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10 Tips to Save Money Shopping at Farmers' Markets

Money Girl gives 10 tips to save money by spending less at your local farmers' market.

By
Laura Adams, MBA
July 2, 2014
Episode #361

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Farmers' markets are some of the best places to buy high quality food at the lowest prices. But it’s still possible to overspend there, if you’re not careful.

In this episode you’ll learn 10 tips to save money by spending less at your local farmers' market.

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10 Tips to Save Money Shopping at Farmers Markets

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What Is a Farmers' Market?

A farmers' market is where a farmer or a produce broker sells fresh goods directly to consumers.

The best markets have a variety of in-season fruits and vegetables—plus other foods like meat, seafood, eggs, cheese, honey, and baked goods. They might also have other vendors, such as food trucks, jewelry makers, musicians, flower stands, and sellers of homemade candles or soap.

Shopping at farmers' markets can be a fun way to buy healthy food, spend time outdoors, and even meet up with friends.

Here are 10 tips to save money and make sure you get the most out of your local farmers' market:

Savings Tip #1: Research Nearby Markets

Search online for the best farmers' markets in your area. Even small towns may have many options, but some may only run from early spring to late fall or be open just one or 2 days a week.

Check out localharvest.org and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) directory at usda.org to find the best farmers' markets near you. Then visit several to see which ones have the best goods and prices.

Savings Tip #2: Bring a Set Amount of Cash

Prices for the same goods can vary from stand to stand. So don’t buy the first gleaming peppers or luscious berries you see.

Most vendors at farmers' markets don’t accept credit cards, so you generally need to bring cash. While this might seem like an inconvenience, think of it as an easy way to make sure you don’t overspend.

Decide ahead of time how much you should spend and only bring that much cash to the market. Once you’ve spent your cash limit, well, then it’s time to head home and start cooking.

Savings Tip #3: Plan Ahead

As I mentioned, many farmers' markets have a lot of terrific items for sale that you may be tempted to buy. While it’s always fun to wander around and see what a market has to offer, don’t come home with stuff you really don’t need.  

See also: The Case for Meal Planning

 

To avoid unnecessary purchases, have a shopping plan. Go to the market with a list of ingredients you need to prepare the next 3 to 5 meals. Also, bring shopping bags and perhaps a cooler with ice if you need seafood, meats, or cheeses.

Savings Tip #4: Walk the Market Before Buying

Prices for the same goods can vary from stand to stand. So don’t buy the first gleaming peppers or luscious berries you see.

Instead, walk through the entire market and check out all the vendors selling the items on your list. Take note of the prices and quality and then go back to make your purchases after you've seen what is available.

Savings Tip #5: Know What's In-Season

In-season fruits and vegetables will cost less and probably taste better than those shipped from distant places out of season.

See also: Are Organic Foods Worth the Cost?

 

Use the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Eat Local Map or the Seasonal Ingredient Map at epicurious.com to find out what’s in season by state, month, and food.

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