Farmer’s markets are a great way to shop local, spend time enjoying the sunny early summer weather, and find fresh, nutrient-rich food and ingredients. But if you’ve never shopped at a farmer’s market before, it can be tough to tell which foods are the freshest and whether you should pay a premium for foods fresh from the farm, or if you’re just as well off buying your produce from the grocery store.
Related: Simple Steps to Healthier Grocery Shopping
Here at Kaneka, we want your summer snack shopping to be a breeze. That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide to shopping at your local farmer’s market.
Plan Ahead for Your Trip to the Farmer’s Market
Just like any trip to the grocery store, a trip to the farmer’s market requires a little bit of planning beforehand. It’s a good idea to have a general idea of the items you’ll need to pick up as you browse the different stalls and booths at the farmer’s market. After all, grocery shopping at the farmer’s market is a great way to ensure that your refrigerator is full of the crispest veggies of all varieties. It’s also smart to be sure to pack a reusable tote bag or two—a lot of vendors at the farmer’s market only have a limited number of plastic or paper bags. Plus, using reusable bags is better for the environment! Win-win.
Know Which Questions to Ask at the Farmer’s Market
Unlike your typical run to the grocery store, a trip to the farmer’s market comes with a lot of interpersonal engagement. It’s fun to chat with fellow browsers as you stroll from stall to stall, but it’s also important to talk with the vendors and farmers themselves. A big part of why local co-ops and farm share programs decide to host booths at farmer’s markets is to help educate their customers about how to pick out the best produce, fruit, and meats year-round. Come prepared to ask questions like:
- Are there any fruits or veggies that are in season right now?
- Do you have any suggestions for how to prepare these?
- How do you grow and harvest your food?
It might be helpful to do a little research ahead of time regarding which veggies and fruits are local to your region of the country—often, farmer’s markets tend to feature local produce.
Read more: Ubiquinol Bucket List: The Perfect Summer Picnic
What Not to Buy at the Farmer’s Market
While the farmer’s market is certainly a fun experience, it shouldn’t be a full replacement for your weekly grocery trips. Most obviously, toiletries and other household items will be a hard thing to find at a farmer’s market (although there are certainly some vendors who might make interesting replacements to consider, like natural deodorant or beeswax food saver wraps). But there are also some reasons to skip out on certain food items as well.
If you’re looking for basic ingredients like carrots, onions, or lettuces, it might be cheaper to pick these veggies up at the local grocery store than to pay a premium for them at a farmer’s market. Especially if you’re planning to make a dish like stew, where these flavors will blend and combine anyway, it could be worth a separate trip to the store instead. Buying items like seafood, raw meat, or dairy at a farmer’s market can get tricky, too—especially the later in the day you stop by. Often, vendors selling these more delicate items will pack up their booths early and leave before there’s any risk of their food spoiling, or some vendors will even bring along their own refrigerator, electric cooler, or temperature-controlled truck. In those cases, you won’t need to worry, but if you have a sensitive stomach, you might choose to skip the farm-raised lamb chops, unpasteurized dairy, or wild-caught mussels.
In most cases, going to your local farmer’s market is a great idea. You get to support your local agriculture economy, feel connected to your community, get out and get a little sun, and socialize with friends, all while picking up delicious and heart-healthy foods. For a really fun idea, group up with a bunch of friends and each pick up one interesting ingredient at the farmer’s market. Then, head home together and whip up a three-course dinner using everyone’s choices!
For more interactive heart health ideas, join our Healthy Heart Challenge, and receive a new, fun heart healthiness challenge in your inbox every month. It’s an exciting way to make a commitment to better health this year.