One of the great joys of summer is being able to take full advantage of farm-to-table eating right in your own home. Whether it’s a weekend trip to the Farmers’ Market or an after-work swing by the local fruit-and-veggie stand, keep the following best practices in mind when shopping for fresh produce.
Timing is everything. There are two schools of thought when it comes to the best time to hit up the farm stand: go bright and early to get the freshest picks; or go close to closing to get the best deals. Let your schedule – and your budget! – be the deciding factor.
Look before you buy. The impulse to grab as you go is high when you see all those fresh, colorful fruits and veggies, but do a loop first and take in everything that’s available. Then think about your week ahead and what you want – and have the time – to make. Then go back and choose your items accordingly.
Bring your own bags and maybe a cooler, too. You may go with the intentions of just grabbing a couple of things, then find yourself trying to balance armfuls of produce. So be prepared with bags or containers for gathering your purchases. Or, if you’re traveling some distance in particularly hot weather, or running out on your lunch hour at work, bring your cooler and some ice packs to keep your finds fresh while in the car.
Consider buying in bulk. According to moneycrashers.com, you can score big by buying in bulk at the farmers’ market. So consider buying a whole flat of fresh produce and spending the weekend making and preserving a batch of raspberry jam or tomato sauce.
Get chatty. Be sure to take advantage of the biggest benefit of shopping at the Farmers’ Market: interacting with others. Ask the farmers about their produce – how its grown, if they use any pesticides, etc. – inquire about those odd-looking veggies you’ve never seen before and maybe buy a couple to try, and strike up conversations with your fellow shoppers to get great tips and recipes.
The above ideas will help you take full advantage of the season and make the most of the fresh finds and welcoming atmosphere of the farmers’ market.