Shopping at the farmers’ market may not seem like an option when your budget is tight, but it can actually save you money! Research is showing that farmers’ markets products are similar in price or even cheaper than their grocery store counterparts. During times of abundance, produce can be very affordable at the farmers’ market, and the spectacular taste is well worth the trip!
Ready to be a farmers’ market shopping pro? Here are some tips to get the most bang for your buck while supporting farmers and stocking up on delicious and nutritious foods.
Tip #1: Make a Plan
Before you head to the market choose 2-4 meals or snacks you would like for the week. Create a shopping list that includes the items you will buy at the farmers’ market, and those you will need to purchase at the supermarket. Having a list prevents impulse purchases, but allow flexibility in case you see a great deal and want to swap an item. For more information on meal planning visit our previous blog series. (http://www.morefood.org/en/meal-planning-in-five-easy-steps/)
Tip #2: Walk the Market Before Making Purchases
You may be surprised how much money a quick walk can save. Keeping your budget and your plan in mind, walk the market and check the prices and quality of the products on your list. Make note of farmer stands that have great deals. After looping the market you may wish to adjust your meal plan for the week in case some items are not available, are too high in price, or other items are a better deal. When you’re ready, make your purchases.
Tip #3 Ask for “Cull” Produce or “Seconds”
If you need a lot of an item, or want an item at a lower price, you can ask farmers if they have “cull” or “seconds” produce. These are often bruised, oddly shaped, or “ugly” fruit that are sold at a discounted price. Produce that will be preserved it for the winter by canning, freezing, or dehydrating doesn’t need to look pretty. Cull fruit is perfect for these applications. It is also great for making big pots of soup, stew, and chili. Farmers likely have a variety of cull fruits, including tomatoes, apples, peaches, strawberries and many others. Cull produce is typically not displayed, so you have to ask the farmer if they have any. Don’t be shy, farmers’ are happy to see their produce being used!
Tip #4 Utilize EBT Incentives
Many markets accept SNAP/FNS Benefits. Even better yet – some markets have incentive programs to stretch your EBT benefits even further. Programs include matching your EBT dollar with market funds up to a certain amount, or providing EBT shoppers with coupons for fresh fruits and vegetables. If a market has a matching program, your five dollars in EBT benefits would equal $10 in money to spend at market! To discover incentive programs at your market, visit their website or social media site, or contact them by phone or email.
Other markets accept Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program Vouchers and WIC Nutrition Program Vouchers. To find more about the vouchers and to see if you live in a participating county go here (“here” would be link to SFMNP blog).
If you aren’t sure how to use EBT at the market, visit our blog on Using EBT at the Market http://www.morefood.org/en/how-to-use-your-ebt-at-the-farmers-market/
Tip #5 Try Something New!
Farmers’ markets often feature unique produce items, such as kohlrabi or sprouts. By trying new things you add flexibility to your shopping, allowing you to score good deals on produce. If you are not sure how to prepare the item, ask the vendor. Farmers’ often have simple recipes they use in their own kitchens and love to share tips.
For more information on using EBT at the famers’ market and preparing fresh, local produce, check out our list of blogs and stay tuned for new ones each week!
Now go out and shop smart!
Claro, J. (January 2011). Vermont Farmers’ Markets and Grocery Stores: A Price Comparison. Retrieved from http://nofavt.org/sites/default/files/uploads/farmersmarkets/nofa_fm_price_study.pdf.
Flaccavento, A. and Uy N. (2011). Pricing Comparisons at Farmers’ Markets: Understanding Value and Affordability. Retrieved from https://farmersmarketcoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/Pricing_webinar_presentation.pdf.
Hunter, J. (August 2014). Shop Your Local Farmer’s Market on a Budget. Retrieved from https://issuu.com/moneywise/docs/2014-08-moneywise-newsletter.
Eat Smart Move More. Shopping on a Budget at your Farmer’s Market. Retrieved from http://www.myeatsmartmovemore.com/FarmersMarkets/texts/FMShoppingOnABudget.pdf
Brooks, A. (August 2016). Five Tips for Shopping Smart at Farmers Markets. Retrieved from https://blogs.ext.vt.edu/eatsmart-movemore/2016/08/09/five-tips-for-shopping-smart-at-farmers-markets/.