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Joy at the Farmers Market

Oh, the possibilities that come to mind when I visit my local farmers market.

Farmers markets have a special allure for me. The fresh fruits and vegetables are the main draw, but I also love checking out the products that folks are creating out of their own kitchens, such as natural soaps, candles, bags, ceramics and jewelry. Food vendors are selling everything from healthy smoothies to egg burritos using the freshest ingredients. Their creativity inspires me as I shop.

What can I create this week in my own kitchen from the fresh fruits and veggies I select?

I grow a few vegetables in my own garden, but there is no way I can grow the variety available at the market, and I love the sights and smells at the farmers market. As I shop, I click off items on my DinnerTime Grocery List. But you can also go to your own grocery store to be delighted by fresh, in-season produce. My local grocery store is stocked with all sorts of local, organic, in-season selections, as well as lemons and avocados that aren’t grown in my area.

My favorite local farmers market is open on Sunday mornings. If I can’t get to this market, there is another nearby on Tuesday. Check out this listing of the National Farmers Market Directory.  Just type in your city and click on the market closest to you.

As we put together the list of tips below, it occurred to me, many of these tips apply to making the most out of your shopping trip to your local grocery store produce department too! Wherever you like to shop, trying new and colorful fruits and veggies will help keep you excited to cook a variety of delicious recipes at home.

Tips to make the most out of your Farmers Market trip:

  1. Plan ahead. Knowing what your meal schedule looks like this week helps you buy the right amount of produce.
  2. Don’t be afraid to deviate from the plan. I love finding something that inspires me.  It’s usually an easy substitution in my meal plan.
  3. Go early. The crowds are lighter and you won’t miss out on limited supplies. At my market, a vendor picks and shells peas. I get there early to make sure I get some. I can never tell how much I will get out of a pod, so this way I can buy the right amount. (Ever had freshly shelled peas?  They are sweet!) Check out my new favorite dish with peas.
  4. Bring your own bags. The plastic bags the vendors will give you are not big, and will become difficult to manage. Plus, I like to think if I am supporting organic gardening, shouldn’t I try to reduce the amount of plastic I use?
  5. Roll a wagon or cart. Last year my kids gave me a cart for Mother’s Day and I love it.  Inevitably, I end up purchasing something difficult to carry, such as plants or a melon. The wagon allows me to wander without the burden of heavy items.
  6. Cash is key. Some vendors have charge capabilities, but don’t count on it.
  7. Walk around once to get the lay of the land. I check out prices and see what’s in abundance. This is also an opportunity to see if there is anything that interests me that may not be on my list.  Hmmm? Should I make eggplant on the grill instead of zucchini?
  8.  Purchase from a variety of vendors. I want to support as many of my local farmers as possible.
  9. Load up your heavier items first. These go in the bottom of the cart so they won’t crush the more delicate items on top.
  10. Chat with the vendors, or listen in as they talk with other customers. I received a whole lesson on the newest techniques being used to bring corn to the market earlier this year. Naturally, we enjoyed our first corn on the cob of the season that night! Farmers are a font of information. Never tried a particular ingredient? Their enthusiasm as they tell you their favorite recipes is contagious. (Share the recipe with us at recipes@dinnertime.com.)
  11. Buy in bulk. Sellers are interested in moving product so they will discount if you are buying more than one item. If you buy extra, remember to add it to your DinnerTime Pantry Manager. Check out our blog on what to do with extra peppers.
  12. Know your seasons. Fruits and vegetables just picked are less expensive and more flavorful.
  13. Check out something new. Vendors are bringing you what is fresh, healthy, and new to the market. I recently came across a vendor selling bison. We loved the bison burgers she sold me, so we will be going back for more.
    Bought extra ingredients at the market? Add to your DinnerTime Pantry Manager and indicate to “use soon” for recipe recommendations in your next meal plan. Your grocery list will show you already have this item in your pantry.

    Be Inspired to make these recipes with fresh-from-the-market ingredients.  Yum!

A light curry flavor for pizazz!

Fresh way to enjoy salad.

Room for pie? Oh yes!