Farmers’ markets – savvy shopping for extra savings
Given the choice between organic, locally grown, carefully tended produce and the basic, flat-tasting fare you find bundled up in polystyrene and plastic film at the supermarket, all else being equal we reckon most folks would opt for the former. But what about the cost, especially with grocery prices soaring after the extreme weather earlier this year?
Saving the pennies is a big 'dill' for a lot of households, who might want to eat more healthily, cut those food miles and support local business but feel 'beet' by a squeezed household budget. Well, what if it was possible to buy at your local farmers' market without spending a 'nuts' amount of money? We 'carrot' believe it, but farmers' market insiders have 'lettuce' in on the canny tips and tricks they use to bag 'pear'fect food at supermarket prices or less!
Way past 'thyme' to 'kale' it quits with the 'corn'y puns. Let's shake a 'leek'! 'Romaine' calm and we'll carry on...
Plan meals based on what's likely to be in season...
If you know a certain fruit or vegetable is in season locally, chances are the sellers at the farmers' market will have a considerable glut to unload. Yippee, lower prices! Check out recipe sites online and base several of that week's meals around those seasonal goodies to take advantage.
Go early to select the very freshest and best of the produce, as pickings will get slimmer, shorter or just plain weirder throughout the day.
...yet leave wiggle room for a surprise deal at the end of the day
Rather than lug home unsold produce, some sellers will do deep discounts towards the close of play. Returning for a lurk about your favourite stalls in the last half hour or so can pay dividends, though be careful you don't get blinded by the price. Make sure it's something you actually like and will be able to eat, freeze or preserve before it goes off.
Appreciate the beauty inside
Farmers often sell off so-called 'ugly' produce more cheaply, so keep an eye open for these inner beauties. You might have a time peeling them in some cases, but they taste just as good as the conventionally attractive fruit and vegetables – and you're helping prevent food waste!
Make friends and influence prices
Most sellers would admit to giving discounted prices to friends, family and their regulars, so a sociable state of mind is a big plus at the farmers' market. Obviously a long-term strategy, but one that could pay off handsomely in unexpected friendships as well as a sneaky deal or two, eventually.
While you work on that rapport – hint, a pinch of flattery sometimes goes a long way - harvest what information you can. Ask how they like to prepare a food that's new to you. Ask when certain seasonal foods are likely to come available. Ask when prices for a crop are likely to be lowest. And ask if they'd be able to do you a deal if you buy a large amount or make a special order...
Buy in bulk for freezing, preserving or to share with friends
Unlike the supermarket, you're buying directly from the producer in most cases. Prices can sometimes be negotiated, if you make it worth their while! Why not plan to go large then freeze, preserve or divide the cost and the bounty with a friend?
Lastly, remember to bring your own bags, a flask of strong tea and lots of spare change – have fun!