There are many things I love about going to farmers markets. Mainly its because being outside surrounded by the community and of course, being surround by lots of fresh produce and the people that grew them, just has a feeling to it. It really makes me happy and makes me feel a part of something (don't ask why because I have no clue - it just does).
When its the season, I try to go to the farmers market as often as I can because I enjoy it and also because its good for our community. When we go and involve ourselves in them, we support our local farmers, local creativity and artists, and we get to try new things and get involved with those around us. Farmers markets are feel good, eat good places. And in my opinion, those are the best kind of places. Why wouldn't you want to be there?
I used to go and walk around the market without a plan on what I was going to buy because I thought, why not just get inspired by my surroundings and see where that takes me? And while that did happen (basically always) and is great, I often found myself spending way too much money on way too much food for the week. Plus, I found it hard to get super inspired when I only had myself to feed. After I realized this, I decided that I would go to farmers markets with a plan from there on out.
So now when I go, I get a good idea of what I want to buy at the market after I take a few moments to plan the meals and snacks that I want to make for the week before leaving. I have found that sitting down and planning this out, even for 5 minutes, has stopped my aimless wandering around the market (which also isn't a bad thing, but can be overwhelming at times), has helped me stick to my set budget, and ultimately, has decreased my food waste. (Score!) Although what I plan can often change, I do try to stick to buying most of what I will need for the meals I have pre-planned from this 'to buy' list shown below. For me, it is basically a list of the things that I like to buy from farmers markets when I need them, but I don't always buy everything all of the time from the list.
- leafy greens / salad greens
- root vegetables
- bell peppers
- meat/ eggs
- specialty breads
- nuts/ seeds/ dried fruits
- fresh herbs
If you're familiar with 'the dirty dozen' list, you may see a lot of similarity in that and my list of 'to buy's' that I have written out. I never shy away from asking how the farmer grows their produce/ food. Actually, I find that the people working, often the farmers themselves, will proudly share if their foods are all organic, natural, or how exactly they take care of their crops. Showing such specific interest may seem like it could be a little annoying and over the top (which honestly, it never is or should be considered as such), but just remember that you are the customer AND the consumer. I actually have found that doing so also can sometimes spark good conversations that lead to valuable farmer-customer friendships between you and your local farmers.
Honestly, my favorite thing about buying my food at farmers markets is that I get to ask the farmers how they were grown. If they're not organic, I like to know that minimal or no pesticides, chemicals, or other toxic stuff were used to grow the produce I am about to buy and eat. Keep in mind that these toxins can be sprayed on directly or can be put in the ground, and both ways lead to the chemicals being in your produce. Same goes for meat. I like to buy meat at farmers markets because, more often than so, the animals were given a good life and were treated humanely. Not only does that make me happy, but I also know that meat tastes better and is better for me when the animals are treated well.
- don't buy more than 1-2 pre-made/packaged food per visit unless you really need
- overall, buy more leafy greens than other produce
- always buy a food that will be your go-to snack during the week, such as an apple, pear, cucumber, apricot, dried fruit or nuts
- shop at the same few stands to produce a friendship between you and your farmers - this is such a cool benefit that you don't often ever get from shopping at grocery stores
- ask your farmers when the best time are to buy certain foods, that way you can cook seasonal foods which often contain the highest amount of nutrients
Note: I follow these tips loosely according to the week ahead and what's going on in life. These tips do help me stick to my budget, eat healthier and less processed foods throughout the week, and decrease overall food waste.
I hope this post inspires you to go out and enjoy your local farmers market. They truly are great places to be and often lead to yummy food and great times spent.
Thank you to those of you who volunteer your time to make farmers markets happen in our communities. Also, thank you to farmers, bakers, butchers, cooks, designers, artists, and more who help create and inspire togetherness through these markets.