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Simple Steps to Enjoy Healthy & Affordable Foods

By: Jasia Steinmetz

Excerpt from Eat Local chapter 30 Farmers' Market Money Saving Tips:

Each Market has its own personality with its own unique food and features. The more familiar you are with the markets in your area, the more money you save as you anticipate the foods, know the prices and bargain with the farmers for the best deals. Economical shopping is based on your relationship with farmers to know their techniques and learn their specialty crops. While many farmers in our area grow similar vegetables, we have one farmer who specializes in different garlic varieties, and another with many potato varieties. On a recent visit to the Santa Fe market, a farmer was selling a chili variety that has been grown by their family for four generations. Becoming a regular shopper at the market will help you recognize unique foods, best prices and highest quality.
 
Shop frequently and buy only what you can use in the next week, or are willing to preserve for later use.  Farmers’ market produce is harvested close to market time and while it will last longer than food transported over thousands of miles, peek flavor diminishes with time. Prevent spoilage and waste with smaller purchases. You’ll need smaller amounts of market foods when cooking because fresh food is more flavorful!

Explore many farmers’ markets. Because farmers adapt to a customers’ food choices, farmers’ markets differ, often based on cultural preferences or income level. You can take advantage of this versatility by learning the times and locations of various markets in your area. Learn additional tips by listening to how local customers choose produce and describe preparation.

Menu planning for savings. The start of the market will have the most variety, which is why chefs shop early to have the most options. Touring the early market helps you become familiar with the different products, enabling you to plan for your meals with the most choices. It is best to have general menus planned and allowed for flexibility of ingredients as you shop the market. The more familiar you become with the seasonal flow of food, the more you anticipate changes within your menu. In our area, the spring menu focuses on leafy greens, radishes, small turnips, asparagus, and strawberries. You save money when you plan menus around the abundant products of the season, rather than come to the market looking for a specific ingredient that may not be in season.

Learn the pricing structure. Farmers ask for a fair price for their labor and specific product. Ask farmers about their prices so you understand the requirements of different production methods or characteristics of a product.  Some foods require more labor, may be difficult to forage, or are only grown infrequently. 

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