Saturday, April 28, 2012

My 6 top tips for shopping at the Farmer's Market

I had some free time on my hands and an empty fridge so I took myself off to my closest 'farmer's market' to stock up on seasonal produce and have a look around last weekend. Now, I think the term 'farmer's markets' might be over used a bit these days because these markets I went to were definitely not full of stall holders who grew the produce and came to market to sell it. So what is a farmer's market exactly? According to the Australian Farmer's Market Association:

A Farmers' Market is a predominantly fresh food market that operates regularly within a community, at a focal public location that provides a suitable environment for farmers and food producers to sell farm-origin and associated value-added processed food products directly to customers.

The whole purpose of me visiting these markets was to save money and buy only fresh, seasonal produce. By the time I opened my purse a couple of times, $50 soon disappeared, defeating the purpose. Many market entrepeneurs are calling these markets 'farmer's' markets in the hope of attracting a steady stream of regular Sunday shoppers and making a lot of money. This particular market I went to had more craft and food stalls than fresh produce so definitely a lot more to spend your money on.

In order to get the most out of your 'farmer's' market experience and hopefully save a few dollars, here are my top 6 tips for your next trip to a farmer's market.

1.  Stick to a budget

If you've got $50 allocated to spend at the markets, buy what you want. Buy what you need first and any money left over you can use on scented candles, coffees, crafts or a big fat German sausage (which always smell so good).

 2.  Is it really cheaper and fresher than the local greengrocer?

Do your homework before venturing out each week to a farmer's market. They might be a bit further from home and the stall holders may just be people who go to the large central fruit and vegie market and resell at the farmer's market (which is what I tend to think happens at the market I went to). Sure, there are produce growers there who are selling what they grow but there are many others who source their produce from the same place as the local greengrocer or supermarket. The produce has probably the same shelf life as what you'd expect from the supermarket/greengrocer and the prices would be very similar.

3.  Don't be tempted by things you can't afford

Like the siren's song, I'm always tempted by a beautifully scented, handmade soap or soy candle melt but I show restraint when I know that I'm only buying fruit and vegies today so no money for these little luxuries. Sure, treat yourself from time to time but really, when a cake of soap that resembles a slice of cake costs $7.50 each, is it really worth it? I think I might eat it for that price!

4.  Don't necessarily stick to a list

Make sure you check out what's in season before you go but don't be bound by a list. I had no intention of buying a lettuce on my last visit but when I saw the hydroponic range of lettuces at a particular stall, I just couldn't resist. One lettuce was only $1.50 and it was HUGE and crisp and fresh. I just quickly thought about my menu plan for the week and that's when I came up with the Salad Rice Paper Roll idea. For more information of what's in season, check out these web sites for your area:

5.  Use the farmer's market to try new and exciting seasonal produce

The above dragonfruit was so tempting to buy. I overheard a lady saying she wanted to have one cut open to see what it was like inside and wanted to know more about it. I think they were $3.50 each or 3 for $10. If you do come across a seller who is just selling dragonfruit, they probably grew them. I'd blow the budget and buy one for $3.50 if I so desperately wanted to try it.

6.  If you're after a bargain, go just before closing time

If you just want cheap produce and aren't sure of exactly what's going to be left by the time you get there, go just before the markets are due to close. Stall holders will sell it at next to nothing so they don't have to take it home with them but be prepared for not much variety and not necessarily the things you wanted this week. I've been to markets over the years where the banana grower has sold out of his bananas at 7am.

I sometimes buy a coffee when I go out and then sometimes I don't. I don't fancy standing in a queue for 15 minutes for an overpriced coffee. On this day, I opted for a freshly squeezed juice of orange, pineapple and apple which was delicious but at $5 was a little expensive. Nice though.

I believe there are true farmer's markets out there that just sell cheap, locally grown, fresh fruit and vegetables with some homemade goodies but there are also 'marketeers' who try to cash in on the name and the fad who sell everything including the kitchen sink and these are the ones, where if you're not careful, will finish up costing you a fortune. Here are some more photos from my morning out.



  1. What an adventure. The produce pictures look AMAZING! Sticking to a budget is very important. My community has an arts festival every May that is held downtown. Luckily I live only 4 blocks from the event so I NEVER take my purse when I look around. If I like something, I have to go home to get my purse. I find that only about 10% of the time I actually want something badly enough for me to return to purchase it.

  2. Great tips, Anne! I love that you have unique fruit like that dragon fruit - I'd be tempted by that too (and have no clue what to do with it!). I've had to stop going to the FM too often because it's just way too expensive.

  3. I miss farmers markets, which funnily enough don't really happen out here in the country!lol. There is one about 40 minutes away. One day I will persuade Country Boy to take me! I used to go to a fabulous one in the lower mountains when we lived there... now I am getting homesick :)

  4. I enjoyed your Farmers Market trip! Good tips on buying, I think it's easy to make impulse purchases at places like that when everything looks good!

  5. nice post! looks like a lovely day out and lots of good tips!

    i've experienced both sides of the markets.
    my grandparents became organic veg/herb growers in their retirment and have been part of the fm scene for years and they're still at it.
    they had the 8 grand daughters help out in all aspects of their business from watering plants to working the markets. great bonding and life lessons/work ethic in it all. it's a lot of hard work for sure!

    there are lots of in's and out's of shopping the markets and you covered a lot of ground with lots of good points!
    never be afraid to talk to the vendors and ask questions about the produce, where it came from etc. ask for samples for sure!

    make friends with the vendors! they do extra nice things for regular returning customers, such as give discounts for bulk, choice produce set aside for you, etc.
    i'm a long way from my home market, but we still seek out markets where ever we are they are charming big or small :)
    happy saturday! xo tracie

  6. Great advice Anne - I bought Granny Smith apples a month or two back after i saw a sign mention FRESH on his varied stall. Then he told me they were picked last April o_O.

    love your header too

  7. Great tips Anne. I find that the farmers markets in Melbourne are really expensive and not enough farmers! It's a bit better down here, but really I'd rather stick to a good local grocer for my staples, a farmers market is more like recreation for me.
    Sorry I haven't visited in ages! Your blog looks absolutely gorgeous. It's so you. xx

  8. Our farmers market is a joke, but they do have a great restaurant which I go to. I think they get the produce from the same suppliers that wal-mart does. They have all this stuff that grows nowhere near here. Strawberries are in season here and I can't wait to take the kids to pick some. Strawberry Shortcake...mmm. you can do well with farmers that sell on the side of the road though. They are typically notorganic though.

  9. Great advice, the ones where I live are always good but we are more rural (Toowoomba). I love the markets here, lol, I loved the quote about the cake slice soap, I think the same thing!! x

  10. Great tips! We have a few different farmers markets around here and it's like night and day. One has mostly small farm representatives and the prices are fair, the other is basically produce re-sale and the prices are a lot higher. Sadly the better market has less advertising so most people go to the big one.

    Make friends with farmers, we are nice and generous people :-)

  11. Love these tips Anne! I'm sharing on Facebook and featuring tonight! Thanks so much for sharing at Mom On Timeout!


  12. Wow, nice pictures of all those goodies! I've been a farmer market shopper for going on 3 years now, it's definately easy to go over budget. Everything just looks so yummy! I agree with only taking the amount you are looking to spend for sure.


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