For many, a trip to a farmers market has become as routine as popping into the neighborhood grocery store. Here is how to get the most for your money when buying produce and other farmers-market goods:
Get to know the vendors
Many vendors give deals to folks they know, said Gabrielle Lupton, a baker who sells goods at Salt Lake City farmers markets. To build that relationship, become a regular. Consistently buy from that seller and turn to that seller for bulk and special orders. In addition to scoring deals — and maybe even a friendship — becoming a regular gives you an inside scoop on when seasonal items like peaches will be available.
Buy 'ugly' produce
"Seconds" or "No. 2s" are fruits and vegetables that taste the same as other produce but look a little off. Farmers typically sell them more cheaply than the perfect-looking produce. Get a deal on seconds, and you are not just saving money — you are also helping to reduce food waste. Even if you prefer eating or serving flawless produce, you can use seconds for cooking, baking and making jam.
Pay in cash
Access to a credit or debit card — and dozens of freshly baked pastries — can put your grocery budget in danger. Lupton said that customers paying with a card typically outspend those who use cash. Consider bringing cash, spending a set amount and leaving your cards at home. (This is a reliable money-saving tip for most kinds of shopping trips.)
Vendors don't want to be stuck with unsold inventory so "they'll start slinging deals toward the end of the day," said Nina Gruber, a coordinator for Seattle Neighborhood Farmers Markets. For example, in the final 30 minutes the market is open, you may be able to snag a bag of apples for half the price you would have paid first thing in the morning.
The trade-off is that there will be a smaller selection.
Get discounts on bulk purchases
Remember, vendors want to offload as much of their product as possible. So they are incentivized to cut a deal if you are interested in buying a lot of it, Lupton said. Ask vendors what prices they can offer for the quantity you want, such as a dozen cookies or two pounds of potatoes. They may throw in a few extra potatoes or give you a break on a batch of cookies.