one green planet
one green planet

Most of us have had to stick to a budget at some point in our lives. We live in a world where we have to pay for food, but even when you’re short on cash, you can still eat in abundance and enjoy a wide array of different meals. After all, we here at One Green Planet strongly believe that you don’t have to spend much to put together a filling meal, and you don’t have to sacrifice flavor or your health to do so, either. Even at farmers markets, which we typically consider to be on the pricier side of things, you can make out like a bandit. Here’s how.

Why Shop at the Farmers Market?

There are a lot of fantastic reasons why you might want to consider stopping by the farmers market or local farm stand for produce. First and foremost, you will be supporting local farmers and you might even get the chance to befriend the folks who grow your food, as opposed to the anonymous farmers behind supermarket produce. It also helps keep you in season. While you can buy zucchini all year round, when it’s October, that locally grown, seasonal acorn squash is going to taste a lot better. Finally, shopping at the local farmers market means that you’re reducing your carbon footprint! Sadly, food often travels hundreds of miles just to get to our plates. According to the National Resources Defense Council, the average American meal will contain ingredients from at least five countries outside the U.S. Not only is buying local good for you, it’s good for the planet, too.

1. Plan Ahead

Before going to the farmers market, it’s a wise idea to know what you want to eat the following week. If you’ve never had to plan your meals, this can be a tricky habit to get into, but it pays off in the long run. Planning how you’ll use your fresh vegetables is like orchestrating a symphony. Before you start, take a survey of what grains, beans, pasta, and starches (like potatoes) you have in your pantry. That will give you a better idea of what kind of meals you can make that week. Have a lot of rice? Plan for chilis and curries! If you have pasta, then you can get inventive with vegetable-based sauces. Looking at what’s in your spice cabinet could serve as a source of inspiration for international dishes, too.

For example, if you like to use leafy greens in smoothies and your savory meals, you can plan to pick up two bunches to last you through the week. Pick up a bunch of locally grown carrots and use some for chili, blend some into vegan cheese sauce, or fries as a side to homemade veggie burgers. A head of cauliflower can also be used for a number of things, such as soup, cauliflower Alfredo sauce link, curry, and more.

2. Stick to Your Budget

Go to the farmers market with a strict budget and do not surpass it. You can pick up a wide variety of fruits and vegetables even when you’re on a budget, but here are a few tips that can help you make the most of the money you have. We can understand being tempted by a big, shiny apple variety that you’ve never tried before, but if you have a budget of, say $20, then it’s best not to spend your money on a single apple that costs $3.99 per pound. Another tip that might help you stick to your budget is to take out cash. A lot of farmers markets now take a card, but physical bills kind of force you to consider how to get the best bang for your buck.

3. Shop Around First

Once you’re at the farmers market, don’t go for the very first stand you see. Take a walk around and see the different prices that are being charged for the ingredients you’re looking for. Just a dollar difference in price could mean that you get to walk out with more fresh veggies.

4. Go at the End of the Day

Going at the end of the day is a high risk, high reward type of situation, but if you stop by the market closer to the end of the day as opposed to when it first opens, you might run into some great deals. Look out for bruised or imperfect produce that you can get at a discount rate. Just one “bad spot” might deter most shoppers from buying something, but when it comes down it, it’s still perfectly good food. You might even find “good” produce at a discounted rate, because the more you buy, the less the farmer will have to bring back to the farm. Plus, buying the “ugly” produce will mean that less food ends up in landfills!

What are your favorite tips for shopping at the farmers market? Let us know in the comments below!

For more money-saving tips, read The Best Food Hacks to Use While Cooking on a Budget15 Budget-Friendly Vegan Meals That Are Delicious and Nutritious, and How I Maintain a Very Humble (Low) Budget Eating Vegan, Without Any Sacrifice.

If you’re interested in finding vegan recipes or more articles like this, then we highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 8,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to ten new recipes per day. Check it out!

Lead image source: Julia Sudnitskaya/Shutterstock