This Sunday, Frugal Femme and I got together for some quality hangout time in the waning sunshine of late September to cruise one of Seattle's many neighborhood farmers markets. We had so much fun coming up with our weekly menus and ogling the fresh produce, I figured it could inspire some of you out there who have yet to visit a farmers market some motivation! Here are some tips to be prepared, save money and have fun when you do decide to go:
1) Bring CASH - I don't think I saw a single vendor who accepted credit/debit as a form of payment. Cash also keeps you honest. I only load my wallet with what I want to spend on produce for the week because the pastries, fresh flowers, goat cheese, strawberry lavender lemonades, etc., is all too tempting. If I have leftover cash, I might treat myself to a beautiful bouquet, but if I'm out of money, I can't and it keeps me from overspending.
2) Bring your reusable bags/coolers - you'll definitely need something to carry all your goodies in, and don't miss out on otherwise great opportunities to support local dairy farms/fisheries/meat producers because you forgot a container to keep them cool. Then, you'll also have an excuse to stay in the market longer!
3) Do a once-around the market before you purchase anything. So many vendors have different kinds of apples, potatoes, onions, and more, and they definitely charge different prices. Frugal Femme got some purple potatoes at one stand for $2.50 when another vendor was charging $4. Plus, it's fun to see what everyone's got. It's quite the sensory experience!
4) For the best selection, go early - you'll get first choice on everything there and it'd probably be easier to park and manuever your way around the market. But...
5) For the best deals, go late - a lot of times, vendors won't want to take their merchandise back with them so they'll be more likely to slash prices. Keep in mind that vendors may be out of a lot of things if you have particular items in mind.
6) Ask questions - you're most likely speaking to experts here. Ask them if you're unfamiliar with any of the produce, ask how to tell if something's ripe, ask how they like to prepare certain produce, ask what's coming in the next few weeks...the farmers are a wealth of information. It's a lot of fun learning about what flowers won't make your husband sneeze or that Jonagold apples aren't actually in season for a few more weeks...
7) Go with a plan but have some wiggle room - I've gone to farmers markets with and without lists. Without a list, I bring home fresh bread, goat cheese with herbes des provence, and flowers. With a list, I actually get things I can use for meals. But be flexible. Instead of the asparagus you needed, you might find some beautiful zucchini that would make for a great side dish.
Anyone frequent their local farmers market and willing to share some tips? Has anyone not been that's now planning to go?