One of my favorite things about summer has always been garage sale-ing, but this year I seem to be immune to their siren song. It has been replaced by the lure of the farmer’s market. It has become my new Friday morning ritual to head there and pick up some treasures for the week. I promise you that grocery store produce doesn’t hold a candle to this stuff and I find it to typically be cheaper also. But even when it isn’t, sometimes being frugal is about getting the most bang for your buck.
Here are my tips for enjoying the experience:
- Do your homework: Make sure you know what dates the market is open throughout the year. Here in the Midwest, we only get this opportunity for a few months a year. Some markets are open one day a week, some several, but they aren’t usually the same from market to market. I happen to like to shop on Friday because it isn’t a crazy mob scene, but I also recognize there are more vendors available on the weekends. You decide which part of that trade off is most important to you.
- To Bring Kids or Not Bring Kids, That is the Question: I vote no if you can help it. It depends on how old your kids are and how stroller friendly the market is. I think it is a great experience to show kids an alternative to the bright lights of a grocery store and help them recognize that food doesn’t actually “come from” there, but I am more sane without them there. And find it easier to shop without hearing “can we get that?” whenever we pass a pastry stand. I have a hard enough time passing it up myself.
- Take Your Time: I like to check out all or most of the booths before making my selection to compare prices and see what all is being offered. That beingsaid, don’t be afraid to buy from many different vendors if several have what you want. I have found myself becominga bit partial to one particular farmer cause he always has his whole family involved. Somethingabout gettingyour something from a 7 year old working the family business just makes me want to hand over my cash. To clarify, that would slighty depend on what the “family business” is.
- Visit the ATM: No one is ever going to say no to: “Do you take cash?” They might to a check. A lot of markets participate in WIC so ask around if that is something your family qualifies for.
- Be adventurous: I want to take my own advice on this one. See a strange fruit or veggie? Ask about it and try it out. Some vendors will offer you samples. Experiment with local produce that is in season in your cooking. This is the best place to do it because you can get the info right from the source. Also expect to find lots more than produce. You can find some great meats, cheeses, plants and even crafts for sale depending on your market.
- Bust out the reusable shopping bags: Want to fit in with all the crunchy regulars? Reusable bags are a must. Birkenstocks are optional.
Apparently there are close to 3000 of these babies in the US so there is most likely one near you. Not sure how thorough this directory is, but you might want to check it out. If you live in a rural community without an actual market, even better. There is nothing like grabbing some produce out of the back of a pick up truck parked by the side of the road. That’s how I thought everyone got their sweet corn, growing up in Iowa. I would advise you to make sure they are actually try to SELL produce out of the back of the pick up truck. Grabbing food from a stranger and making a run for it is generally frowned upon. Unless it is chocolate and I am PMSing. Then I can’t be held responsible for my actions.
For more frugal tips, head over to Biblical Womanhood.