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Farmers Market Tips and Tricks for Shopping Success, Plus Ways to Save More Money

Discover the best time to shop, why you should chat with a farmer and more!

Farmers markets not only stock the freshest local produce, they can be more affordable than supermarkets too. But there are ways to snag even bigger bargains at your local market! Below, experts share farmers market tips and tricks to make the most of your next shopping trip, plus ways to save on your haul — whether you’re new to the experience or a seasoned shopper.

Farmers market tips and tricks for shopping success

1. Bring some damp tea towels with you to the farmers market

A box holding farmers market produce
Dragos Condrea/Getty

Even if you like to bring your own bag to the market, you may want to also consider bringing along a cardboard box for fragile items like berries, tomatoes and avocados. “You want to avoid lumping those into your bags with other heavier items,” suggests Linda Mark of Farmers Market Fairy. “It’s disappointing to come home to a bunch of bruised, busted-up peaches.”

Another helpful must-have? “Keep a few damp tea towels in your bag to wrap around your produce,” says Cindy Prentice, executive director of Friends of Holly Hill Farm in Cohasset, Massachusetts. This will ensure your haul stays fresh.

Related: Pro Tricks to Keep Your Produce Fresh For Longer

2. Farmers market tips and tricks: Take a lap

Whether you’re new to a particular market or stopping by one of your favorites, there’s a simple way to make the most of your visit. “Do a lap of the market to see who’s there, what’s there and check out prices so you can be a savvy shopper,” shares Madison Letizia of the Organic Farmers Association. This will help you scope out what’s being offered before you start picking out goodies to buy.

3. Chat with farmers at the market

Two people chatting with a vendor at a farmers market
Mark Edward Atkinson/Tracey Lee/Getty

When you stop by a stand, don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with the farmers about any unfamiliar produce you see. “They’re going to have a couple of different ways for you to prepare it, and they’re probably going to tell you how to store it too,” says Letizia. “This makes your shopping trip more exciting because you can buy something interesting you’ve never tried before and not be so intimidated!”

4. Farmers market tips and tricks: Look for a helpful bundle

Not sure what to buy? Ask if any vendors offer a “farmer’s choice” assortment of vegetables or herbs in a box or bundle, says Alia Hamada Forrest, who served as executive director of Roslindale Village Main Street, which hosts the Roslindale Village Farmers Market in Massachusetts. “It helps shoppers grab and go, putting the trust in the assortment in the farmer.”

Farmers market tips and tricks to help you save money

1. Ask for the ‘ugly’ produce at the farmers market

"Ugly" tomatoes from a farmers market
Dan Totilca/Getty

When you visit a stand, you may be able to get a great deal if you opt for more than just the “aesthetic” fruits and veggies. “Ask if they have any “Number 2s,” advises Julia Shanks, co-author of The Farmers Market Cookbook. “Vendors call all the ugly produce ‘Number 2s.’ They’re bruised, cracked and blemished, but they still taste delicious — and vendors will regularly give discounts on them during peak season!” (For misshapen tomatoes, consider using them to make pizza toast!)

2. Farmers market tips and tricks: Seek out “peak season”

Zero in on produce that’s in peak season since farmers are competing with each other to sell their huge stock before it gets too old. “Watch those chalkboards in front of the tents for special deals on the peaches and strawberries that are perfectly ripe and have to be picked and sold this week,” advises Catt Fields White, CEO of San Diego Markets and founder of Farmers Market Pros.

3. Consider grouping like items at the farmers market

Keep an eye out for discounts on bundled foods. “Farmers and food makers sometimes package special deals,” says Fields White. “Buy three packs of bacon and they may throw in a dozen eggs or a loaf of bread for free.”

4. Farmers market tips and tricks: Go on Sundays

People at a farmers market
FG Trade/Getty

You may already know that you’ll find lots of farmers market bargains at the end of the day since vendors want to sell as many products as they can before heading back home. Well, for even bigger markdowns, head to the farmers market at the end of the day on Sunday.

“Very few communities host Monday markets, so a Sunday afternoon market can be a great place to find bargains,” says Fields White. That’s because vendors will have to wait for the start of the next market to sell their goods, which means some could spoil before they could get sold. So they’d rather slash their prices than let them go to waste.

5. Pay with cash at the farmers market

“While most vendors at the market will take credit cards as payment, they’re actually much more willing to offer you a deal if you pay in cash,” says Kathleen Willcox, food writer at Edible Capital District. “This ensures they won’t have to pay a profit-eating fee (around 3.5%) on each credit card sale. Don’t carry cash? Many vendors accept payment through the app Venmo (Venmo.com). Simply look for a sign sharing their Venmo account information and ask if they’ll charge less if you use it to pay!”

6. Farmers market tips and tricks: Shop around

“Many shoppers don’t realize that farmers sell at more than one market per week, and the prices for the same produce can vary by location,” explains John Bedford, food prep expert at Viva Flavor. “To reserve their stalls for the season, farmers and vendors have to pay fees, and the prices depend on how big the market is, or where it’s located. What they pay will define what trickles down to what you pay. Simply ask the farmers if they sell in other markets and if the prices are any better there!”

7. Sign up for senior discounts at the farmers market

If you’re 60 or older and on a limited budget, you may qualify for an annual voucher of $20 to $50 to purchase fresh produce, herbs, and honey exclusively from farmers markets, farm-stands, and community-supported agriculture programs as part of the government’s Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition program. “You use the voucher to pay for goods from farmers, then the farmers cash it like a check, so everyone benefits,” explains Ben Feldman, policy director of the Farmers Market Coalition.

To apply, simply contact the program coordinator in your state by visiting the US Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service page

8. Farmers market tips and tricks: Shop in the rain

If the weather forecast calls for showers, it may not be great news for your blowout, but it is great news for your wallet. “Since there are fewer shoppers on wet days, many vendors offer rainy day discounts, and some markets even offer a discount market-wide; for instance 15 percent off everything,” Feldman says. 

Another added bonus? “Your produce is even fresher on rainy days! That’s because the clouds and chilly temperatures act like a refrigerator to help keep leafy vegetables crisp and root vegetables firm.” 


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