How to Save Money at a Farmers' Market

Do you want to eat healthier and support local agriculture, but feel discouraged because the prices for locally-grown food products are just too high? Do you ever wish that organic food was within a normal person’s budget? You might be amazed to know that your local farmers' market can not only provide you with the finest, freshest, healthiest foods available, but that these seasonal delights can be yours at prices cheaper than those at your local Wal-Mart! You may call it nuts, you may think this is bologna, but if you follow these simple steps, you’ll go bananas at what deals “turnip.”


  1. Image titled Save Money at a Farmers' Market Step 1
    Research and locate both your nearest farmers' market and other nearby markets. In order to get screaming deals at the farmers' market, you first need to find it. Generally, farmers' markets run from early spring to late fall, but depending on where you live, your local market may be open a shorter time period or may be open year-round. Some markets are open daily during the season, while others are open only one or two days a week, most likely on weekends.
    • If there are several markets in your area, visit all of them to find the best selection and best deals.
  2. Image titled Save Money at a Farmers' Market Step 2
    Learn more about the farms and farmers that attend the markets. Although not true for every market, generally those selling agricultural products at the market the same people who grow or produce the items. Getting to know the producers/salespeople is your first step in building a lasting relationship with them and enjoying the great deals that can come from such a relationship.
  3. Image titled Save Money at a Farmers' Market Step 3
    Come to the market with a flexible palate. Often it is the case that common items (e.g. carrots, potatoes, and onions) are more expensive at the market than at conventional grocery stores. However, seasonal and specialty products that are outside of mainstream consumption (such as ethnic, heirloom, or rare vegetables) can be purchased for far lower prices than those demanded at the local supermarket. A flexible palate will not only introduce you to foods you never knew existed; you’ll also enjoy big savings.
  4. Image titled Save Money at a Farmers' Market Step 4
    Come to the market prepared to flatter. If there’s one way to a farmer's heart, it's talking food, especially talking about the food he or she grew. If you tell a vendor that you absolutely loved the way his or her heirloom Brandywine tomatoes complemented the basil you bought from him last week, there is a strong likelihood he or she will cut you a deal on your next purchase. The best reward to working all week in the field is to hear about how much a customer enjoyed eating the products a farmer grew. Farmers, like everyone else, appreciate compliments and knowing that their services make people happy.
  5. Image titled Save Money at a Farmers' Market Step 5
    Offer the farmers more than cash. Farmers are independent and sometimes unconventional. The nature of farming instills in nearly all farmers a strong desire and tendency for bartering. A farmer, like anyone else, specializes in a certain trade or skill. If you also have a skill or service that you can offer—website design, carpentry, tax preparation, etc.—a farmer may be willing to trade for your services. You may be able to get all your vegetables free during the summer in return for using your own skills to help your local farmer out.
  6. Image titled Save Money at a Farmers' Market Step 6
    Add value to bulk purchases.
    • Because most vendors at farmers' markets grow seasonal products, there is often a large surplus of certain products at certain times. If you are willing to purchase large quantities of surplus items in peak season, you can add value to your purchase by saving seasonal food--by canning, freezing, or drying it, for example--for consumption out of season. For instance, the market price of raspberries is twice as much in winter as in summer. If you require a smoothie every morning, you can simply purchase large quantities in summer, freeze them, and enjoy savings as part of a complete breakfast. Make tomato gravy from those heirloom tomatoes, turn those beautiful onions into sweet onion marmalade, and dare to make pumpkin pie straight from the pumpkin.
  7. Image titled Save Money at a Farmers' Market Step 7
    Shop with friends or family. Consider going in with other people and purchasing “cases” of food. Then, once you are home from the market, you can split up the wonderful food you just purchased at rock bottom prices!


  • Not sure what to do with an unusual fruit or vegetable? Chances are the farmer you buy from can give you some tips on how to prepare it. They might even have printed recipes available right at the stand.
  • Many farmers' markets are sponsored by local organizations that need volunteers to help keep them running. Becoming a volunteer at the market will help you get to know the vendors who sell at the market and they will get to know you. Volunteers are often rewarded for their efforts with generous discounts and gifts from the vendors.
  • Farmers' markets offer a lot more than just fruits and vegetables. You can usually also pick up cheese, meat, and value-added (prepared food) products, as well. Many markets also have entertainment and crafts.
  • Farmers are proud people, and they take pride in the products they grow. They would much rather see someone purchase and consume their food than to see it go to waste. While feeding the chickens some fresh compost might produce some mighty fine eggs, a farmer would be much happier knowing that his or her food was consumed at the peak of its freshness.
  • Check out what offerings are in season. Going to the market to buy watermelon in July, for example, will yield a much cheaper buy than off season. Also it is prime season when fruits are sweetest!
  • Agricultural products are more expensive early or late in the season. Farmers work hard to come to market “first” or “last” with a particular product. If everyone at a market has a particular product, the price will drop, but if only one vendor has an item, he or she can set the price individually. To save big cash, buy products at the peak of their season.
  • This may sound crazy, but you can often get great deals if you pay in quarters, especially at a Sunday market! Quarters are a hot commodity at farmers' markets because farmers commonly run out of them when giving change. If you show up with rolls of quarters, you are likely to find a farmer that will give you a tomato or beans or something just for using your quarters.
  • If you shop at farmers' markets early in the day, consider surprising your favorite farmer with a nice cup of black coffee. He or she might surprise you in return with super savings!
  • If you do show up to the market right before closing time on a consistent basis, make sure that you are willfully entering into a mutually beneficial relationship. If a farmer gives you a good deal before closing time, do him or her a favor by purchasing a sizable amount of food. For instance, say, “I see that you have some food left over, and I want to help you out. What can you give me for $20?” By initially offering a set amount of money and giving the farmer a choice in what to sell you, the farmer will be inclined to give you both a good deal and the best of what his or her table has to offer.


  • Don’t go overboard with the haggling. Farmers work incredibly long hours, and chances are if they are attending a farmers' market, they produce relatively small quantities and possess modest resources. What a farmer wants most—and what will ensure you the best bargains—is your willingness to enter into a mutually beneficial, long term relationship.
  • If it is a particularly hot day, make sure to check the quality of the produce before purchasing, especially if you come to the market near closing time. Most farmers' markets are outdoor events; a long day in the sun can nearly destroy delicate foods like lettuce.

Sources and Citations

Article Info

Featured Article

Categories: Featured Articles | Meal Planning