Farmer’s markets are like a mix of everything people our age care about. They’re local, artisan, and they’re packed with all sorts of healthy and/or delicious foods. The only downside is that farmers markets can be pretty expensive. So you may have been shying away from going to your local market or maybe it never even occurred to you to check one out.
That’s how it was for me until about a year ago, when I moved from Boston to a nearby city and did some exploring on a Saturday morning. Now I’m totally in love with farmers markets, despite the fact that I don’t exactly have a Whole Foods budget. But with a little thought, you can make your local farmer’s market a beloved part of your summer and autumn.
1. Don’t plan to do your grocery shopping there
Unless you have the cash, the farmer’s market is not the place to buy all your groceries. If you go in planning to buy all your produce for the week, it is easy to get overwhelmed and frustrated when your usual produce budget buys you enough for one really good salad. Shrink your plan down to something small, like food for a single meal or a particular snack to last you through the week. My husband and I like to go Saturday morning and buy ingredients either for a big lunch or for a small lunch and dinner. That meal and the process of picking out the food for it become a special tradition every weekend.
2. Bring cash
I’m a huge hypocrite here because I’m terrible at remembering and always have to buy the credit card tokens. Bring cash so that you don’t have to do that and pay the surcharge.
3. Wander around before buying anything
There are a few reasons for this. The first is to simply take in the festive atmosphere. But doing a lap also allows you to see what’s available at all the different stands. Every market is different and oftentimes the same market will have different vendors from week to week. So take some time to walk around and see what you might like to buy before getting anything.
The bonus of this is that you can discretely compare prices. If one vendor is selling heirloom tomatoes for $4.00/lb, you won’t end up buying them only to see the exact same tomatoes on the other end of the market for $3.00/lb. Not that that happened to me recently or anything…
4. Be flexible
Even if you’re just planning a meal or a snack, don’t come with a rigid plan. Since things change from week to week, be open to trying something new. Look at what’s in season, maybe ask the vendor for recommendations or look up some recipes on your phone. If you’re up for something new, you’re less likely to be disappointed if the food you wanted isn’t available or is out of your price range.
5. Make the farmer’s market an event
There’s so much more than food at the farmer’s market. Depending on where you are, there might be live music, cooking demonstrations, face painting, and all sorts of other attractions. And it’s free to walk around and check it all out, you don’t even really need to buy anything to have fun. And if you go for the food, there’s so much variety there too. My local market has pastries from a local bakery, coffee from a family owned farm in Central America, and last week there was a vendor selling homemade soaps and trinkets. Explore, try samples, and have some fun at the farmer’s market!
Curious where there’s a farmer’s market near you? The majority of them are only open in summer and fall, but there are many winter farmer’s markets as well. Check out Local Farm Markets.org to look up markets in your area!