How to Plan a Farmers Market Stop

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Since I have struck out with farmers’ markets in the San Diego area, today’s post is brought to you by Diana from Saving by Making:

plan a farmers market stop

You all know that Jessica is a self-proclaimed Grocery Geek. Her top tips include making lists, checking grocery sales ads, clipping coupons, watching for manager’s specials, and making a weekly (or monthly) menu plan.

Although you can’t use coupons at a Farmer’s market, many other standard grocery shopping tips can be adapted to help you navigate a farmers market successfully. You’ll leave with deliciously fresh produce and the happy feeling that you’re supporting your local economy.

Here’s how to make it work where you are:

1. Make a general list.

Make mental notes of the items you’ll be looking for at the market. On my recent stop, I knew I was looking mostly for salad greens. I came away with Asian greens, romaine lettuce, onions, and garlic chives. (And a loaf of fresh sourdough bread. Couldn’t help that one!) My general list helped me focus on the veggies and not get too distracted with the fruit, cheeses, ice creams, pizzas, sauces and relishes.

2. Survey the area.

Just like you might survey the produce or meat department for mark-downs, do a survey of the market to get an idea of who’s selling what. Don’t only look for the lowest price like you would at the grocery store–also look for quality, especially friendly vendors, or unique varieties (like the candy-sweet onions and garlic chives I bought).

farmers mkt kc

3. Keep your menu plan in mind.

I had already made our menu for the week. I knew I could work the Asian greens and romaine lettuce in, but I didn’t buy so many green leafy veggies that they went to waste. Or try the opposite method: plan a menu around the items that you buy and supplement from the regular grocery store to fill in what’s missing.

4. Take cash.

Many farmer’s markets accept only cash. If you’re not used to using cash at the store, you’ll have to adjust your mindset to make sure you don’t overspend. After my general survey of the market, I went back and started talking to a few of the vendors. At each stop, I looked at their produce and decided what I probably wanted to purchase. After asking the vendor a few questions about that item, I’d say, “Thanks for your help! I’m going to check out a few other things, but I’ll be back.” When I had decided exactly how I wanted to divvy up my cash, I went back and made each purchase.

I’m sure I’ll be refining these strategies as I visit the markets again throughout the summer, but this general plan will give me a place to start. No more standing in the middle of the crowd wondering where to go and what to do first!

Do you have a great local farmers market?

I’ve been pleasantly surprised at what our town has to offer! It’s taken a little digging and a little driving because most of the markets in our area don’t have much internet presence. I’m hoping to change that this summer by blogging about my farmers market adventures, and I’d love it if you’d join me!

Find a great farmer’s market in your town, write up some details with a photo of your produce, and let’s make it easier for others to find our favorite spots! Come visit Saving By Making for more details.

— Diana is a happy mom of one cute little guy. She blogs at Saving by Making. If you’re serious about curbing your spending, get creative and experiment–start saving by making!

About Jessica Fisher

I believe great meals don't have to be complicated or expensive. There's a better way, and it won't take all afternoon.

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  1. Erin says:

    I love farmer’s markets. When we went to Hawaii, we went to the farmer’s market and brought home fruits I had never even heard of before our visit. Then we went back to our rental and had a tasting party. So fun!

  2. I love shopping at farmer’s markets. For me, they’re like treasure hunts. You won’t really know what you’ll find until you get there, and it’s always exciting to check out what’s for sale.

  3. Sandi says:

    I’m envious of people when I hear stories like this. Our markets seem to move location so every time I figure out where and when they are, they’ve moved again before I get back. There usually are only a handful of farmers there and they have the nearly the same things. “fruit, cheeses, ice creams, pizzas, sauces and relishes” yeah, no. It’s exciting when someone brings local honey. Otherwise, it is just basic fruit/veggie items. Rather disappointing.

  4. Charyse says:

    If it’s something that is just barely in season, or something starting to go out of season, go early and don’t take too long to buy. In the middle of berry season, I can get a flat of berries at the end of the market, but early in the season, you’d better be there early!

  5. Christina K. says:

    I love our farmer’s market. I love taking my kids with me and letting them pick out some fruits and veggies. They LOVE it. Plus, there are always musicians and my daughter (20 months) loves to stop and dance.

  6. This is very similar to the method I use too. Once I’ve planned meals (based on the pantry and current sales) and made a shopping list (with prices listed next to them PLUS a note whether they’re “clean” or “dirty”), I take it all with me to the Farmers Market – my first stop on shopping day. I buy the “regulars” – raw milk and farm eggs – and then anything else that’s on the list too. Having the price at the store written down REALLY helps me when I’m out shopping.

    • Diana says:

      I do the same thing with writing the prices down! It helps me keep track of whether my total is getting too high. Wish I could do the farmer’s market stop first, but that doesn’t work so well time-wise for us.

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