Research proves you’ll spend up to 50 percent less on summer produce at farmers markets than supermarkets. And with these insider tricks, you’ll pay even less!
Order ahead for discounts.
Ask your favorite vendors if they have an email list you can join for preorders. Many offer discounts just for buying ahead. They may also have a website that lists online sales on overstock that you can take advantage of before they sell out at the market. Simply select the items you want and pay electronically. Then pick up your purchase in person at the vendor’s booth. Bonus? Some markets offer contactless drive-thru for preorders, where they’ll load your order into your vehicle.
Go overripe to pay less.
Using the fruit and vegetables you’re buying right away (say, for tonight’s stir-fry dinner)? Ask vendors if they offer a deal on almost past-their-prime produce that won’t be sold the next day, advises Janie Maxwell, executive director of the Illinois Farmers Market Association. “They’d rather sell products for less than leave them unsold.” Also smart: Ask if they charge less for “ugly” produce. “Some farmers set bruised or misshapen produce aside and offer it for less.” They’re just as tasty as “pretty” produce but can be use in pies, stews or jams, and you’ll never know the difference.
Buy in bulk for a deal.
If you’re planning to buy a lot of produce, say, to can or to share with family and friends, ask the vendor if they offer a price break for large purchases. Many are happy to sell their fruit and vegetables at a slightly lower price — usually about 10 percent less — for a bigger sale. That’s because it ensures they sell out their inventory and don’t have to bring it back to the farm at the end of the day.
Use this to double benefits.
If you receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, great news: “Not only can you use your Electronic Benefit Transfer card at many farmers markets, some will also match what you spend, usually up to $20 to $25, doubling the amount you can buy,” notes Maxwell. Visit the market’s website or ask the manager to find out if they offer this perk. Tip: If you’re 60 or over and are on a limited budget, you may be eligible for a coupon entitling you to $20 to $50 worth of fresh produce, herbs and honey from farmers markets and stands as part of the government’s Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. To find if you’re eligible, visit FNS.USDA.gov/sfmnp.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.