- In the 1970s, the top five beef packers controlled about 25% of the market. Today, the top four control more than 80% of the market.
- The modern supermarket stocks, on average, 47,000 products, most of which are being produced by only a handful of food companies.
- About 70% of processed foods have some genetically modified ingredient.
All of the above facts are taken from this article, which is an eye opening read. I’m not sure if those above statistics bother you or not, but either way the food you get in the store has a lot of “stuff” (political, chemical, financial) going on behind the scenes. I know there are some great food companies making efforts to decrease the amount of chemicals in their foods or replace them with healthier options and make organic food more accessible, which I love.
But I am a bit of a rebel at heart so one of the ways I like to “stick it to the man” is by shopping at local farmer’s markets. Sticking it to the man never tasted so good! Shopping at Farmers Markets is a great way to support your local economy, vote for “small food” with your dollar and have fun! Last summer Nate and I toured 3 local farmers markets and had a blast doing it! There are a few things to keep in mind while shopping at Farmer’s Market.
1. Go early for the most selection and variety. You will get the most options by arriving early. Most farmers only bring so much produce and when it is gone it is gone.
2. Take a lap around before buying anything. I like to take a preliminary lap to scope out prices and what produce everyone is selling. A lot of booths will be selling the same types of produce so it’s good to get a feel for prices and selection.
4. Have a budget in mind and bring cash. I always shop with a grocery budget, so I just pull part of it out in cash for farmers market. Then when your cash is gone, you are gone. Some markets accept debit and credit cards, but it is always best to have cash on hand just in case they don’t.
3. Ask questions. I like to ask where stuff was grown or at smaller markets if the seller picked it or about varities, blah, blah, blah. I am chatty and possibly annoying, but getting to talk to the farm families is one of the joys of shopping small.
4. Don’t expect to pay the same as you would in a grocery store. Some prices may be higher and some may be lower. Remember, you are voting with your dollar and it is going to support a small grower’s business. I generally do not haggle prices either. The only exception would be if I end up buying a lot of something I may ask for a multiple discount. For example, if I’m buying 6 dozen ears of corn to freeze, I may ask if I can get the last dozen half off.
5. Try new things! A farmers market is a great place to try a new vegetable because you can ask questions about preparation and storage to the seller too. Be adventurous! A purple carrot? Yes, please!
6. Get some baked goods. Yeah, the freshly made doughnuts or scones or bread is wafting through the air, calling your name. It will be so much better to treat yourself to that than an oreo so go ahead and enjoy some homemade goodness.
7. Bring your own bags. Some booths have their own bags, but I like to bring a couple of reusable bags just in case. Your welcome, earth.
8. Get passed the “chochkes”. Farmers markets often have people selling their own convenience mixes of dips, sauces, jerky, headbands and other random paraphanelia. Sometimes they are nice to have on hand, but normally they just end up sitting in my pantry for a year or being extra junk in my house. I remind myself that I come to a farmers market for the food!
9. If you arrive late you may miss out on the best selection, but you can find motivated sellers who are marking produce down! Cha-ching!
10. Have fun at the farmers market! Unlike the grocery store where people are hurried and stressed, a farmers market shopping trip can be a fun and relaxing food exploration party. Eat something new. Smell a peach! Talk to people, buy a coffee, take a friend, or make a date of it!
Keep in mind these tips for shopping at a farmers market and you will have an awesome time, feel good about where you are spending your money and walk away with all the yummy food!
Do you shop at Farmers Markets? What’s your favorite thing to buy at them? Do you have any other great tips?