By Elizabeth Walsh
One of my favorite things to do on the weekend is go to a farmers' market! I love going on Saturday mornings. Making delicious, healthy food choices for the rest of my week really starts the weekend off right.
Markets can be a lot of fun, but also very overwhelming- especially if you go to a big one in a city like I do. I love the farmers’ market at Union Square in New York City. However, the first time I went was not a great experience. I had no idea where anything was or what I wanted. I promise, once you get a routine down, you’ll have absolutely no problem wandering around the market!
Here are a few tips to get you into that routine.
1) Find a market near you & scope it out
Go online and search for the closest Farmers' Market to you. Here are a few good resources:
New York City - http://www.grownyc.org/greenmarket/ourmarkets
All over the country - http://search.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/
Once you find a market you want to check out, see if there is a map and list of vendors. I like to print out the map and list of vendors and look up a few vendors online to see what their farms are like. If I like what I see, I circle them on the map to make sure I stop by their booth. Lately, I’ve been making a point to stop by every organic farm’s booth. Of course, I also like to find farms that do not sell animal products.
2) Find out what's in season
This is so important! There's nothing worse than making a long list of fruits and veggies you can't wait to buy to only find one or two of them at the market. There are tons of resources online to find out what’s in season in your area. Trust me, looking at these is worth it. Nothing beats the freshness and taste of produce that’s in-season. It is seriously delicious! Here are some good resources:
New York City - http://www.grownyc.org/greenmarket/whatsavailable
All over the country - http://www.epicurious.com/archive/seasonalcooking/farmtotable/seasonalingredientmap
Food wheel - http://www.localfoodswheel.com/shop/
3) Make a (small) list
When I make a list of what I want to get, I honestly only list a few things. One of the fun things about a farmers’ market is exploring and finding new fruits and veggies that you’ve never had! I encourage you to walk around and pick up one fruit or vegetable you’ve never had before!
When making a list, I think of at least one meal I want to try in the next week and write down a few ingredients for that recipe. For example, I’ve been making a lot of green smoothies lately, so I make sure I’m picking up a few heads of leafy greens and tons of fruit! Last week, I looked up a few new smoothie recipes I planned to make, and made sure I got the appropriate ingredients.
Another reason I suggest making a small list is so you don’t overbuy. Produce from a farmers’ market usually doesn’t last as long as grocery store produce (depending on what store, of course) because it’s so fresh and is without the artificial stabilizers and chemicals that grocery store produce often contain. It might be hard, but try to focus when shopping! Get a few key pieces of produce. Keep it simple! Whatever you don’t get at the market you can get later at the store.
4) Bag it up!
Bring your own bags! I have so many reusable bags, and I make sure I bring at least 3 to the market. Better yet, I bring my rolling bag! My rolling bag has saved my life (actually, just my arms and shoulders) so many times. It’s a must have for city living. This saves resources and helps save the planet because you avoid contributing to the plastic bags that litter our streets, water, and land fills.
5) Dress (not) to impress
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve dressed up before going to the market and completely regretted it. Sure, that maxi dress is cute and totally fits in with the bohemian vibe at the market, but it definitely doesn’t help when it’s pushing 90 degrees outside and you’re lugging around big bags of veggies with sweat running down your legs. Wear something comfortable! And definitely wear your walking shoes. Going to the market is a serious business!
6) Last, but definitely not least, COMPOST!
This is so important!! If you’re consuming tons of produce, you NEED to compost! My compost bucket is a paint bucket from a hardware store. So easy! If it smells, put it in the freezer!
There are usually compost drop-offs at every farmers’ market. It’s great! You buy the produce from the market and you drop off the waste a week later! It all comes full circle. You’ll feel great about it when you drop it off. Reusing resources and minimizing waste!
There are a ton of resources online that describe what you can and cannot compost. Here are just a few:
I hope these tips help! The most important tip, of course, is to have fun! Exploring new farms and foods is really exciting and might lead you to a love you never knew you had! For me, I discovered my love for brussel sprouts. I’m absolutely in love with them now! What will you discover?