Mid June is a great time of the year. Not only do I get to celebrate both of my kids’ birthdays, but my garden is starting to really come along, and the local farmers’ markets are get started. Oooh, that is fun! There’s nothing better than buying local produce right from the farmer that grew it (unless it’s you growing your very own veggies in your backyard, that is). But if you have a black thumb or 5 children and a full time job, buying your produce at a market can be a great way to eat healthy, support the local economy and live frugally.
Some might say, “It’s not possible to be frugal and shop at a farmers’ market.” But if you find the right market and have the right expectations, it really can be. Just the other day, I was at the local market in my hometown and I was able to get bunches of lettuce greens and spinach for $1.00 each. A buck a piece! I felt like I was at the Dollar Tree! I also got a quart of strawberries for $4.00. Not bad, eh? Now, the $5 loaf of cinnamon-raisin whole wheat bread was a little pricey, but it was a-mazing and I loved the life story of the corporate-turned-organic-bread-maker man. I just had to buy his last loaf.
For me, “finding the right market” generally means going to the smaller market more off the beaten path. The market I work with is quite small and the farmers are more interested in sharing their goods with the community than making a ton of money. Smaller markets sell free-range eggs for between $3-$4 a dozen, and produce at prices comparable to local grocery stores.
“Having the right expectations” is especially important when shopping at farmers’ markets. Are you going to get each and every bit of produce and goods for your fridge in one trip? Probably not…it’s kind of the same philosophy as using coupons actually. We go from store to store to get the good deals, and the same is true with markets. You might visit a market in June for in-season produce like lettuce, kale, sugar snap peas, and early strawberries as well as a dozen eggs and a pound of grass fed beef. And then hop on over to Albertsons to pick up a bunch of bananas and grapes they have on sale. Leave hoping to find a farm-fresh ripe tomato for late August and instead focus on produce that grows in season.
What if you find yourself in a place where you receive WIC vouchers or food stamps? Did you know that you, too, can shop at markets? Most markets these days have vendors that accept WIC, Farm Direct vouchers, debit, and food stamps cards! This allows all people from all walks of life and financial states the opportunity to eat locally grown goods.
To find a farmers’ market in your area, visit Local Harvest, a farmers’ market and CSA database of local farmers all over the country.
So before you load up the kidlets and make a trip to Costco, please, please, please first fill up your fridge with in-season, local produce. Your kids will learn that carrots come from the ground when they meet farmers’ with soil-stained hands, and you’ll be supporting the local economy and our farmers.