Farmer's markets are great -- the food is fresh, locally-grown, and you often find selection you can't find in regular grocery stores. There's one issue for folks who live cheap -- prices there often ain't the cheapest! So here are a couple of quick and easy methods to get the most bang for your buck at the farmer's market:
1) Visit 45 minutes to an hour before closing:
As long as you're not looking for a scarce product, try visiting your local farmer's market just before closing time. The farmers typically lower their prices dramatically in the last half hour or so, in an effort to sell off excess inventory. I suspect this might particularly be true on Sunday markets. Here's my reasoning: Farmers often drive several hours from their farms into town...rather than go home each day, I think many stay for several days, hitting the various local farmers markets on successive days, returning home on Sunday. Last thing they want to do is to return home with a truckful of unsold goods. So help them unload their excess inventory and get a 30% to 50% discount.
This isn't your cashier at Vons or Target, this is the farmer or his family members that are directly benefiting from your hard earned cash. Farmers will often provide some volume discounts, especially if you're a regular. Many of these people bargain themselves and are used to the drill. If you know Spanish you will likely have a leg up if it's your farmer's native language. Genuinely complementing the seller is a good way to open. If they have the best strawberries, tell them. Everybody likes a good word and they might toss in an extra apple.
3) Look for Special Deals:
For example, farmers often need to get rid of overripe fruit. We often find overripe tomatoes at ~$1/lb (vs. $2.50/lb and up for regular tomatoes). If I'm making homemade salsa, a fruit pie, overripes are ideal and you'll pay less. Same thing goes for bruised fruits and vegetables, many people won't buy them and you may be able to score them for next to nothing.
4) Bring your Kids:
I don't know what it is about kids, but everytime we bring ours, we get lots of freebies. Now be warned that you are going to end up getting some extra fruit for the kids but isn't that alot better than getting candy at the checkout counter. We've had people give us apples, grapes, strawberries just because we brought the kids. This works for grandkids too!
5) Take a Drive out of the City:
Your local farmer's market may be close but its likely a lot more expensive than one closer to the farms. The fact is that farmers are banking that people in urban areas will pay more for their food and therefore charge higher prices. Find a farmers market or a fruit stand 20 miles outside of town and you're likely to score some serious savings.
Now, sometimes you have to pay for quality. Hey I'm cheap, and as much as I hate admitting this, cheap doesn't always get you the best. For example, the best fruit at our local market comes from a farm that always charges quite a bit more than others. But we still buy from them because no one produces fruit that is more consistently superior. Sometimes if you value a quality product, you've gotta pay a little extra.
Try these 5 things at your next farmers market and you'll get some bargain prices on some healthy food.
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