Farmers Market Summertime. Fresh, slightly charred corn on the cob, tomatoes so fresh and ripe that even tomato-haters can’t resist a bite, and watermelon so sweet, no one will miss ice cream. Well, that’s not entirely true -- ice cream during the summer is still pretty much the best.

But all of these late-spring and summer treats can come at a premium price. Luckily, one of the best things about summer is also one of the most cost-effective -- farmers' markets!

Save your coupons for the sunblock and bug spray! Here’s how to save a bundle and get the freshest produce and treats -- all while shopping locally. 

1. There’s one near you! If you haven’t passed a farmers' market in your regular commute or are looking for something a little different, you can try the USDA’s website. I used this directory and found a large market 10 miles away from my house with more than 50 participating farmers. Small- and medium-sized markets can be found using a Google search with your town’s name and “farmers markets.” Don’t let living in a big city be an excuse -- even NYC has greenmarkets in the heart of the Big Apple!

2. Expand your horizons. Depending on the size of the market, there may be a lot more at the market than produce. You may find local honey, fresh eggs, homemade soaps, breads, fresh-cut flowers, pies, game meat, and even potted herbs and ice cream! 

3. Best selection and price. Somewhat akin to shopping at a yard sale, you must keep in mind that the best selection will be early in the day and the best prices will be closer to closing time. If you become a “regular,” participating farmers may work with you on getting the best price or even put some of your favorite goodies to the side.

4. Adventure and learning for children. No candy racks to tempt your children when you check out a market. For more adventure, try a “pick-your-own” farm. Check pickyourown.org to locate a low-cost family outing. If at the end of the day your family has fresh produce and worn-out children ready for bed, you’ve discovered a bargain indeed!

5. Support your local economy. Take advantage of items unique to your community. Prices vary, but since the farmer does not pay for marketing, shopping carts, lighting, or as many employees as a grocery store does, you are able to realize those savings.

6. Know before you go. Be sure to check what’s coming in season before you head to the market, and you can get your kids excited about what’s in season. You can even make a game out of having the kids spot what’s new to the market, or their favorite fruit when it appears for sale!

Do you ever take your kids to the farmers' market?


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