It’s farmers market season and everyone is feeling the pull toward the street markets. Shopping at them can be confusing and overwhelming. To help you get through the season happier, healthier, and with more money in your pocket, here are some tips.
Every newbie to the markets talks about cost. I call it the supermarket hangover. They have trouble understanding why they should pay more. Isn’t food at the supermarket and the farmers market the same?
Definitely not. The supermarket food is priced correctly, cheap because it is cheap food. It has low levels of nutrients, vitamins, and other essential health elements. Which results in shoppers buying 2-3 times more than they need to and all of the weight problems associated with it.
Farmers markets food is high quality, or it can be. The point of these markets is to get you food when it is of the highest quality (fresh, in season, ripe). If done right you will find yourself eating much less food and the smaller amounts should help your budget and your waistline!
Fake Farmers Markets
I always try to warn folks about the fake farmers markets. You can easily spot a fake market by looking for the fruit and vegetable stands. The best markets have a good assortment of fruit/vegetables compared to everything else (bakers, cheese, meat). The worst markets have a surplus of dessert vendors and folks selling meat, bread, and cheese.
Now I have nothing against meat, bread, and cheese. I buy my fair share at the market. The problem is with markets who make no effort to balance their offerings. Folks need to be able to find healthy delicious fruits and vegetables, beyond the loaves of bread and steaks.
Another type of fake farmers markets are those with no standards. Places that allow folks to buy from supermarkets or wholesalers and offer them at the market for a mark-up. Places like this really make me angry since they are using the market prestige to swindle customers.
Typical markets are “producer only” which means that farmers can only sell what they grow. To figure out if your market is producer only you can look it up on their website, ask the market manager or the vendors, look for/read their signs. In fact, you want to shop at the places with more signs and more transparency. A good rule is that if they aren’t telling you then don’t trust them.
The Back-up Store
You love farmers markets but it’s monday and no markets are open on monday. Stayed late at work or slept in. It happens to the best of us. Here are a few options for supplementing your farmers market diet.
Get to know the bulk foods in the bins at your local health food stores. They are often the freshest, cheapest, and healthiest items in the whole store. I regularly buy rice, beans, and nuts at my local store.
Another, but more limited option, is the local food at supermarkets. Stores like Whole Foods and Mom’s Organic Market tend to carry a few local items. Usually greens and mushrooms. Which can make for a great salad especially after a slight saute and some balsamic vinegar. They also offer local eggs and milk.
Finally, look around for your local food coop. These are community formed grocery stores that allow you to choose what they stock. Many of them are locavore havens but not all. If you happen to have one close, join-up, get the member discount, and make sure they know how much you love local foods!
PS – my local coop is the TPSS coop