Hot Tips for Shopping on a Budget

As our long summer days reach their apex this Thursday for the summer solstice, fresh produce is in abundance at your local farmers markets. Our June heatwave has brought us plenty of gifts, like summer squash, cherries, and apriums, which have all made their grand debut this past week. As the summer season ramps up every day, now is prime time to start shopping for fresh, local produce.

With hot weather comes even hotter deals at the market. Despite what you might think, shopping at the farmers market on a budget can be easy with the right tricks. Today, we’re sharing our insider tips on how to enjoy and support local food without breaking the bank.

Squash blossoms for 50 cents each? Yes, please! 

Tip #1: Do Your Homework

No matter what your grocery budget may be, educating yourself on what’s in season is always the best way to have a pleasurable shopping experience. The most affordable products will be those that are most abundant, so knowing which vegetables or fruits are growing like crazy at the moment will help you find the best deals. For example, when fresh lettuce is thriving in the spring and early summer months, you’ll find a large bag of it from a local farmer will be quite comparable in price to the lifeless lettuce you might typically get from the grocery store, and with much more flavor and freshness. Plus, as long as it’s stored correctly, it will last noticeably longer than produce that was harvested two weeks before it hit the shelf.

Tip #2: Get the Biggest Bang for Your Buck

On a similar note, much of the fresh products you find at the market are sold by weight. Grocery stores will sell products that ultimately weigh less because they are focused on selling uniform, “perfect” produce, which also leads to a lot of wasted food on large-scale farms. At the market, you’ll often find these same products either come in larger bundles (like Rough and Ready’s gorgeous French breakfast radishes), that the fruits and vegetables grow larger than traditional grocery items (we’re looking at you, carrots), and that all edible parts of the plant are included (thank you, satuéed turnip greens!), which means you’re getting more bang for your buck with each purchase.  

Plus, as peaches, tomatoes, and other fickle fruits come into the markets this summer, you can always ask your farmers for seconds. Seconds are produce that have been harvested with slight blemishes or small bruises that can’t be sold for the full price of the item, so instead, you can buy a whole box of them at a discounted price. This is perfect for baking, preserving, or simply feeding a hungry family that doesn’t judge a book by its cover.

When fruit season is in full swing, don’t skip on the seconds.

Tip #3: Be Selective

It’s admirable to think of a full refrigerator and pantry stuffed with locally grown and crafted goods, but we know that isn’t realistic for most people. With that in mind, our final tip is to be picky about what you get locally. What products can you get at the market that are simply superior to what you can get elsewhere? Your answer might be ripe heirloom tomatoes, or fresh pasta, or maybe a growler of kombucha. Your answer might also change week-to-week, which is the beauty of seasonal markets! So, instead of trying to fulfill a complicated grocery list, come to the market with an open mind and figure out how to cook that kohlrabi later.

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