Hands-downs farm-fresh produce is in my top five favorite things about living in California. It can also be an incredibly frugal way to shop, if you take your time, plan, and are open to seasonal availability.
Lucky for me, I only have to walk five blocks to get to my market, so I frequent just about every weekend. But I’m not really a stop and smell the rutabaga type. I usually have twenty bucks to spend on all my groceries and an hour to get in and out. I do not relish in standing behind slow-moving pedestrians. I mean business.
Here is the BAMF’s Guide to Farmer’s Marketing Like a Boss.
Keep your Hands and Feet Inside the Moving Vehicle (and wear closed toe shoes.)
Farmers Markets are crowded places. It can get ugly. Okay, so it’s not a law-suit magnet roller coaster at an amusement park or anything, but markets are usually in parking lots or closed-down streets, and you will benefit to keep your phalanges to yourself and protected in some good kicks. Also? Have you ever walked behind the dreaded Family Moving Laterally? You know what I’m talking about. The row of five to six blood and/or marriage relatives, who are using some sort of straight line forcefield to fart up the flow of traffic. When some stranger’s adorable baby steps on your foot and sends you cascading backwards into other sleepy Saturday morning shoppers, you will do a better job containing your common courtesy rage-on if you at least have the hypothetically squashed foot in question safely protected in proper footwear. Respect.
Bring a List.
I know, I know. The beauty of the market is embracing whatever is in season. But, if you have a vague idea what you want to make, you can fill in the details. For example, I might write down “Squash saute” in the fall. I know I’ll have lots of gourds to choose from, and I can grab whatever else looks good. That being said…
Do a Lap.
The market can be overwhelming at first. It might look like there are five identical tomato vendors and then on closer inspection only one is organic. And while you’re at it, educate yourself on what organic actually means. Not every grower is the same, and not every fad diet label automatically makes food healthy. Do not waver, my friend. Take your time (but stay out of the flow of traffic). Enjoy some tasty slow brewed tea. It’s probably a lovely day, anyway. However…
It’s never tacky to ask how much an item costs if there are no signs around. Or, to ask how long an item will last or how best to prepare it. Generally farmers love to talk about their products. That being said, they don’t have all day. If you’re “just curious” about the mint lemonade and there’s a line ten people long, save the questions for Google and get a business card.
Let the Produce Guide Your Menu.
Like I said, learning a little about your local harvest seasons will open up the doors to be spontaneous and buy ingredamins you’ve never tried before. I am the queen of the recipe substitutions. For example: I might be making stuffed peppers, but last minute I’ll switch it up to stuffed tomatoes because the tomatoes look exceptionally tasty. I put strawberries in a pasta dish last week because they looked delicious. And the result was something I never would have tried if I followed a recipe.
Don’t Pick Fights, Just Pick Produce.
If onions are being sold in a two pound bag, don’t try and buy just one. If a vendor rounds down your total to three dollars when s/he sees you struggling for the quarters, say thank you and move on. Trust me, the time you’re wasting arguing and being a farmer’s market martyr is not worth the 35 cents. That being said, don’t you try and shortchange a farmer. You know what’s more local than paying a farmer a fair wage? Just about nothing. And for the love of Pete, bring small bills. Be aware though that a stack of singles no matter how sexy will require dextrous thumbs in order to keep a grip on in a crowded area.
Do yourself and your environment a favor and bring a couple reusable bags. Not only is this friendly for your own gardens and communities, it will also help lighten the load over both your shoulders. I get super excited when I see pumpkins on super sale and then super regretful when I have to carry 30 pounds of squash sans strong carrying apparatus. On the flip side, don’t argue with the lettuce guy/any small item being placed in a clear plastic bag like this one. It’s not very green to throw out the lettuce you bought because it got scattered and ruined under your acorn squash.
Be Loud About It.
The market is a great way to save money and eat healthy. And the best favor you can do independent growers is bring back more hungry, happy people.
The End. Rory out.