A Dietitian’s Guide to the Farmer’s Market

Now that summer is *sadly* coming to a close, I hope you’ve had a chance or two to make it to your local farmers market.  There’s nothing better than spending a morning navigating for fresh produce, beautiful flowers, coffee, and homemade baked goods!  

Farmers markets are my gold standard when it comes to filling up on healthy food.  Here are some reasons why I recommend people take full advantage of the farmers market season: 

-Food at most farmers markets is sourced locally, which means it will be fresher and more nutritious than what you would find at the grocery store.  Fruits and veggies at the store are often several days old before it even reaches the shelves.

-Produce at the market tends to be in-season, and therefore more nutrient dense AND more affordable.

-Putting your dollar towards produce at markets supports local family farms that wouldn’t be running without the community’s support.

-Spending time at farmers markets might make you a healthier person overall.  Not only are you shopping for healthy veggies and fruits, you’re also getting your body moving, spending time outside, and connecting with other people!

-When you shop at the grocery store, you don’t always have a way of knowing where your food came from. By getting your food from the farmers market, you can find out exactly where it came from and how it was produced.  You might even be able to meet the exact person who picked your vegetables!

 

Despite all of the amazing benefits of farmers markets, they can be overwhelming.  There are crowds, unfamiliar foods, and buckets full of produce that you don’t know what to do with!  To help you through this, I’ve come up with my best tips for managing your farmers market trip before you go, while you’re there, and after you get home!  

Before…

-Find a market!  If you’re in the Twin Cities, you can find them pretty much everywhere.  Click here to find a market near you (Minnesotans only).  My favorite markets to visit are the St. Paul Farmer’s Market, Mill City Farmer’s Market, and Minneapolis Farmer’s Market.  

-Timing is everything: If you want to avoid crowds, arrive when the market first opens or towards the end.  If you go early, you’ll have a better selection.  If you go late, you might get a good deal from farmers who need to get rid of the produce they have left.

-Make a list.  Although you can never be 100% sure of what will be available at the market, you can get a pretty good idea by basing your list off of in-season produce.  If you’re going to a larger market, you can bet that there will always be meat, poultry, and eggs available.  Click here  to get an idea of what’s in-season in Minnesota during the summer months.  

-Bring cash.  While some farmers markets are starting to take payment by credit/debit card, it’s still easier and quicker when you pay them in cash. 

-BYOB (bring your own bags).  Do yourself and the environment a favor by bringing your own bags to the market.  It prevents the hassle of having to carry a million plastic bags back to your car.  Keep some in your trunk so you don’t have to worry about forgetting them at home.  

During…

-Friend a Farmer.  Don’t be afraid to chat it up with the farmers that you’re purchasing from.  You can ask them how and where they grow their food or how they recommend using the items that they’re selling.  Most farmers are proud and happy to talk to the people who they are selling to, so don’t be shy! 

Sharing is Caring.  The struggle is real when it comes to wanting to buy local produce but not wanting it to go to waste.  Farmers often sell their food in large bundles, which can be difficult to get through especially if you’re only cooking for 1 or 2 people.  But if you bring a friend to the market with you, you can split the produce share in half! 

-Ask for Samples.  See a vegetable that you haven’t trying before, or just trying to scope out the best tomato vendor?  Ask for a sample!  Most of them would be happy to let you try their products.  Doing this can save you money because you won’t end up buying something you don’t like. 

-Take note of the vendors with the best prices, the best tasting produce, the best farming practices, etc. to remember for next time!

-Don’t judge a veggie by its cover.  Just because something doesn’t look good doesn’t mean it won’t taste good.  Conventional grocery stores give us a false perception of what food actually looks like in nature.  It’s often been buffed and shined to increase sales, and the “ugly-looking” produce gets thrown out.  You’ll notice more “ugly” produce at farmer’s markets, which generally means it’s in the most natural state possible and still safe to eat.  

After…

-Wash your produce before you use it. 

-Save yourself time: chop and peel veggies and cut up fruit as soon as you get home.  This way, you’ll have fresh food ready to grab-and-go or grab-and-cook as soon as you need it. 

-Store fruits and veggies properly: some will keep fresh on the counter or in a cupboard, while others must be stored in the refrigerator to prevent spoiling.  Learn about where to store specific produce items here. 

-Find recipes!  Not sure how to use the produce that you got?  No worries – this day in age there are TONS of recipes available online.  Pinterest is my fave place to find recipes. Check out my Pinterest page here – you might just find something amazing to make! 

What’s your best farmers market tip?  Leave a comment below! 

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