Whether it’s to save some money or be more health conscious, more and more people are cooking for themselves and being more thoughtful about what they eat. One easy way to continue this mentality, while supporting local business at the same time, is by frequenting the local farmers market. A quick internet search will help you find the market closest to you and what days and times it’s open. Once you find one, check out these 7 tips to get the most out of your time.
As with most things in life, it’s good to be prepared before going to the farmers market. Make sure you have reusable grocery bags or baskets to carry your purchases. You also may want to bring a cooler to keep in the car in case you want to stick around for a few hours without your greens wilting or eggs spoiling. If you know your market accepts credit or debit cards feel free to use them, but most of the time cash is the preferred payment method, so make sure you have plenty of 1s and 5s so making change is easy.
Know the Crop Calendar
Another way to plan ahead is to know what’s in season and what you’ll most likely find available. Don’t expect to find tropical fruit in August in downtown Kansas City, or fresh oranges in the middle of May. Most of the time you can find the crop calendar on the market’s website along with other important information. Remember that eating fresh, seasonal food means respecting the seasons.
Make a List
Even if you’re not typically a meal planner it’s a good idea to come in with a general sense of the meals you’ll want to prepare that week. It’s easy to become overwhelmed surrounded by all the fantastic fresh produce, and you may find yourself either over purchasing and running the risk of food spoilage, or under purchasing and forgetting a key ingredient to a dish you want to make later. By having a rough idea of that week’s recipes you’ll be able to keep an eye out for the staple ingredients.
Forget the List
While this sounds like an oxymoron, you also need to plan for the unexpected and be willing to change and throw out your list. You never know what may or may not be available when you get there, so you may have to rethink a dish or two or substitute an ingredient. Alternatively, you may stumble upon an ingredient that you weren’t expecting but you’re dying to try out. Having flexibility with your list allows you to play with the fresh ingredients available.
Talk to Volunteers and Farmers
If you have any questions about the farmers market itself you can, and should, check out the information desk. They’ll have info about events going on and will be able to help you find what you’re looking for. The farmers or those selling their crops are also a great resource. If you want to learn more about the produce or how to prepare it, just ask! With a little luck you may find your new favorite food or recipe.
Take the Time to Store Properly
After taking the time to pick out the freshest and best produce you need to make sure to store it properly so it doesn’t go bad before you get to enjoy it. Each type of fruit, vegetable, herb, or other piece of produce may store differently. Check out this link to get a better idea of what to store on the counter versus in the fridge. One way to save money at a farmers market is to buy in bulk, that is buy the whole palate instead of just a pint or two. If you do have a large amount of an ingredient you can try to find a recipe to use it up (a lemon meringue pie, for example) or you can try your hand at freezing, drying or canning depending on the produce.
Sign Up to Volunteer
Another way to make the most out of your local farmers market is to volunteer. You can either make friends with a local farmer and offer to help at their stand, or you can help out the market manager with organizing and running the event. This is a great way to make friends and get involved in your local community. If you volunteer you may also be compensated with fresh produce or locally-sourced meats and eggs. It’s a win/win for everyone!