Tips for Saving Money at the Farmer's Market

May is an exciting time for the Organic & Thrifty Oregonian, because so begins the season of Farmer's Markets!!! I know I'm not alone in this joy, for hundreds of like-minded folks come out every week for the most healthy, grassroots "carnival" there ever was! But with prices so high at the market (comparably) how can we support local farmers without breaking the bank?

First of all, I believe that it's sort of a myth that farmer's markets are inherently more expensive. I think for the quality and freshness, markets are actually much cheaper than their organic health food store counterparts.

Secondly, I am very choosy about what I purchase at the farmer's market. There are lots of items that make lots of money for the farmers at the market, and these I tend to avoid.

Here are my tips for saving your green while being green at your local farmer's market (by the way, if you're a local-yocal and haven't familiarized yourself with Portland Metro Farmer's Market Culture, go here. EcoMetro has a fabulous map and directory of all the local markets!!

1) Avoid fruits. As tempting and delicious as they can be at the market, I see fruit as the "candy" of the Farmer's Market and you wouldn't spend your week's allotment of funds on candy any other time, would you? As great as they look, avoid the urge to buy those juicy apricots and blueberries. Instead, plan an outing to a local berry farm or orchard and get a crew of otherwise unoccupied elementary school children and stock up on all of these amazing fruits by picking them yourself! Not only do you pay a fraction of the cost, but you get exercise and an outing in the sun!

2) Stick with the items you'll use in your weekly meals that will stretch, such as eggs, cheese, cabbage, chard, zucchini, radishes, spinach, lettuce, sweet onions, cauliflower, broccoli. I find that I get my fill of these fibrous, low-carb veggies and less is more.

3) In general, get your "pickling" and "storage" veggies farm-direct. Green beans, tomatoes, and pickling cukes are items you want to buy in bulk for canning, and thus you will want to buy farm-direct. This isn't that complicated, as most of the market vendors have a farm on which they directly sell their items for cheaper. They might even offer a U-Pick. And don't forget, there are plenty of great farms out there that are such small operations that they can't afford the staffing for market sales. Watch craigslist for these. My favorite is a mom and pop farm stand set up outside the farmer's house in Cornelius, Oregon, called "Mike and Debbie's Produce". They keep their overhead low and pass the savings on to you!.

4) Eat breakfast before you go! Although the food there is delicious and tantalizing, it will drain the cash you should be spending on next week's food! And besides, Saturday should be your "clean out the fridge day" where you consume the odds and ends you have leftover from the previous week.

5)Soaps, oils, honey, and treats are fun, but only purchase them if they are needs. It's great to support small, handmade operations but buy only what you need!

6) To add some thrifty fun into your experience, be sure to take advantage of all the free samples and savor them in place of purchasing things you don't need. Strike up a conversation; make a connection. Give feedback! Don't feel bad if you aren't going to purchase anything today; maybe next week you'll need that herbed chevre!

I hope these 6 tips will take the fear out of farmer's market shopping. It's fun to just take out $10 and see how much you can purchase (or whatever your budget allows!)

Happy farmer's marketing!


Iconography Girl said...

Thanks, O&T! I am looking forward to taking a stab at FMs this year.


Paula said...

Thank you for this! I thought I had some good rules for saving money at the farmer's market. I had never thought about the fruit one before OR buying ON FARM! GREAT tips!! I will be giving some link love to your post on Monday. :)

Also, I learn SO MUCH from your blog, but when I signed up for the RSS feed, it shows nothing. Just the title of your post. I would LOVE to be able to read your posts in my feed reader.

Carrie @ OrganicThrifty said...


Thanks so much for the comment and encouragement! I need to figure out how to improve the RSS feed; honestly I'm clueless but will look into how to do that! Thanks for the heads up!