Farmers’ Market Shopping by Shannon L. Buck

Shopping Locally is the Way to Go

Shopping at a farmers’ market is a lot of fun. They offer many items and a lot of the fresh produce sold at these events is very reasonably priced, if you know when to shop. I shop in Orono, Maine, because it is close to my home. This makes it easy to purchase fresh produce and other needs from a local source.

Granted, these farmers do not generally live right down the street from us. The markets allow various farmers to come together in one place for us to visit once or twice per week. This saves fuel in two ways: 1) Products are not being shipped in from other states and/or countries, and 2) all farmers’ market customers do not have to travel here-and-there-and-everywhere to purchase state grown products.

I’ve noticed that when I visit the market an hour or so before they close, I can usually get even better deals on the fresh produce. Why can you get better deals at the end of the day? Because the farmers don’t want to have to take the fresh produce and baked goods, or even the frozen items, back home with them if they can help it. They grew and/or made these items to be purchased, not to be brought back home. The products may not last until the next farmers’ market, so the seller may be more apt to bargain toward the end of the day.

Our local farmers’ market has more than just fresh produce. I’ve seedlings, soaps, homemade jams, jellies, butters, pies, breads, and more. Even frozen seafood and dried herbs. Last year, someone was selling homemade, organic dog treats. These wonderful products are just what I’m looking for.

I find that almost all of the products offered at a farmers’ market are organic. If an item is not organic, I can choose not to purchase it. I want to purchase as many natural, organic products as possible, so this is a very attractive reason for me to shop at the farmers’ market rather than the grocery store. I also like the fact that the products are made and/or grown in my home state.

To shop a farmers market, you need a few things

1. Reusable shopping bags, which you will want an abundance of.

2. The knowledge of what you need, and how much you’ll be able to use before your next visit.

3. The knowledge of how to preserve and/or store anything you are able to get a good price on.

Stock up when you find good deals at a farmer’s market

You don’t want to stock up on anything that wont last until you can eat or use it up, but you’ll want to take advantage of good deals on the items that will last. This will save you money in the long run.

I’m now going to offer you up an assignment. I’d like for each reader to visit a nearby farmers’ market. Spend some time there. Ask about the products that are of interest to you. Find out if they are organic, if the sellers are willing to bargain at the end of the day, and how often the sellers attend that particular farmers’ market. When you return home, comment here to let us know how things went and what you learned.


Top 10 Herbs and Spices for Your Frugal Garden

Herbs are expensive. When purchasing them dried in their little bottles or canisters, you don’t know exactly how old they are. When purchasing them organic, they still may not always the freshest. And just because something says it is organic, doesn’t mean there isn’t something added that is not. It’s tough to buy things and know exactly what you are getting.

Growing herbs in your frugal garden is inexpensive, gives you fresh herbs much of the year, and allows you to keep them knowing they will be replaced each harvest season, giving you the freshest preserved meal add-ins possible. Most are easy to grow within the home year-round, allowing for fresh herbs when needed.

These starter herbs will give you quite the garden, and help you to save a lot of money at the grocery store.

  1. Basil: A wonderful culinary herb, basil comes in several varieties. Italian and Asian cuisines often feature this beauty.  While it’s common to grow and use sweet basil, other types will be worth consideration. Lemon basil, spicy globe and red ruben, for instance.  Preserve basil in the freezer or in oil, or add to pesto for freezing in ice-cube trays.
  2. Chamomile: This herb makes a great tea, and is often used for aiding minor sleep problems. German and Roman types of this herb are popular, though there are others to choose from. Harvest chamomile just before the flowers are in full bloom, and preserve them by drying or freezing.
  3. Chives: A member of the onion family, chives add complimentary flavor to potatoes and other foods. The flowers are tasty in salads.  Grow both the common variety and garlic chives, as they are both easy. Cut to 2 inches from ground level one to three times a year, and they’ll continue to provide wonderful harvests until autumn.
  4. Dill: Used when making pickles, and in many other recipes, this herb makes a wonderful addition to any herb garden. While used as an herb by many of us, dill seeds are actually considered a spice. Preserve by freeze-drying, but use within a few months.
  5. Fennel: A perennial herb with small, yellow flowers fennel is both flavorful and aromatic, and the dried seeds are considered a spice. The bulb of this plant has many nutrients, including folate and calcium, and is referred to as  a root vegetable. Preserve fennel either by drying or freezing, or consider making an herb vinegar for flavoring salads throughout the winter.
  6. Garlic: Also a member of the onion family, garlic is known for helping with many known health issues. As a culinary herb, it’s used in a variety of dishes including soups and pasta. The bulb, flower, leaves, and head are all edible, though the bulb has the best flavor. To preserve, use varieties that keep well into the winter. Consider a type of garlic that can be braided and hung in the kitchen or pantry.
  7. Lavender: The flowers of this herb are often candied, and are often used in cake decorating. Teas are also made with this herb. Harvest once the flowers have turned purple, and preserve by drying.
  8. Mint: This aromatic herb helps with stomach issues, and has culinary uses. It’s added to teas and soups, and makes great jelly. Preserve by drying, in jelly or syrup, or by freezing.
  9. Rosemary: A perennial herb, rosemary has needle-like leaves that look something like pine needles. This is a highly aromatic herb that is used when barbecuing, and in a number of other types of recipes. And it provides the body with calcium and iron. Hang rosemary in small bundles in the kitchen to always have on hand. Dry the herb and place it in canning jars for winter use.
  10. Sage: An excellent aroma, and very tasty. Add to soups and stews, and roasted dinners. Sage is often preserved in an herb vinegar, for use throughout the year. It can also be preserved by freezing or drying.

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