How to shop at farmers markets without getting overwhelmed

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I’m one of those people who loves farmers’ markets for the atmosphere but often walks away empty-handed. The abundance sinks me into nostalgia, and all I can do is whip out my phone and snap pictures of halved yellow watermelons or piles of golden squash blossoms and then walk back to my car – sweating iced coffee in one hand. Coming and my phone in another – while my empty tote bag flaps in the wind.

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As much as pictures of vegetables make good home screens, I’d rather have a fridge full of fresh produce to sustain me for the week. Sure, there are boxes you can order that deliver produce to your door and grocery stores you can visit, but nothing beats the feeling of strolling through a scented outdoor farmer’s market with a plan.

Here’s what LA-area farmers market vendors, chefs, and pro shoppers recommend so you can actually buy what you need at farmers’ markets without the stress.

(Jessica Benda/)

1. plan ahead

To avoid feeling overwhelmed at the farmers market, make a list Depending on what you plan to cook for the week. “I think planning ahead is so important. Decide the night before what you plan to make. … When you get to the market, you have an idea of ​​the materials you need to buy and want to use,” says chef José Contreras of Bar Lis, storing Sungold tomatoes in a cardboard box at the end of the season. Hollywood Farmers Market,

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lists also help save money and avoid food waste, Seller Shay Seward cobbler mania It said: “Make a list so you don’t end up buying things you don’t need, and try to stick to your list. Don’t walk the aisles like you do at the supermarket… because you Inevitably you will buy what you were not looking for.

2. Expand the field

Los Angeles County is home to Dozens of Farmers MarketsAnd Each market has something different to offer. For example, the Alhambra Farmers Market has a great selection of Asian produce. “I tend to go a little before it opens To avoid everyone. I usually Check to see which farms are in which markets, Since I have favorite content from specific content. Hollywood and Santa Monica are my favorites, but Pasadena has been really good on Saturdays lately! Said chef, baker and Jell-O artist Lexi Park eat nuts,

I met farmer John Ho of Microgreens ho.list operations Feather Redondo Beach Farmers Market, He recommends checking online markets first. “Like in school, we want to be prepared. Try to find some markets on social media and see if they have a list of vendors. … Then you can go to the market and scope it out. You don’t have to buy anything right away. No need to feel pressured to.

Fresh flowers at Rick's Produce Market inside the original Farmers Market.
(JL Clendenin/)

3. get the car

While most people pick up a few wrinkly tots at the farmers’ market, I usually find myself stuffing 20 tangerines in my purse. Experts recommend rolling Cart,bag or a bag With handles that don’t cut into the palm of your hand. “I definitely always bring a cart to avoid carrying bags,” Park said. Frequent Hollywood Farmers Market shopper Mona Welch, from Westwood, recommends bringing empty yogurt containers for smaller purchases, “so they don’t get bogged down.”

4. let the seasons guide you

California barely has a season, but that doesn’t mean our produce isn’t seasonal. do something Research before time. Or, Welch recommends, “Ask what’s good right now. Pretend you don’t know anything and trust the farmers.” You can just observe around you and see what’s plentiful and what other people are buying.

5. Put away your phone and make friends with the vendors

Lots of vendors have “no photos” signs, so stick your phone in your pocket and strike up a conversation. Who knows? Maybe the farmer will throw you an extra head of cabbage. “I don’t have to push people hard because if they like the experience, they’re going to come back … and build a baseline of trust,” said cheesemonger Jazz Pershing Stepladder Creamery, Vendors are also eager to share recipes and techniques, such as Erika Van Decker klausbeis Feather Monrovia Farmers Market, “I can give you some new ideas on how to use honey if you’re not familiar!”

Patrons view plants at the weekly Downtown SLO Farmers Market in San Luis Obispo.
(Brian van der Brugh/)

6. bring cash

Cash is not dead after all. “Most vendors take cards, but it helps to bring cash,” recommends Park. And the seller agrees. Atif Alomari K Brothers Products The one at the Monrovia Farmers Market told me that even though it accepts cards, it “prefers cash” to avoid those extra credit card fees.

7. don’t forget the samples

So your phone has been put away. Your car is running. You have a list in hand and cash in your pocket. You’re ready to shop smart…but don’t forget the free samples! There aren’t too many places left outside of Costco that offer free samples. What better way to befriend farmers and learn about new ingredients and seasonal produce than by trying them out for yourself?

“At the farmers market, you’ll see stuff you don’t see at regular markets. … A lot of the vendors give out samples. So you’re able to sample the produce, rather than just buying something that catches your eye and then going home.” Don’t go and like him,” said Seward of Cobblemania.


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