You really can save money by shopping at the farmer’s market and canning/freezing/preserving your purchases. People often express doubt that farmer’s market shopping can really save you money. The problem is they are looking at it the wrong way.
If you shop at the farmer’s market as a typical consumer, you may save a little on grocery store prices (and the flavor will get you hooked), but you’ll generally be paying full market price for your purchases. BUT if you are serious about eating real, local food, you will start saving money fast.
1. You can save money by buying in bulk.
For my salsa endeavor, I contacted an organic farmer at one of the markets I go to. I asked her for a bushel of tomatoes. That bushel (roughly 50 lbs) cost me $24-about 50 cents a pound. And they were amazing tomatoes-red straight through, juicy, sweet. I also bought the onions and jalapenos from her at a discount as well. I spent a total of $40 on ingredients.
For my 29 pints of salsa, and the accompanying juice and sauce that I got from the skins of the tomatoes, I saved $60 on buying 29 jars of Tostitoes salsa 3.5 quarts of tomato sauce and 3 quarts of tomato juice. Sixty dollars is nothing to sneeze at. Plus the salsa I made was with all organic ingredients, unlike the kind I buy.
Even if I count the cost of the canning jars ($20 for 24), which I don’t, since I’ll be able to use those for the rest of my life, I still come out ahead.
2. You can save money by adding value to your purchases.
The salsa is a case in point. Tomatoes-cheap. Salsa-expensive. I also make tomato basil soup out of the tomato sauce that I make. Buying canned organic soup (like Amy’s brand) is expensive. But if I make it myself, I can make it vegan, low fat, low salt and even more delicious than the higher fat, higher sodium, non-vegan canned version.
But this applies to all your purchases. If you cook it yourself, you will save money. You can buy all organic produce at a fraction of the cost it would cost you at the grocery store.
I now buy local, organic whole wheat flour. It costs a little over a $1 a pound, which is more than bagged flour at the grocery store (which is about 50 cents a pound), but much, much less than buying bread someone else made at the farmer’s market or the grocery store.
3. You can save money by having a relationship with the farmers.
I am now friends with some of the farmers at the markets I go to, but even the ones that I am not actually friends with, they know me. Trust me, if you start buying food to feed your family (not just a tomato or two in August) at the farmer’s market, you will quickly get on your farmers’ radars.
I get discounts from practically every farmer that I buy from. They throw in extra apples. They save me bags of day old corn that they won’t sell. They give me an extra heads of lettuce.
I didn’t start buying at the market to get deals like this obviously, but it’s a natural byproduct of buying from real people, instead of corporations.
4. You save money by buying what is abundant at the time.
Tomatoes don’t keep more than 5 or 6 days. Lettuce and other greens must be refrigerated in order to last any time at all. Berries won’t last a day without refrigeration. When things are in season, farmers need to sell them, and if there is a bumper crop, they need to sell LOTS of them.
So when peppers are flooding the market after the first frost, you need to stock your freezer. When it’s tomato season, you need to be making sauce, salsa, juice, and whatever you like to preserve. Because that is when you can save money. Making tomato sauce from grocery store tomatoes in January isn’t going to save you any money, but making sauce out of tomatoes that are flooding the markets in August and September will (especially if you plan ahead and talk to your farmer about a bulk order).
I’ll be making tomato sauce this week from another bushel of tomatoes, so I’ll give you the breakdown on my cost and savings for that. How do you save money at the farmer’s market?