Oh, happy day! It’s that time of year again – my FAVORITE farmer’s market is (finally) open!
Growing up as a kid in the Mid-West, I always enjoyed the seasonal trips to this market with my mother. Now, as a mom myself, I love gathering up my trio – and often times their friends – and hitting the summer market.
This is 30 minutes of great “Summer School” for the kiddos.
“Wait? What?” you say. “School at a farmer’s market?”
Yes, that’s correct. Perhaps it is a little known secret that your basic farmer’s market is in fact, the ideal place to teach kids about many things: math, weight, measurement, cost and value as well as honest to goodness exposure to nature’s best foods!
As soon as we hit the place, the kids are begging me for their “assignments”.
- Basic - Select 6 firm peaches (not nectarines), a head of romaine lettuce – not iceberg, 2 different kinds of onions.
- Intermediate - I have $2 to spend on lemons and $1 to spend on limes. Read the sign and select as many as we can buy for the total amount. OR bag 2 pounds each of berries in separate bags to be used in smoothies.
- Advanced – I have $5 to spend on corn, cucumbers and spinach. Spend $3 on the cucumbers and spinach and get as much corn as you can with the remainder. OR Get 2 pounds of 3 different kinds of nuts. Make sure the nuts are equally measured to total the 3 pounds.
The kids have a blast with this and I enjoy watching them buzz about the market reading signs, asking questions to the workers and THINKING about the foods in front of them.
Second only to the enjoyment of the market itself is getting our mother-load home, cleaned and ready for chowing. We’ll have days of healthy and satisfying foods to incorporate into our cooking and of course as snacks on our daily trips to the park or pool.
You can’t beat the fantastic prices (10 bags of awesome produce for $30? Yes, please!) and supporting the local economy by choosing local growers instead of big names feels great! As a parent, I know I’m laying a foundation that will hopefully last a lifetime in teaching them about the importance and enjoyment of good nourishment. But what I truly cherish is the memory-making and quality time spent with the kiddos on our weekly summer trips to the local farmer’s market. For some reason, our local supermarket just doesn’t provide us with the same punch.
High Five Tips for getting the most out of your local market
(whether you’re shopping WITH kiddos or not):
- Shop early - This will ensure you get the best of the pick. Depending on how often your market replenishes (if at all), shopping early allows you to get first dibs on the best of the bunch.
- Shop late – If you’re searching for bargains, shopping late allows you to take advantage of the price reductions that occur toward closing time. The farmers don’t want a surplus at the end of the day and shoppers can get a great deal IF there are items left to sell.
- Shop at different times of the day – Some items are brought to market throughout the day and then sell out quickly (hello, Michigan sweet corn). So be sure to ask the cashier’s or other sellers what time of day your favorite products arrive. I’ve missed plenty of basil until I learned they are set out only once a day.
- Shop with an open mind – Yes, the ginger root may look strange, but keep an open mind when you see what is available. Thanks to the power of the internet, I guarantee you’ll be able to find 100 uses for that ginger!
- Take your time – Enjoy the simple pleasure of the market by checking out everything it has to offer. Guacamole seasoning, locally bottled honey and even recipe cards can often be found but often in obscure places throughout the market.
1. Do you frequent a farmer’s market or produce stand?
2. What’s your best tip for incorporating kids into the shopping experience?
3. What’s your favorite summer recipe?
Stephanie Goetz is an amateur tri-athlete juggling many hats: busy wife, mother to an adventurous young trio, wish-granting fundraiser and small business owner. She is the author of the popular fitness blog Running High Five which chronicles her daily attempts to train for the sport of Triathlon, in which she will never finish first. A long-time self professed “average” runner, she has completed several marathons and countless 5K-10k races and after discovering Triathlon in 2009, has been hooked ever since.