Saving At The Farmers' Market

I bought milk the other day, which really means I went in the grocery store. And breezed down the produce aisle. Just looking. And flipping my hair over my shoulder at how much money I'm saving by shopping at the farmers' market.

I know that's backwards. It's the other way around, right? No. Not right now. Maybe it's the season. Maybe it's the store. Maybe the cost of taking the produce on a road trip before it gets to the grocery store is going up.

Here's what I found.

Heirloom tomatoes at the grocery store, $4.99 a pound. Farmers' market, $3.25.

Figs at the store, $5.99; from the old guy with the fishing hat, $4.00

Vine ripened tomatoes in the produce aisle, $3.99 a pound; organic dry farmed tomatoes from the man who also grows more varieties of potatoes than I can name, $2.50 a pound.

Grocery store avocados, $2.69 each. Avocados from the nine year old kid at the Sunday market with his Mom, five for $6.00.

I didn't really flip my hair over my shoulder. It's too short and besides I was too busy repeating the prices over and over so I wouldn't forget.

I'd be curious to know if anyone else has compared prices between the grocery store and the farmers' market. Maybe this is the beginning of a trend or a one time fluke. Or maybe the corner store was outrageous to begin with. What have you found?

16 comments:

Heather @ SGF said...

A few things I've found more expensive, but for the most part, our farmers market is cheaper than the grocery, too!

BerryBird said...

I haven't kept a running tally, but most comparisons I have made show the farmers market as substantially less expensive.

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

Great post, I've always been amazed at how much food we get each Saturday at the market when we never take more than $30-40 cash. Granted we have a CSA share as well, but still.

I haven't tried too much comparison, but I know from buying all my produce from the grocery store last year that I am saving money - AND eating better!

Green Bean said...

For me it depends on time of year and which type of produce we're talking about. Tomatoes (especially heirloom) are almost always cheaper at the farmers' market. So is corn, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, hmm. Those are the only things I've really noticed. Whenever I go to buy a flat of berries and the guy quotes me some outrageously cheap price - and then adds a bunch of berries to the top of the flat. Good deal! And a lot more fun that shlepping through the supermarkets' aisles.

Melinda said...

In Southern California, definitely always cheaper at the farmer's market. In Northern California, almost always cheaper at the grocery store, unless we went into the Santa Rosa farmer's market. In Seattle, depends on the season. At the beginning of the summer, the weather was so cold here that not much was available at the farmer's market, and what was available was pretty expensive. But lately it was quite a bit cheaper than the grocery store for just about everything.

Having said all that, the overall cost of the farmer's market is inevitably cheaper, when I take into account flavor, nutrition, CO2 emissions, petroleum utilized, and supporting the local economy.

Audrey said...

Beautiful photos, Katrina! Prices for tomatoes, corn, etc at our farmers markets are about the same as at the grocery stores. What's striking is how fake the produce in the grocery store looks.

kale for sale said...

heather, berrybird and jennifer - This is myth-busting information. Thank you. The idea the farmers' market costs more is so prevalent I've bought into it too. No pun was intended. And yes, there certainly are items that cost more but I appreciate the validation that it's not everything, not everywhere and not always.

green bean - I do factor the entertainment into the cost. And with that I always come out ahead. You're right, season matters. I'm going to buy milk more often and keep comparing.

melinda - Right, market matters too. The further north I go the less expensive things are but it costs more to get there. The small town feel to some of those smaller markets is irresistable though. And thanks for being the geek with the full equation. We all love you for it.

audrey - Maybe the produce is fake but nobody knows the difference. That would be scary.

kendra said...

We've found that somethings are definately cheaper, but others are more expensive. This year we've only been to the markets a few times because we've been blessed with produce from our garden. Of course sometimes I think those are the most expensive vegetables and fruit of all! We put so much time and effort into it all.

innercitygarden said...

Our markets (in Australia) are definitely cheaper than the supermarket. Most of the stuff in the supermarket is grown in Queensland, which is the other end of the country from me, and it costs a lot to transport it. Even buying all organic food at the market is cheaper than buying all conventional at the supermarket.

There are a few things that can cost more, like bread, but a hefty loaf of organic bread takes twice as long to eat (it fills you up for twice as long) so I reckon it works out costing the same.

kale for sale said...

kendra - We visited with friends this morning that said they paid a dollar an egg for their eggs and my mouth dropped open. Then they added of course it's because they are raising them themselves. We laughed. But it's true, isn't it, that the time does make food from the garden expensive too. But what a wonderful way to spend your time.

innercitygarden - Thanks for the Australian market report. I wondered. It seems like the cost of moving food across the country is starting to show on the grocery shelves here too.

Dale said...

At my produce stand "Simple Produce" I have a hard time charging enough. Though I've got my garlic at $6.00 a lb. Which seems high, but it's my first season. Start up was costly. Tomatoes are $1.51. Most everything else is $1.00 lb. That's apples,cukes,zukes,potatoes and corn 2 for 1.00. I want to keep the math simple.

kale for sale said...

dale - You're charging great prices. At least compared to the bay area. I like the simple math.

Chile said...

How interesting. I read through the grocery store ads every week. When I go to the farmer's market (not often because I have a CSA membership), the prices seem much higher than the stores. Then again, the prices in the ads are not for organic, so it's hard to truly compare.

I do know our CSA produce runs cheaper than organic from the stores, and probably from the farmer's market as well. Since I volunteer in exchange for my share, it's almost free (since I really enjoy hanging out with CSA folks!)

Chile said...

Oh, forgot to mention that the people-watching at the Farmer's Market is much better than in the grocery store. ;-)

kale for sale said...

chile - Sounds like you have a great CSA. I was in one last year but the farmer said she did CSA instead of the farmers' market because she could make more profit. Which is good and I support the farmers and all of that but then I felt like I was getting ripped off and I love going to the farmers' market anyway so I didn't rejoin. I'm sure all the CSA's are different and like you said, the entertainment factor at the farmers market is too good. It sounds like you're feeling better. I hope that's the case.

Chile said...

Katrina - yes, I am feeling some better. Not 100% yet, but definitely improved! Thanks for asking.