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5 Tips for Cheap Produce at Your Local Farmers Market Print E-mail
(6 votes, average 4.67 out of 5)
Food - Groceries
Written by Eric "El Cheapo"   
Thursday, 22 October 2009 16:00
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.

2) Bargain:
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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dave  - end of season |2010-06-14 05:27:02
This only works once a year, and you need to have the space to do it, but make certain you go to the market on the weekend immediately after a killing frost in your area. We got a 1/2 bushel of peppers and tomatoes for $8.00 each. That was probably a third of the regular price. We diced, shredded, and cooked a lot that week, but have enough that we usually don't need to buy the out of season produce at the grocery until late spring.
cheaparse  - If you've seen a lower price before, can't hurt to |2009-10-19 21:22:00
My wife is a farmer's market regular and has gotten to know the prices really well. So this past weekend, we went towards the end of market searching for grapes (aside: have you tried farmer's market grapes? If not, try'll never go back to supermarket grapes). Anyway, we stopped off at our favorite stand and they had the $2.50/lb sign up. My wife was a regular and had seen them drop their price to $1.50/lb near the close of market. She indicated interest in a sizeable batch of grapes, and asked "so when do you drop to $1.50"? They said "right now", took off the price $2.50 sign in front of us. And we walked out with a few extra bucks in our pockets.
frugal nomad |2009-09-07 18:03:55
Sometimes, you don't even have to make the effort to bargain them down - they'll be the ones calling out the 'new and improved' price. Where you can really save money using these tactics is on flowers for that cheap date you've been trying to seduce. That's why you should date on Sundays - after the farmers market closes.
Omiewon  - Saturdays Too |2009-09-17 11:02:39
You can find some of the Saturday farmers markets too. Flowers don't last very long especially in the summer time so you should be able to get a great deal on flowers right before closing. Flower shops are expensive. Stores like Vons/Ralphs/Trader Joe's are pretty cheap, but the farmers market is usually even less then the stores.
I seem to recall that flowers growing up used to be really expensive. Then I think all these South American countries started growing flowers. I could have sworn growing up a dozen roses cost at least $50.
One more cheap hint. A flower store near me always puts all the flowers on sale for 50% off on Saturday. Long stem roses are $45 normally but they are $22 on Saturday.

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