Tips for Shopping at the Farmers Market

One of my favorite things about summer is going to my local farmers market for delicious, fresh fruits and vegetables. I grow some of my own tomatoes and herbs on my patio, but I don’t have the space to do much more than that. The farmers market has a huge variety and the food is as fresh as if I had grown it myself. Shopping at the farmers market is different than the grocery store so here are some tips for readers who may not have given it a try before or found it to be overwhelming.

  1. Bring your own bag. The farmers will appreciate it and having a bag that can go on your shoulder will help keep your hands free. I use a backpack!
  2. Get to know your local farmers. They will help you choose the best they have to offer and will have good suggestions for cooking and preparing the fruits and veggies as well.
  3. Beware the “health halo”. Many vendors sell delicious baked goods like donuts and pies. My market has vendors that sell fabulous international foods like Salvadoran Pupusas and Vietnamese spring rolls. Yum! Indulging in these treats can be a fun part of going to the farmers market, but keep in mind that just because they are sold at the farmers market doesn’t mean they are as healthy as the fruits and veggies at the neighboring vendors.
  4. Try something new! My farmers market sells some fruits and vegetables that I can’t find at the grocery store. I try a few new things each summer like different types of tomatoes, beets, greens and squash.
  5. WIC @ Farmers MarketsSNAP Farmers MarketsLearn about what forms of payment are accepted. Many farmers accept food assistance EBT as well as WIC benefits. You may see a sign at the farmer’s booth indicating they accept these forms of payment. In Iowa the signs will look like this.

Enjoy your farmers market this summer and share your finds with us on Facebook!


Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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What can you buy for $6?

One great change in the food that families receive from WIC is vouchers for fruits and vegetables. The amount of the voucher varies, but as I understand it, each child on WIC old enough to eat table food gets a $6 voucher each month. Amanda and I headed to the grocery store last Friday to see what $6 would buy. We were in luck because lots of fruits and vegetables were on sale. 

The first two pictures show a variety of fruits and vegetables purchased for $6. We tried to get the most food we could, but also tried to get a variety of colors in both fresh and frozen foods. Some of the foods were priced by the item—celery, carrots, grapefruit, cucumbers, bell peppers, spinach and frozen vegetables. Other items—bananas, apples and onions—must to be weighed (there is always a scale in the produce department) and you have to take the weight times the price per pound to see how much the item costs. If you have your cell phone, use the calculator on it to do the math for you.

6-1Picture #1
3# bananas  .87
1 celery stalk  .69
2 bell peppers/1 cucumber  3 for $1
2# yellow onions  .58
1# bag baby carrots  .79
3 grapefruits  3 for $1
16 oz bag frozen veggies  .98

TOTAL  $5.90


6-2Picture #2
2# large braeburn apples  1.38
2 bell peppers/1 cucumber   3 for $1
2# bananas   .58
1# bag baby carrots  .79
16 oz bag frozen veggies  .98
Dole Spinach  .99

TOTAL  $5.72




The last four pictures show how the price of fruits and vegetables goes up when you choose specialty products, or the grocery store does some of the food preparation work for you.


6-3Picture #3
Each 12 ounce package of vegetables costs $2.50.  So these two packages together cost $5.  Since the Green Giant vegetables have a butter sauce, they can’t be bought with WIC coupons.



Picture #4
The Green Giant vegetables at the left cost $2.50.  The Birds Eye Vegetables were on special for $1.00.  Both are 12 ounces.  Neither has a sauce.

The frozen vegetables in the first 2 pictures  above are .98 for 16 ounces.


Picture #5
If you want  someone else to chop up your vegetables, you pay dearly for that service.





Picture #6
Same goes for cantaloupe.  You get 2 whole cantaloupes for $6. The cut up bowl would cost $8.22.






-pointers by Peggy

Farmers Markets = Fresh Produce

Did you know there are more than 212 farmers markets located in communities across the state with direct access to Iowa’s nutritious, affordable and delicious products?

To find a market in your area, as well as days and times of operation, check the Iowa Department of Agriculture’s Iowa Farmers Market Directory.  It has a full listing of markets found across the state.  (If you are in a another state, just Google “farmers market locations.”)

If you are a low-income senior, you can get coupons for fresh produce through the Iowa Area Agencies on Aging.  If you are on WIC, ask about coupons at your local agency.

In-season vegetables for July are: beets, bok choy, cabbage, chard, cucumber, new potatoes, snap beans, summer squash, sweet corn and tomatoes.

You can find information on buying fruits and vegetables in season on Spend Smart. Eat Smart.

-pointers by Peggy

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