Guest post by Jen Arbo.
What was once a hippie-dippie place to sit around and eat granola has become one of the best places to shop and find local foods and artisans – farmers’ markets are here to stay. Many people think there’s a hefty price difference, but if you know what to look for, you can find some real bargains.
While the chain grocery stores might have oranges year-round, at the farmers’ market, food is available seasonally. Knowing what is in season will lead you to the best-priced foods.
Don’t be afraid to try new stuff, either. The producers love to talk about their wares, so ask!
The BC Association of Farmers Markets, a provincial umbrella organization, has a great chart of what’s in season in what months.
Buy only what you need
A recent study by Next Generation Food found that the United States wastes 40 per cent of the food it produces – imagine making two extra meals a day and throwing them directly into the garbage! Canadians aren’t a whole lot better.
By shopping and purchasing only what you need, you’ll waste less food and less money. Remember: the market is every week. You won’t run out. And chances are, you’re eating too much anyway.
Know the competition
Head to the market armed with an internal spreadsheet of what foods cost somewhere else and do comparisons at the vendor stalls. But take it with a grain of salt: not everything can compare apples to apples.
What would you rather do: buy a bunch of locally grown carrots high in vitamins and flavour, probably picked only a day or two ago for $2.25, or buy some woody, nutritionally poor carrots picked in Mexico two months ago for $2? Is that quarter worth it?
Sign up for a mailing list
Many local farmers markets use a service such as My Markets News or an internal mail server to send a newsletter. Often, these newsletters point out the good deals and are usually full of ideas on what to do with foods. They’re written by the experts – market managers, vendors and regular volunteers – who have the inside scoop.
Become a member
Most farmers’ markets operate as a not-for-profit society and they rely on the sale of memberships to help fundraise. The annual membership price is usually quite small – often around $10 – and the organization will usually coordinate a membership appreciation day at least once in the season where vendors offer discounts to members only. If the market you belong to doesn’t offer a Member Day, suggest they do!
The Royal City Farmers’ Market is a year-round New Westminster market. They are Thursdays from 3-7, June to October, in Tipperary Park next to City Hall, and indoors on the second Saturday of the month from 3-7, November to April. They offer fresh farm products, prepared delicacies, and juried crafts. Check them out online, on Twitter, or on Facebook.
Jen Arbo is a stay-at-home parent, the ops manager for the Royal City Farmers’ Market, and one-half of Hyack Interactive. She lives in New Westminster, and likes squash and socks that fit snugly. You can find out about all her crazy schemes through her website.