©2009 Professional Organizer -
Lea Schneider is the author of
A Mom to Mom Guide available at
one-on-one organizing advice via phone and email through Organize Online
division at her company website,
Organize Right Now.
Her advice is featured
here at What's Cooking America in a monthly column. You may have read her
expert organizing ideas in Woman’s Day, Natural Health, College News, and
Better Homes and Gardens Kids’ Rooms magazines and newspapers. She is a member of the National Association of Professional
Organizers and the Association of Food Journalists.
Organize Right Now LLC
Member National Association of Professional Organizers
Organize Right Now
Making the Most of Your Farmers’ Market
A lot of things grow with a trip to the local farmers’ market. Your
savings grow. Your budget stretches. New ideas for meals bloom. Your
nutritional intake moves forward by leaps and bounds. So what’s not to like?
Heading out to the farm market can be a bit intimidating if you are
used to only shopping at the grocery store. A bit of organization on
your part can help you really enjoy the experience.
Don’t Plan Ahead - While a weekly menu and grocery plan is a must to stay on budget and
be organized, don’t worry about that prior to your farm market visit. Go without a list. Buy things that are in season, are a good
price and look yummy to you. Once you’ve hauled in your load, then you can look at all your produce and plan some economical meals
Take Containers - Grab those reusable grocery bags. If you have a cart with wheels,
bring it. You’ll be happy you did when laden down with delicious watermelon, cantaloupe, onions,
and other heavy items. I would also take
a cooler with some freezer packs in it. Don’t be surprised to see fresh eggs, milk, and butter at the market. You may find homemade
cheeses and sausage. My niece even sells her organic gelato at farm markets.
Dress the Part - It’s probably going to be hot out! Either head out early or wear cool
clothing, sun block, and a hat. Take along a bottle of water.
Get Money -
It’s not the supermarket. Maybe they will take plastic, but probably not. Get some cash before the market.
Try New Things -
The farmer probably grew lots of standard fruits and vegetables that you will recognize
- load up on them. But, be open to trying some of the fun produce you
don’t recognize. This past week, we picked up a canary melon. I had to ask the name of the bright yellow fruit. If it can be eaten raw,
they will usually give you a taste.
Ask Questions -
I love to ask how they prepare the produce at home. Since they grow it, you know they are filling their table with it. Some of the best
recipes I’ve cooked came from the folks behind the folding tables or from the bed of their pick-up. Not only do I do that with things
that are new to me, but I’ll do that with familiar items to learn new ideas. Last weekend, I picked up some pink-eye peas. I asked
“What else should I buy to go with these?” I left with a big sweet onion and three jalapeno
chile peppers to add to the pot of peas. Some vendors
have brochures and others have business cards with web addresses. You can visit the websites for their recipes.
Get Help -
Not sure how to pick the ripest melon? Don’t know how to decide from
a giant pile of different types of tomatoes? Ask the grower. They will show you or even pick them out for you.
Be Aware of Your Budget -
In-season produce is a bargain and never more so than directly from the grower. There are lots of temptations at a farm market, just
like in the grocery store. You’ll find organic and gourmet products that can be costly. They are wonderful to enjoy but may damage your
grocery budget. Go easy on buying cookies, cakes, salad dressings, and other wonderful goodies unless you can stretch your budget to do so.
Buying in bulk gets you the best deal, but only if you know what to do with it and have the time to do so. If you know how to can,
preserve, or freeze produce, and you aren’t busy, then go ahead. If not, don’t yield to the temptation as the waste of spoiled produce
will offset any savings.
Wash and Store -
Be sure to refrigerate your produce promptly. Remember that farm
market produce has usually not been through any commercial washing
processes. So just like always, be sure to wash everything before
you eat it. Be sure to wash your own hands after handling all the
produce to remove any trace bits of fertilizer or chemicals.