Imagine getting all of your food fresh from the farm where it was grown. The food that you eat would taste a lot better than the packaged food that you get at the grocery store. It would also be a lot healthier for you. Many people believe that the cheapest way to eat is to use coupons at the local grocery store but you can actually save a lot of money on groceries by getting farm-fresh food. You can get this food through local farmer’s markets, farm deliveries, U-pick farms and even volunteering at a farm in exchange for room and board.
The most common way that people today get food fresh from the farm is that they purchase it from a local farmers’ market. It’s been exciting to see the popularity of farmer’s markets soar in recent years. Farmers’ markets are great because they allow you to support local farmers who you can meet directly while you’re there. They’re also great because they provide a fun experience for your grocery shopping. Many farmers’ markets are set up booth-by-booth and people may also sell handicrafts and homemade items like soaps and candles. They sometimes have live music or other performance art to keep you entertained while you shop.
The experience of shopping at farmers’ markets is far superior to the experience of shopping at most grocery stores. But is it cheaper? It can be. One of the biggest ways that people save money when shopping at farmers’ markets is that they’re limited to buying only foods that are seasonal and grown locally. Much of the cost of grocery store food is in the shipping which is increased when you’re getting items that aren’t seasonal to your area at the time of purchase.
Some tips for saving more money when shopping at farmer’s markets include:
• Shop with the same farmers regularly. Get to know the people who are selling you your food and you’ll be likely to get bargains and deals when you shop.
• Purchase items at closing time. If you get there as the farmers are getting ready to pack up then you might be able to get a better deal on the food.
• Purchase items that are near the end of their season. Farmers may be willing to offload some of this stuff for a good price if they’re trying to make room for new products.
• Also purchase items at the peak of their season. You can get a good deal from some farmers on items that they have too much of so look around for what’s in season. Ask farmers if you get a discount for buying bulk; if you do then you can freeze or can the food and make it last for the rest of the season.
• Expand your tastes. Look around at the farmer’s markets for the foods that are currently the lowest price. These may not be the foods that you normally eat but you can find recipes for them when you get home.
• Ask about bartering. Farmers are very community-minded and they may be willing to barter food for the services or products that you can offer.
• Offer to pick up groceries for others. Many of your friends might also enjoy food fresh from the farmers’ market but they may find it inconvenient to get there during the hours it’s open. Offer to do their grocery shopping for a small fee while you’re there.
Farmers’ markets are great but they do have some built-in hassles. Namely, you need to make sure that you get up and to the farmers’ market during the hours that it’s open. Most farmers’ markets are only open one or two days each week so it’s not always convenient to get there. Wouldn’t it be so much better if the farm could just come to you? Well, in many areas, it can. There are a number of farms that do home deliveries of in-season foods.
The most common way to find these farms is to use an established service with an online ordering system. You sign up to get a box of food delivered every week or every other week. You may pay a certain fee for membership but then you get a reduced price on a bulk amount of food. These services are the most convenient way to get farm fresh deliveries.
Tips for saving money with farm deliveries include:
• Make foods that you can sell. One of the drawbacks of these farm deliveries is that you often get more food than you can eat. That’s a good thing if you’re good in the kitchen though because you can create a small business making farm-fresh seasonal foods. Sell them to a local café or even set up your own booth at a farmer’s market.
• Get a short-term membership and freeze the food. You might want to get a membership for only a portion of the year and freeze foods so that they last for the rest of the year. This reduces your total cost and still lets you get the bulk food price.
• Talk to local farms that aren’t advertising. You may find that local farmers are happy to set up this same type of delivery service for you at a fee that’s much lower than the services advertised online.
When you buy food from farmers, a lot of the price that you’re paying is the price of the labor that it costs to grow and pick that food. You can reduce your costs by doing your shopping at U-pick farms where you get to go out in the fields and pick your own food to take home with you. It’s a lot of fun to go to U-pick farms. It can provide a whole day of activity for the family which is a lot more fun than hauling everyone to the grocery store. You get many of the same benefits as you do from supporting local farmers in other ways including the benefit of saving money on your produce.
Volunteer at a Farm
Yet another option for enjoying farm-fresh food is to consider volunteering some time at a farm. There are many people who choose to work on organic farms as a way to enjoy cheap travel. They work at the farm in exchange for room and board in a foreign location. While they’re there, they also get to enjoy farm fresh foods. If you don’t want to travel then you might see if a local farm in the area could use your volunteer efforts. You could get food in exchange for the work and you might find that it’s a really great experience. It puts you close to the food that you’re eating which makes many people feel healthier. And it means that you’re paying for your food with time instead of money.