How to Shop at the Farmers Market: 8 Helpful Tips

Chances are, a farmers market has popped up in your town or one nearby. These markets offer you a great opportunity to buy fresh, local produce as well as other locally produced items, such as baked goods, crafts, and miscellany. Shopping for fruits and veggies in season can help make the most of your grocery dollar. If you’ve never been to a farmers market before, here are 8 tips to help you make the most of your experience.

1. Get an Early Start
According to Southern Living, the best time to get the freshest produce is right when the market opens. If you wait until the last hour, you may be unsatisfied with the selection.

2. Look Beyond the Label
Don’t necessarily skip produce that isn’t certified organic. At your farmer’s market, the small farms may use organic practices but be unable to afford the costly FDA certification process. Talk to the farmer to learn everything you need to know.

3. Know What’s in Season
By having an idea what you’ll find at the market, you can plan meals accordingly and avoid waste. Search the cool interactive seasonal ingredients map at Epicurious.

4. Come Prepared
For the smoothest farm market experience, bring your own sturdy reusable bags, and make sure your wallet is stocked with small bills.

5. Don’t Skip the Info Booth
Many markets offer value added services, such as cooking demos, preordering from specific farms, or even home delivery. The information booth (or website) is a valuable source of deals and details.

6. Buy Small Quantities
Limit your purchase to only those items you can use within a few days to maximize freshness and flavor. The exception is if you’re planning a canning or preserving project; in that case, the farmers market can be a great place to buy in bulk.

7. Bring a Cooler
Planning to make a day of it? Lots of markets have live music, street food, and other festivities that make them fun family events. Make sure to have a cooler handy in your trunk so your produce purchases won’t go bad before you get home.

8. Take a Lap
Unlike the grocery store, the offerings at your local farmers market will be different each week. Before buying, take a lap around all the stalls so you can scope out products and prices. That way, you can be sure to get the best value for your dollar and the freshest foods for your family.

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