Two weeks ago, I introduced you to our Farmers Market Cooking Coach, Meredith, and explained what FNP does to help our clients better access local foods. This week, I wanted to touch on why and how to use Farmers Markets.
Why Shop at Farmers Markets?
- Nutrition– You’ll find fresh, local, seasonal food at your local market.
- Price– One study found organic products (except potatoes) were cheaper than the grocery store. Some of the organic products at the market were cheaper than even conventional (non-organic) products at the grocery store. Not what you expected, right?
- Community– Money you spend at the market stays in your community, helping stimulate the economy. Wouldn’t you rather help your neighbors than line a CEO’s already deep pockets?
- Fun– Farmers Markets are full of free family entertainment. Markets often have live music, games for kids and cooking demonstrations. (If you see a cooking demo, check to see if it is one of FNP’s Cooking Coaches!) It’s also a good opportunity to meet other people from your neighborhood.
- Free Money– More and more markets are offering match programs to double your SNAP benefits. This lets you buy twice as much food as you could in the store. There aren’t any grocery stores in VA that will do that.
How to Use SNAP at Farmers Markets
- BYOB– Bring your own shopping bag. While some vendors may have them, not all do or they may run out. Bringing your own will ensure you can carry home all your tasty food.
- SNAP Rules– Just like the grocery store, you cannot buy hot prepared foods, alcohol or non-food items with your SNAP benefits. If you want to have brunch at the market, remember to bring another way to pay (cash is probably best).
- Early Bird Gets the Worm– Popular items tend to sell out quickly. At my market, eggs are gone fast. Get there early to make sure you can get what you’re looking for.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Ask– See a new food you would like to try, but have never eaten it before? Ask the farmer for recipes or cooking suggestions. They can give you all kinds of insider info, including how to store it best.
- Seasonal– Remember the benefits of seasonal foods? Well, the down side is they are only available at certain times of the year. So while you can get strawberries year round at the store, they are only at the market for a short time in spring. This chart can help you figure out when to get your favorite fruits and veggies.
Now that you know the why’s and how’s of shopping at the Farmers Market, plan to visit your local market this weekend. Challenge your kids to be the produce picker and try a new fruit or veggie. Let us know how it goes in the comments.