Wondering how to afford the farmers market on a budget? Try these 5 strategies!
By Tiffany, Contributing Writer
If you’ve never been to a farmer’s market before, you’re in for a treat! You’ll find produce that was picked just days ago – sometimes picked that very same morning! You’ll see vegetables you have never seen before and varieties of fruits you didn’t even know existed.
Unfortunately, you also might experience sticker shock.
For someone who is used to shopping weekly circulars and buying from grocery stores, prices at the farmer’s market can seem high. I used to think this myself, and it’s just one of the many reasons I stopped going to the market last year.
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A lot has changed for me since then and I’m finally ready to get back to the farmers markets to enjoy the fresh and delicious produce grown in my area – but not at the sacrifice of my grocery budget!
Here are the 5 strategies I’m using to afford shopping the farmers market on a budget. If you’re looking for more tips to shop and save at the farmers market, check out my Ultimate Guide to Shopping the Farmers Market.
#1. Start with a general meal plan.
Failing to plan is planning to fail, and this phrase holds true to shopping the farmers market without a general idea of what you need and what you’re cooking for dinner. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who swooned over pretty produce, bought a pound and stuck it in the fridge when they got home… only to find it wilting and rotting in the produce drawer a week later.
Do yourself a favor and create some sort of plan before you shop. It doesn’t have to be grandiose – in fact, here’s a simple plan you can use any week:
- Monday: Whole Roasted Chicken + Strawberry Spinach Salad + Seared Broccoli
- Tuesday: Cobb Salad using leftover roasted chicken + Homemade Ranch Dressing + Easy Dinner Biscuits
- Wednesday: Pasta with 15 Minute Spaghetti Sauce
- Thursday: Lentil Minestrone Soup + Man Bread
- Friday: Faux Summer Risotto with Caprese Salad
Actually, can I take the task of “meal planning” off your to-do list for you? I created a meal plan membership that includes 3 meals a day for the entire month. It’s a great service for families who hate to meal plan and since it’s seasonal, you can take the shopping lists with you to the farmer’s market! Use the code THH15 to save 15% off either the 3-month paid in full or the one-year paid in full membership.
#2. Shop with a flexible shopping list.
With a general meal plan in place, make a general shopping list. You want it to be firm enough so that you get enough greens for salad and vegetables for soup, but one of the perks of shopping at a farmer’s market is the surprise of what’s available from the vendors!
Leave wiggle room on your shopping list in case you find a great deal on zucchini (our favorite zucchini muffins) or a crate full of soft tomatoes (for Cast Iron Pizza of course, then Homemade Canned Diced Tomatoes!).
#3. Establish a plan for using what you bring home.
You won’t save any money if what you bring home ends up rotted and in the trash, so make sure you have a plan for everything you bring home – especially if you picked up anything that wasn’t specifically called for on your meal plan.
One reader shared that she puts all the “old” produce in one produce drawer and “new” produce in another. As she cooks her meals, she makes a point to use as much as she can from the “old” drawer before diving into the “new” one.
Personally, I usually default to dehydrating extra fruit (for Homemade Instant Oatmeal Packets), making a main-meal salad at least once during the week and then tossing whatever is leftover at the end of the week into slow cooker soup. If we’re going to a pot-luck, I’ll take all the extras and make Italian Pasta Salad instead.
Tip: Do you struggle with knowing what you have in the house? These inventory sheets are a lifesaver! There’s one for the fridge, freezer and pantry and they’re 100% FREE to download. Print them off, fill them out and tape them to the fridge at the start of each month to help you eat what you have and not buy things you don’t need!
#4. Create a farmers market grocery budget.
Establishing a general grocery budget was key to paying off our massive mound of debt, so I recommend doing that first if you haven’t already. Use this simple process to get started.
Once you have a grocery budget, set aside funds specifically for the farmers market. Why? Because knowing you have money to spend at the market gives you the freedom to splurge on fun finds like kumquats and local blueberries. It also prevents you from blowing the entire monthly budget in one trip!
#5. Walk the whole market before buying anything.
There’s excitement in walking up to the farmers market and taking your time at the booths, but you could be missing out on great produce and great deals if you’re not strategic.
Before you buy anything, make a point to walk the whole market from end to end. Look at the booths, see what they have, look what they’re charging and compare against your shopping list. Bring a pencil with you so you can jot notes along the way.
I’ve found asparagus priced at $1.99/lb on one end, and $2.99/lb at the other. I’ve found one vendor whose berries always taste better (and yet the same price as others) and two years ago I found a vendor who had an enormous selection of vegetables AND he offered a discount when you reached a certain amount! You can bet I made sure to shop him first!
Shopping the farmers market can be a lot of fun and it doesn’t have to cost a lot money, as long as you plan ahead and shop smart! Use these tips, plus the tips in my Ultimate Guide to Shopping the Farmer’s Market to save big and eat healthier this season!