Keep your grocery budget in line while you support local farms.
The farmers market is great for fresh, local food, but it can bust your weekly food budget if you’re not careful. Here are some tips from chef and food/budget lifestyle blogger Gabi Moskowitz on how to get the best from the market while sticking to a budget.
When to shop: Moskowitz suggests showing up during the last hour. Vendors who don’t want to pack up and haul away their perishable products are more likely to cut you a deal.
What to buy: “There’s nothing I would say you shouldn’t buy at the farmers market,” Moskowitz said. But to get the most produce for your money, look for greens, which generally cost far less than the prices you’ll find at the grocery store.
Tomatoes are another good bet. The quality and variety of farmers market tomatoes are usually superior to their supermarket counterparts. Because they’re fresh, tasty and usually organic, they are worth the price, even if they’re marginally more expensive.
Be sure you look for a vendor’s “soft bin.” These bins are filled with tomatoes and other produce that is on the verge of being too ripe to sell. You can get a deal here. “And soft tomatoes are great for roasted salsas, soups and sauces,” Moskowitz said.
When to haggle: You can bargain with farmers market vendors — sometimes. They probably won’t haggle with you early in the day, and they probably won’t haggle over popular items. You have to choose your moments.
What not to buy: If you’re watching your wallet, skip the prepared foods at the farmers market, even though pasta, the pasta sauces, pies and other prepared dishes are usually first-rate. But if you’re sticking to a budget, buying in bulk can be a bargain.