Kathy Border, a registered dietitian and professor of nutrition in the Dietetics Department at D’Youville College, shared six ways to get the most out of farmers markets.
1. Look before you leave home
See what you have in the fridge and pantry before heading to the market. It helps avoid duplication and reduces food waste.
2. Plan right
"I've got college-age kids who may or may not be home for dinner," Border said. "My husband and I both teach so our schedules can be crazy. Planning helps me know how many meals I'm going to prepare during a week, so I don't overbuy — and I buy enough."
3. Be flexible
Let the available produce be your guide. "See what's in season," Border said. "See what looks delicious. If you can't find exactly what you're looking for, check with the farmers. Maybe you were looking for spinach, but they have Swiss chard. Maybe you can't find onions, but they have leeks. If you can be flexible within your plan, you can let the market guide what you’re going to eat that week, which I think is the exciting part about it."
4. Seek bargains
Sometimes farmers will bring "seconds," produce which is bruised, smaller or misshapen. "They're just as delicious or nutritious but they may be a better buy," Border said. She's also discovered that if she goes toward the end of the market or on a rainy day, sometimes farmers will cut a deal. You also run the risk, however, that the farmer — or produce — won't be there when you get there.
5. Buy in bulk
"That doesn't work for everyone because you have to consider your storage and you don't want to waste," Border said, "but maybe you can buy a bushel of peaches or tomatoes if you share it with a friend or work with Cornell Cooperative Extension on what to freeze, can, or dry so you can enjoy it all winter." For more information, visit nchfp.uga.edu.
6. Shop for health
Farmers markets generally offer savings and lots of healthy foods, but not all goods are nutritious. "All foods can fit in moderation," Border said, but it's best to focus mostly on fruits, veggies and other whole foods.