Did you know that you can enjoy just-picked fruits and vegetables, homemade bread, and more at your local farmer’s market at prices lower than you typically pay at the grocery store? You save money because there is no middleman between the farmer and you. The food you buy at a farmer’s market is usually picked within a day or two of the sale, so it tastes better and has more nutritional value than aged grocery store produce that may have been harvested a week or more before purchase.
You may be pleasantly surprised to learn that most farmer’s markets also offer organic and pesticide-free food at bargain prices.
Here are a few tips to get the most out of your fresh food shopping experience at a farmer’s market.
• Throw away your shopping list. What works in a grocery store may not fly at a farmer’s market because farm-to-table foods are all about the crop of the week, the weather, and other factors. Plan your menus according to what is in season in your area, and save money.
• Visit https://www.wisebread.com/fresh-fruits-and-vegetables-by-the-month to see a list of fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season, by the month. The website also includes loads of money-saving tips, ideas, and recipes.
• Get to know the vendors. Ask what they are planning to bring to the market in coming weeks. You can also learn interesting ways to prepare new-to-you vegetables. Some farmers include some of their best recipes with your purchase.
• Typically, common sale items such as onions, carrots, and potatoes are usually cheaper at grocery stores than at farmer’s markets. But some growers offer rare or heirloom varieties that are cheaper than their counterparts in the grocery store.
• Look for bulk purchases of produce during their peak season and can, freeze, or dry them to enjoy them later when they are no longer in season. You can ask for deeper discounts on bulk prices on “seconds” or less-than-perfect produce. Just cut away the imperfections before canning, freezing or drying. Consider enlisting friends and family for going in with you on bulk purchases.
• Sometimes you can get good deals near closing time. Instead of haggling, you could say something like, “Do you offer ‘end of the day’ sales? What can you give me for $20?” You may get a better deal if you offer to purchase a substantial amount of food.
Farmer's Markets near you
If you are unable to shop at your local farmer’s market before closing time, consider visiting Facebook groups that include individual growers and buyers of farmer’s market items. For example, one that caters to the Polk County, Arkansas area is called Polk County AR Farmers Market Online. Their mission statement informs, “This group is for trading or selling locally grown seeds, plants, produce, honey, dairy products, meat, and anything one might find in a farmers market. Questions and information can also be freely exchanged.”
Polk County Farmer's Market
524 Sherwood Avenue, Mena, AR - Next to Mena Depot, across from the Cowboy & Indian Store. Open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays - 7:00 a.m. until sold out (usually 10:00 a.m.), from mid-May until about mid-October. Their Facebook page: “Polk CO Farmer's Market.”
Sevier County Farmer's Market
Herman Dierks Park Pavilion - 604 East Hayes Avenue, De Queen, Arkansas. Open Wednesdays and most Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. (Sometimes the Pavillion is occupied by other groups on Saturdays, and the Farmer’s Market will be canceled that day.) Check their Facebook page for notifications before going: “Sevier County Farmer's Market - De Queen, Arkansas.”
Waldron Farmer's Market
Scott County Courthouse parking lot, Waldron, Arkansas. Open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. until noon, from June until August/September. For more information, contact Scott County Farmer’s Market: (479) 637-2173.
Do you have a frugal tip or opinion you’d like to share? Contact The Tightwad’s Almanac, P.O. Box 964, Mena, AR 71953.