Shop smarter: 8 tips to save money and get better produce at the farmers' market

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Here at Dooli™ HQ, we love a good farmers' market.

They make healthy living easier and there’s just nothing like a home-cooked meal with food fresh from the market.

But I’ll be honest...sometimes the farmers’ market can be a little intimidating.

From the huge crowds of people…

To not wanting to peeve vendors if you ask too many questions…

To the age-old dilemma of exactly how many baguettes you can fit into your bag… :)

There are a lot of areas where navigating the farmers' market isn’t quite so idyllic.

Today, we’ve got 8 tips to help you save money, find the best products, and enjoy the farmers' market experience a lot more.

Take a lap

It’s frustrating when you’ve stocked up on fresh basil, only to find fresher, cheaper, more fragrant bunches at the end of the market.

Before taking out your wallet, take a quick lap around the entire market.

You’ll learn what type of vendors are present, see prices, and generally get a lay of the land before committing to anything. Once you know the hot spots to hit, go back through and make your purchases.

Get the best quality

It’s always helpful to go into the market knowing what’s in season. You’re likely to get the best deals on in-season produce, plus it’s the tastiest it will ever be!

Not on top of your seasonal produce? Neither are we. :) Just use this handy guide from the USDA to see what’s in season now.

You also want to be mindful when handling delicate fruit at the stalls. Squeezing a soft plum, for example, could cause visible bruising and make it harder for farmers to sell in a few hours.

Instead of squeezing the produce, here’s another way to test for ripeness: just hold up the fruit and smell close to the stem. Or, ask the farmer when the produce will be ripe and ready to eat.

Don’t be afraid to ask

A lot of people are intimidated to talk to the farmers. But most are actually excited to nerd out about farming with you!

If you’re curious about anything — growing practices, animal diets, organic standards — wait until the farmer has a quiet minute and then ask your question. Try not to keep them from other paying customers if possible.

No matter what the farmer says, be polite and respond with a smile. If you’re looking for grass-fed beef and the farmer’s cattle eat corn, no need to explain yourself. Just smile and say “thanks, have a nice day!” before leaving the stall.

Don’t get hung up on labels

Getting your produce officially certified as organic is expensive. And for many small farms, it’s simply not a cost they can afford.

If organic is important to you, don’t be turned off by the absence of a USDA seal! Some farms use organic practices but just can’t afford to get certified.

The only way to know for sure is to talk to the farmers. Ask how they manage pests, what type of fertilizers they use, and their thoughts on organic farming to start a conversation.

Cash is king

At the farmers' market (and any small business, really) vendors appreciate paying in cash. Small bills are especially valuable!

Thanks to services like Square and Paypal, many farmers' markets accept credit cards nowadays. But you can bestow a little kindness and save the hardworking farmers the 3% processing fee by paying in cash.

Bonus: bringing a finite amount of cash prevents you from overspending...a very real danger when surrounded by gelato stands and taco carts. (Not like I speak from experience or anything.)

Choose the best time

Most farmers' markets are slowest right when they open, so early morning is generally a good time to avoid the crowd. But every market is different!

Test out different times for your first couple of trips and see which slots you prefer.

You’ll have more opportunities to talk to the farmers and take your time at the stalls if you go during slower times. Or, if you love the energy of a bustling market, you can go during busier times. Your call!

BYOB

No, not booze...bags! Most markets don’t provide their own carrier bags, plus being eco-friendly is in line with the general ethos of the farmers' market.

Click here for some of our favorite reusable bags. (Trust me, these bags are so cute, you’re going to look for excuses to use them!)

Saving money

Generally, the farmers' market isn’t a place you want to barter. Farmers work incredibly hard and it’s polite to respect their asking prices.

That being said, if you like to negotiate, closing time is usually your best bet. Farmers are unlikely to sell their ripest produce once the market closes, so they’ll be most willing to make a deal right before they close up.

Another opportunity to save is if you notice items that are obviously damaged or low quality. You can point out the damage (in a polite way) and make the farmer an offer.

Some farmers will cut you a deal if you order in bulk. If you want to buy a large quantity, talk to the farmer in advance and ask if you can get a discount for a large order.

One of the best parts about the farmers' market is the human-to-human connection.

It’s a really nice touch to follow up with farmers and tell them how you used their products. Gushing about the delicious blueberry crisp you made your in-laws using their berries or the succulent burgers you grilled up with their meat reminds them of the impact they’re making with their work — something we all love to feel.

What are your best tips for the farmers’ market? Let us know in the comments!

Love green living? Keep it eco-friendly with Dooli™.

Our compatible bag adapters for Diaper Genie® and Litter Genie® allow you to use ANY bag in your pail.

Give second life to plastic bags from the market, the mall, Target, anywhere! Just snap it into the Dooli™ Bag Adapter and you’re good to go!

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