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Shopping the Farmers Market
Shopping at the farmers market can be overwhelming, as you check out row after row of fruits and vegetables straight from the field. But if you don’t want to waste your money, follow these suggestions:
Plan ahead. Consider what’s in season, and plan your menus accordingly. A main benefit of buying at the farmers market is the freshness of the produce, so don’t buy more than you can use while it’s fresh. Obviously you can keep apples longer than tomatoes, but it helps to know what you need before you start shopping.
Be open to new tastes. It is a good idea to have a plan, but it is also a good idea to be flexible. If something looks too delicious to leave, buy a little. If you see a fruit or vegetable with which you are unfamiliar, ask the vendor about it.
Stroll first. Especially when the market really gets going, there are probably multiple vendors selling the same thing, maybe for a different price. You don’t want to buy something from the first vendor you see, only to find it looking fresher or costing less once you get farther into the booths.
Bring your own bag. Some vendors provide plastic bags, but some don’t. And even plastic bags can be flimsy and hard to carry – not to mention unenvironmental.
Bring cash. Most vendors don’t take credit cards. Small bills and change can make the transactions go more smoothly.
Come early for the best selection. You will get to pick the freshest items. And for most vendors, when their produce is gone, they go home.
Come later for the best price. Although vendors in most markets don’t technically barter, they sometimes reduce their prices toward the end of the day so that they don’t have to take back unsold produce.
Be careful about non-produce purchases. Farmers markets have become popular places for vendors selling things from baked goods to jarred spices to barbecue sauce to handicrafts. Before you get caught up in the spirit of the market, ask yourself whether these items are really a good deal. After all, there is no denying the superior freshness of a just-picked tomato, but sometimes a cupcake is only a cupcake.
Don’t make assumptions. Not everything sold at a farmers market is organic or even local. If that is important to you, ask.
If you bring your kids or grandkids, make it a learning experience. Explain how things are grown, harvested and end up in the market. Let them help with the selections.