How to Shop at the Farmers' Market on a Budget

How to Shop at the Farmers’ Market on a Budget

Mar 22, 2016 by Christine

If you wish you could afford this whole local/seasonal eating thing but are avoiding the farmers’ market because it’s too expensive, this article is for you. Sure, some things are pricier (though you usually get what you pay for), we’ll give you that, but overall it’s a myth and you could be eating the way you want. Here’s how:

First things first, you might need a budget re-org. Americans as a whole spend way less on food than any other country. People in most European countries spend over 10% of their income on food. When you eat well, you feel amazing, you look amazing, and you’re less stressed—life falls into place a little better. So the French and Italians are on to something—let’s copy cat. Because this “filling our fridges with cheap food and then ordering pizza some nights and eating at not-that-great restaurants” isn’t doing us any favors stateside.

Food is really important. When we eat it three times a day (give or take) it’s not just for satisfying our hunger pangs or cravings. We eat to give our bodies nutrients to keep it functioning and sometimes we forget that our bodies actually use what we eat to keep us alive. Frozen pizza can only take us so far. There’s that saying, “Pay your farmer now or your doctor later.” It’s kind of like filling up our cars with cheap gas. I mean, yeah, the car runs fine… until it doesn’t. We’re born with a certain amount of enzymes in our body to digest food. When we eat processed, chemical-laden foods those enzymes start to disappear over time. It’s why we often don’t fully experience the consequences of our eating choices while we’re young. If hard numbers help, we spend around $150/week ($600-$700/month) total for our families of 4. If you’re part of a CSA (more on that below), you could bring that total way lower. It’s consistent with what others have shared with us and it’s the amount we keep in mind as we plan each Huckle & Goose week too.

Now that we’ve told you how and where to spend your money, bossy pants are off, and on to the actual tips:

Fail to plan, plan to fail. But sometimes don’t follow the plan. This is not surprising, of course, but a plan helps with sticking to your budget guns. Spend a couple minutes before your shopping trip finalizing the Huckle & Goose plan—maybe you want to add some breakfasts or swap out the salmon recipe ‘cause you’re not a seafood person—so it’s ready to go on your phone. But be flexible too. Sometimes you come across the most beautiful okra and need to buy it—add an okra recipe. If you don’t spot that celeriac you intended to buy—remove the celeriac recipe.

Take only cash. Early on, once we got into a rhythm of buying from the farmers’ market, we noticed that every week we’d fill two bags and spend around $90-$100, leaving the remaining $50 to spend on pantry items at the grocery store. And it was just perfect for the week. So when you get in a good rhythm and find a budget that suits you, take cash if you want to prevent overspending. ‘Cause those apple cider donuts will call your name by the dozen.

Know that spending varies by the season. In the spring and summer, you better believe we are buying berries and peaches by the bushel. We often spend closer to $200 per week during these months and closer to $100 during the winter months when it’s all about the root veggies. It all evens out in the end.

Limit the snacks. A welcome side effect of eating fresh, local produce on a regular basis is that you feel satisfied and don’t really crave filler foods anymore. This leaves the part of your budget that was previously devoted to buying the entire Trader Joe’s snack aisle to only buying a quarter of it and then you can buy like 4 more meals from the farmers’ market that week.

Sign up for a CSA! You’ll get the same veggies from the farmers’ market for nearly half the price. You pay the full CSA amount up front, the farmers rest assured because they’re getting paid, and you get super fairly-priced produce. Bonus: ending up with a few veggies you wouldn’t have otherwise picked will turn you into a more adventurous cook too. We’ll help you find a CSA near you if you’re interested! Email us: hello@hucklegoose.com

Your cooking will rival many restaurants. Once you start cooking Huckle & Goose, there will be that revelatory moment when you’re dining out, you take a few bites and think to yourself, “Dude, I totally coulda made this better at home.” Sometimes you might even say it out loud to your dining companion, disappointed at how wasteful your $97 bill plus tax and tip will be. And they’ll nod in agreement and you’ll vow to keep killing it in your kitchen at home with farmers’ market ingredients that don’t seem so expensive anymore and save your money for a trip to Italy.