Farmers’ Market Shopping Tips

Farmers’ Market Shopping Tips

Shopping at your local farmers’ market is a terrific way to get fresh seasonal produce. However, it can also be a totally overwhelming experience! You know the trips when you have visions of farm-to-table dinners dancing in your head, and leave with a container of hummus and 3 apples? Use these 5 tips to shop your next trip to the farmers market like a pro!

Farmers Market Tip #1: Make a Shopping List

When I owned my wholesale produce delivery business, the most important thing I did every week was put together my order, or essentially make a list of what I needed to buy. That way, when I got to the farmers market, I could concentrate on talking to farmers, sussing out freshness, and enjoying the experience overall. It’s true, part of the excitement of the farmers market is not knowing exactly what you are going to find, however, you ARE grocery shopping, and your goal IS to get dinner on the table for the week. For that reason, take a few minutes before visiting to make a shopping list. This can be anywhere from planning out exact meals with recipes, to knowing that you just need some fruit for breakfast. This help you to buy only what you need. Produce sold at the farmer’s market is picked close to full ripeness, which makes it taste amazing! However, there is nothing worse than buying loads of produce at the farmer’s market because it looks and tastes beautiful, only to have it rotting on the counter or in your fridge a few days later.

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Farmers Market Shopping Tip #2: Bring Your Own Bags

Besides being an extra expense for the farmers, single-use plastic bags are wasteful and detrimental to the environment. Do your best to bring along your own reusable bags, including any empty strawberry baskets or other storage containers to take your haul home.

Farmers Market Tip #3: Take a Walk

When you first get to the farmer’s market, take a walk through the market before purchasing. Compare prices and taste samples. There is nothing worse than buying a large amount of fruit, only to find it better tasting and cheaper three stalls down. Make a mental note of what looks good and go back. Keep in mind that during tomato season, EVERYONE might have tomatoes that look amazing. Do your best to pick the best ones using tip #4.

Farmers Market Tip #4: Choosing Your Produce

Fruit: Should feel heavy for its size. When choosing fruit for ripeness, pick up the fruit gently, but do not poke it, squeeze it, or over handle it. Turn it over in your hand, looking for any soft or moldy spots. If you plan to use the fruit immediately (within the day), a soft or moldy spot can be easily cut out before using. Smell the stem end of the fruit. The riper the fruit, the more fragrant it will be. If you are not sure, try asking the vendor (often the farmer), a simple question like, “will this fruit be ripe by Saturday?” or whenever you plan to use it. This can lead to more conversation, and possibly samples, if not already available.
Veggies: For leafy veggies, look for dark green, perky leaves. For roots such as carrots and potatoes, look for firmness and roots heavy for their size. Keep in mind that items will not always look like they do in the grocery store. If you have questions, ask! The farmers want to sell you their produce, so should be happy to answer your questions.

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Farmers Market Tip #5: Storing Produce

I recommend storing everything right after arriving home. Just a few minutes to properly store your haul can mean the difference between rotting veggies and those that will last throughout the week or longer. Read my tips on how to store vegetables without plastic bags here. Also, think about if you will be going home right after the market or making another stop. If I’m not going straight home after the market, I will pop a cooler in my car on warmer days, in order to prolong the life of the items, especially any meats I picked up.

Do you shop at the farmers market regularly? What are your favorite items to buy at the farmer’s market?

To find the farmer’s market nearest you, visit the Local Harvest website. Here you can enter your zip code and find detailed information.

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