I’m not a summer person. I don’t like the heat. I’d rather bundle up in a cozy clothes, next to a fire, sip tea, and write.
One thing I do love about summer is the amazing fruits and vegetables that grow around here, making it so much easier to eat healthy. And this is such a positive that it almost eliminates the drudgery of 100+ degree days that we face in the Sacramento Valley.
We have the most amazing farmer’s markets to shop at year round and they’re plentiful. I can find one throughout the Sacramento area at least five days a week, if I didn’t mind driving a bit.
Yet, I wait until Saturday and shop at a farmer’s market about twenty minutes away, even though we have one in town, less than a ten minute drive. The one here in town has a few drawbacks. The prices are a bit higher, the selection a bit smaller. And now that I have to drop my son off to rowing practice just down the street from my favorite farmer’s market, it’s super convenient! The extra drive time is eliminated!
This is THE PERFECT time of year for produce. Tomatoes, peppers of all kinds, grapes, peaches, nectarines, melons, and so much more are at their prime. Almost every stall has a vast selection of fruits or vegetables to choose from. Prices are inexpensive and the food tastes AMAZING.
Summer, for me, is the easiest time to eat healthy because of all the fresh produce.
Here are some of my favorite tips when shopping the farmer’s market:
Shop early or shop late
It depends what you want, but if you want the best selection, go early, especially as new produce hits in season and is apt to sell out before the days’ end.
If you’re looking for good deals, shop late! Some vendors will bag up produce and offer $5 a bag. If you’re kitchen savvy, this can be such a great deal. The produce inside isn’t usually perfect, but some is and the bruised pieces can be used in a variety of ways! Pies, sauces, etc…
Bring the right bags
I have every kind of reusable bag known to mankind, and although I love my Trader Joe bags, I don’t like them at the farmer’s market because if I’m not careful, things get squished. I have these amazing bags I picked up several years ago that are more wide than tall, and they are PERFECT for the market. Big bunches of kale and beets fit in the bottom and more delicate fruit can sit on top. Some people bring rolling carts so they don’t have to carry anything. Brilliant, if that works for you!
Most farmer’s are MORE than happy to talk to you and answer any questions. I have found this particularly useful in the fall and winter when I get bored with the same squash, sweet potatoes, and apples. The minute I notice something new, I ask what I can do with it, and usually come away with some great ideas. Often times, if other shoppers are nearby, they’ll throw out ideas, or maybe ask additional questions and you learn even more.
Most farmers will have samples of their fruit out to taste before buying. This has been GOLDEN in getting my kids to try new foods when they were younger. If they tried it, liked it, I let them choose a couple pieces for just them. Even now, I’ll come across a melon I’ve never tried and usually they have samples, so I can try before I buy.
Walk a Lap
Much to my kids chagrin, when we go to the market, I walk the whole thing first (or try to at the bigger downtown market, but I’m not as successful there, it’s just so big!). I like to see what’s out as things can vary week to week. I check prices, quality and as I’ve learned to cultivate my favorite vendors, I find myself becoming pickier, not wanting to veer from where I like to normally go.
Plan Your Meals
If you can go to the farmer’s market with a plan, you’ll come out ahead. It’s just like regular grocery shopping – if you make a list, you are less likely to veer off too much. It’s the same with a farmer’s market. Go with a list and try to stick with it.
With that being said, I do allow myself to add some things not on my list depending on what grabs my attention. But, summer time is the best time for big salads for dinner, and ample vegetable options. Stir fry’s are GREAT in the summer as well as fruit salad.
At the end of the day, if you’ve never checked out a farmer’s market, definitely go! If you haven’t been in a while, grab some cash and hit one up the next chance you get. The quality and taste are so above and beyond what you can buy in the store. Also…it’s a great way to get in your steps!