, year-round. But it doesn’t matter what month it is or how much overstock they’ve got – I’m never going to find a price that low at the farmer’s market.
Conversely, organic cilantro at Trader Joe’s is $1.99 for a tiny package. But for most of the season, I can get cilantro at my farmer’s market for $1.50 per big bundle. It’s a steal and I snap some up every single week. So pay attention to those sorts of comparisons, and you’ll learn which foods you should seize, and which you should skip.
3. Don’t get over-zealous.
I’m so guilty! A few times in my early market days, I became too excited, too inspired, and went home with way too much food. Such a tragedy when it goes to waste. Don’t get carried away!
4. Be a bargain hunter – not all stalls are equal.
Farmers are people, and people have different priorities. Some will put out pristine specimens and price them higher; others will throw out the bruised the battered veggies for a fraction of the cost. Make at least one complete pass around the market prior to purchasing anything. This way you’ll know exactly what you’re working with. The farmer’s market is an experience, so enjoy it and take your time.
5. Ask questions.
Farmers are mostly happy to engage, and it helps if you know which questions to ask. For example, we all want organic produce, but official organic certification is expensive, and many farms just skip it. They won’t be able to say, “Yes it’s organic,” even if they follow all the same protocols. So instead of opening with, “Is it organic?” try asking, “Do you spray?” This is a better lead-in for them to let you know where they’re coming from.
As well, don’t be afraid to ask for advice. If you see something that looks super interesting, or that’s a real bargain, but you don’t have any idea how to prepare it, just ask the farmer. Recipe for rutabaga? I bet they have one! How to prep fava beans? They’ve probably got a few tips! Remember, nobody knows the food better than the people who grow it themselves.