Lets face it, we all know that we need to eat healthy, but it can be expensive! Minnesota Farmers Markets are a great way to support our local farmers and get the fresh, healthy food we need, but it doesn’t hurt to know a few ways to save some money. So here are some tips from the Maple Grove Farmers Market and Getrichslowly.com on how to shop Farmers Markets on a budget.
Stop by the Farmers Market Information booth first. Ask for free information about food preparation, nutrition, promotions and discounts at the Market, and other information to enhance your market experience. Some markets have frequent buyer programs that give discounts to regulars. Finally, the information booth at some markets functions as an ATM if you don’t have cash.
Scope out the market before purchasing. Prices, quality, and quantity may vary from vendor to vendor, and you might find those who are willing to sell in quantity at lower prices or vendors who are running a promotion.
Bring cash and prioritize your purchases. The majority of Farmers Market vendors deal in cash. Also know your budget and bring a limited amount of cash. This will help also help you avoid expensive impulse buys. Start with fruits and vegetables, which are inexpensive in comparison to specialty items like bread, seasoned meat, jam, honey, and olive oil.
Plan ahead. The items you’ll purchase at your Farmers Market were often picked that very morning. You will be amazed at how long they will remain fresh and healthful if stored properly at home. So know how much your family will eat and plan for a week’s worth of fresh, locally-grown items when you make your list.
Consider buying in bulk to get the best prices. Food preservation is back and freezing and canning can allow you to enjoy the most nutritious local veggies long after the growing season ends. If you aren’t interested in preserving, consider splitting it with neighbors, friends or family. Also, vendors are often willing to adjust prices based on larger or smaller quantities, but haggling with posted prices is not recommended.
Other Helpful Tips
Learn the seasons. Though our Minnesota growing season is short, it is also bountiful and intense. Each crop does have a peak. You will find the best prices on tomatoes, for example, at the end of August when the season is in full swing.
Buy flowers! Fresh cut flowers from the Farmers Market are incredibly beautiful – and cost less than half the price of flowers from a florist.
Go early for the best selection, arrive late for the best deals. Farmers don’t want to pack up leftover goods and drive them back to the farm, especially perishables like fruit and produce. You’re likely to find farmers discounting their goods if you arrive closer to closing.
Properly pack your groceries as you shop. Local isn’t cheap, so make sure your groceries make it home. Use re-usable bags and as you shop, pack your bags carefully, taking obvious precautions, such as packing the heavier items at the bottom of the bag. Plan ahead if you’re going to buy anything that comes in a glass bottle or jar, such as olive oil, vinegar, and jam, to prevent breakage. Finally, if you need to run other errands after going to the market, bring a cooler and ice to keep items frozen and/or refrigerated.
Enjoy the whole package. In addition to the freshest local foods, your Farmers Market offers music, children’s programming, picnic and playground facilities, cooking demonstrations, and more – all for free.