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Shop the farmer’s market like a pro

I too was once overwhelmed by the farmer’s market.

So many vendors, so many shoppers, so many choices. I couldn’t get my act together. Fumbling with my bags and money. People pushing and shoving. Trying to decipher what was organic, what wasn’t? No order to the line-ups or payment process.

It all seemed like too much frustration and hassle for a bunch of carrots, potatoes and kale. And I’d have to make another stop at the supermarket on the way home to get the rest of my weekly groceries anyway.

But I believed in it. I wanted to be a Saturday morning farmer’s market shopper. I wanted to support local, connect with our farmers and producers, eat more organically, get back to basics and eat seasonally.

So I persisted. I talked to friends who had found their way through the confusion. I did some research on the local and organic producers. I got more organized. Made a list. Had small bills and change ready. Left my purse at home to free up my arms for bags.

Over the years I’ve learned a lot about market shopping and now Saturdays are my favorite morning of the week.

Here are few tips from my own personal experience to help you ditch the overwhelm and frustration and start shopping the farmer’s market like a pro:

Go early: If you want to be a serious market shopper, this is my number one tip for avoiding the crowds and what I call “the coffee and muffin people.” These are the folks who come to the market to stroll around sipping their lattes and nibbling on cinnamon buns. For us focussed shoppers, get there as soon as the place opens, plan your stops, get in and out quickly!

Stick to a list and budget: Write up a list of what you really need and plan your budget for the week. Only spend what you can afford. Only bring that exact amount of cash with you (think small bills, toonies and loonies). Try to focus on buying only your food at the market. There are so many wonderful artisans and crafts there too, but these items can really break the bank. Stick to produce, eggs, meats and poultry.

Streamline your attire: If you can, leave your big fancy purse in the car or at home. Opt for a small over-the-shoulder satchel for your cash that can be easily accessed. Bring only as many reusable grocery bags as you think you’ll need. This will help with the juggling and fumbling.

Get informed: Researching and talking to people were the best ways I became more comfortable and familiar with the market. Ask the farmers about their products. Are they organic? Where did they come from? (unfortunately, there are some vendors who are not local). What is this and how do you cook it? Take a tour or sign up for a workshop. Markets are great resources and every trip you’ll likely learn something new.

Bring your patience: Above all else, pack a little extra patience for the experience. It can be overwhelming at first but persistence and patience pay off. Also consider starting off small. Maybe you simply switch to buying only eggs and a few veggies at first. Over time, as you feel more at ease and start to realize the benefits, you can increase the amount you are buying local.

I now buy everything I possibly can food-wise at the farmer’s market. Yes, I do have to supplement at the supermarket for a few necessities like avocados, lemons, nuts, seeds and coconut oil. But my weekly meals are built around what’s local and in season. Cooking has never been easier and eating has never been tastier and more satisfying.

The summer harvest is one of the most abundant times in Nova Scotia for farmer’s markets. So get out there with these tips in mind, master your market experience and start enjoying the many benefits of shopping and eating locally.

Drop me an email if you’d like to schedule a Farmer’s Market Tour. I’d love to introduce you to my favourite local farmers and producers and help you become a market pro. 

* This post was originally shared on The Herald on November 6, 2013.

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