Find Deals on Fresh Food While Supporting Local Vendors

The best part of my Saturday mornings is meandering the local farmers market. I get to explore new vendors, sample fresh produce and engage with other people in my community. Not only am I investing in my community, but I’m getting fresh food at a great price.

Here are four tips to save some green during your next farmers market visit.

1 – Ditch your list.

If you go to the market looking for something specific, you’ll likely be disappointed and end up spending more than you intended. Instead, keep your mind open and just see what is available and then create a recipe based on what you get. Here is one of my favorite recipes for summer – Summer Vegetable Spaghetti – it includes fresh onions, tomatoes, squash, green beans, parsley, and garlic – all from my local farmers market.

2 – Shop what’s in season. 

There is nothing like a sweet strawberry in the middle of the winter, but health and budget-wise it’s not the way to eat. Shopping locally forces you to learn about the seasonality of food. Here is a quick cheat sheet about what’s in season:

North Carolina Fruit and Vegetable Availability chart showing what produce is in season and when.
North Carolina Fruit and Vegetable Availability chart showing what produce is in season and when.

3 – Choose seconds and buy in bulk.

Not all your food needs to look perfect or pretty. Many farmers also sell ‘seconds’ – produce that is slightly bruised or not as large as the full-priced items yet tastes just as great or is perfect for canning. You might have to cut off a few bruises, but your veggies will taste just as good as their prettier cousins.

And purchasing in larger quantities also helps the pennies add up. The trick to buying in bulk is to make sure you have proper storage.

4 – Build relationships.

It’s all about who you know, and shopping locally is no exception to the rule. Form a relationship with your local farmers and let them know that you’ll take any ‘need to sell quickly’ produce off their hands at a discounted price. Then use it right away or freeze. I often buy extra zucchini for bread and muffins. (They’re both quick and easy to make and freeze for later. And they make a pretty good, healthy back-to-school breakfast on-the-go.)

*BONUS TIP*

Double your bucks when you use your SNAP/EBT card! Five farmers markets in the County are now equipped to accept SNAP benefits AND through the Double Bucks program, those same farmers markets will double SNAP dollars up to $20. That means, if you spend $20, you get $20 more to spend. How can you say “no” to double the food at no extra cost? The markets currently providing SNAP and Double Bucks benefits are:

Davidson Farmers Market
120 S. Main Street, Davidson, NC 28036

Matthews Community Farmers Market
188 N. Trade Street, Matthews, NC 28105

Cotswold Farmers Market
309 Sharon Amity Road, Charlotte, NC 28211

Seeds for Change Farmers Market
2901 Romare Bearden Drive, Charlotte, NC 28208

The Bulb Mobile Market
Multiple locations, visit their website for more details

More information about SNAP/EBT and the Double Bucks program is available here.