In a few weeks (after July 14th) farmers markets across the Llano Estacado will be in full swing. These venues offer great opportunities to buy locally-grown produce, meat, and eggs, to find products that have been made in your area, and to connect with local producers. Here are some suggested ways that you can get the most out of your trip to the farmers market.
- Keep a budget: Because everything at the market is appealing, it can be easy to spend your grocery budget in just a few hours. It’s wise to make a weekly budget of how much you want to spend at the market. The first time you go, take note of the prices of different items. From this, you will be able to have a good estimate of what you will spend each week.
- Have a flexible plan in mind: While market offerings will vary slightly from week to week, a few trips to your local market will give you a good idea of what to expect each week. With a flexible plan in mind, you can begin to replace your trips to the grocery store with trips to your local farmers market.
- Plan meals on a weekly basis: In order to enjoy the freshest produce and food items possible, it’s best to visit the market once every week to two weeks. You can have an idea of meals you would like to prepare for the week ahead, as well as what items you will need to prepare them. Even if your market is small, it’s still possible to create a meal entirely from finds at the market. One of our favorite meals to make after a trip to the market is veggie omelets topped with locally produced cheese and bread from our local bakery.
- Talk with your producer: Producers are always eager to talk and share information, but the market may not be the best time to have a long conversation with them. Instead, consider meeting a producer at the market, and then visiting their farm later in the week. If your farmers market is on social media, you can connect with producers there as well.
- Try new things: One of the best things about your local farmers market is the opportunity to try new produce you may have never heard of or seen. By being willing to try some new things, you might discover a new favorite item that you might not have considered before. If you’re nervous about whether or not you will like an item, just buy a small amount.
- Buy extra to save for later: With careful planning, farmers markets do not just have to provide food for the summer time. They can also provide you with delicious canned and preserved food items through the winter months. Make a salsa or spaghetti sauce to use preserve the beautiful tomatoes you find. A squash relish is a great way to have squash and zucchini year round. And jalapeños, rhubarb, and many fruits can be saved into a jelly, jam, or fruit butter to be enjoyed in many ways.
- Don’t just look for fruits and vegetables: You might be surprised at some of the things you will find at your local market. Local producers with breads, baked goods, meats, cheeses, and eggs will come to the market, as well as those who make soaps, jewelry, arts, and crafts.
What is your best advice for getting the most out of your farmers market trip? Next week, we will post a list of farmers markets in the Llano Estacado region. If you notice one that we have not included, please let us know!