Farmer’s Market Price Comparison – Frugal Living Community

by Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom on August 18, 2010

I have been tracking farmer’s market prices all summer…in my head.  I wish I had them written down, but somehow between carrying a baby and a bag of farm fresh produce, I don’t have a free hand to write things down. ;)

My conclusion…it’s hit or miss.

Sometimes prices in the grocery store are less than the farmer’s market…and other times prices are much less at the farmer’s market.  Depends on the week, the crop, the supply and the demand at the farmer’s market.  This summer, I scored some amazingly cheap green peppers, and some giant squash for only $.50 a piece.  Both “lucky” finds!

So I’m curiousdo you save more money by shopping at the farmer’s market?!  Or is shopping for produce at the grocery store less expensive in your area?!

Join us in the Frugal Living Community where we discuss

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Robin August 18, 2010 at 8:49 am

It is hit or miss here in SC too!

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Sarah August 18, 2010 at 9:27 am

I’m in the Bay Area (California) where you would think that the farmer’s market would be cheaper. But it’s just not. I just had a conversation about this yesterday with several friends here and they ALL said they have tried to shop at the farmer’s market several times but it’s just so expensive they can’t. For example, one friend was charged $1 PER APPLE! That’s just crazy! But sadly, it seems that that is my experience every time I go. Sure, there’s the occasional lucky find, but it’s not enough to get me out there.

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Monica S August 18, 2010 at 9:30 am

I tend to spend more at the FM than at the GS on fruit and veggies, but the funny thing is that when I shop the FM the majority of the food get’s eaten instead of trashed. It’s just so much tastier. So in my opinion I’d rather spend more and use it than spend less and waste it.

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Nancy August 18, 2010 at 9:37 am

I would agree, while some things are about the same unless you get a great deal at GS, but FM is much tastier and would rather spend the $ for quality!

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Shannon August 18, 2010 at 10:09 am

Definitely more expensive at the Farmer’s Markets. They are much smaller farms and can’t compete on price with the grocery stores. However, the produce at ours is mostly organic or in the process of becoming organic and its normally picked within a day or two of the market. I’ve found the best prices at our local, large fruit stand. They have contracts with larger, still independent farms in Eastern Washington so the produce is still fresher than the grocery stores. It’s not necessarily organic (they are getting more though) but the prices are great – especially if you want to buy a large amount to can or freeze.

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Holly August 18, 2010 at 10:10 am

I love shopping the farmers market every week. We have gotten some great deals and even when the prices are slightly higher then the grocery store, I feel it’s worth it for the superior quality. Some of the great deals I’ve gotten at the farmers market include a giant box of tomatoes for $9 and a half bushel of peaches for $5. I love the farmers market.

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The Working Home Keeper August 18, 2010 at 10:26 am

I would say it is probably more expensive for me to shop at our local farmers market. There are cheaper farmers market options available in our area, but the market I prefer and shop at regularly, focuses on organic and sustainable growing methods. I don’t really shop at our market to save money. But to buy food that has been grown locally and organically and to buy meats from animals that have been treated humanely, raised on pasture and allowed to eat a diet that is natural to them. And of course to support our local, small farmers!

I save in other areas so I can spend more at our farmers market :)

Mary Ellen

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Jen August 18, 2010 at 11:09 am

It’s cheaper in the short short-term to shop at the grocery store, if you focus on the sale produce. However, I think supporting local farmers and getting high-quality produce is a worthy long-term goal, and I’ll gladly pay a bit more per pound (compared to non-sale grocery store prices) for produce at Farmer’s Markets from farmers who I can speak with and get to know. The food is also much higher quality and lasts longer than the stuff you get at Albertson’s or Food4Less or other supermarkets.

I just spent the weekend in Seattle, and of course visited the Pike Place Market. I wish we had a Farmer’s Market like that nearby! Tons of to die for mostly organic/sustainably farmed fruit at reasonable prices! Yum!!

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Sheryl August 18, 2010 at 11:53 am

I think it’s cheaper at the grocery store. I’ve gotten some good stuff at the FM, but it was so fresh, it started to go bad almost immediately. Which is not a savings at all. But I’ve also found that if you go towards closing time, they’ll give you great deals on large quantities. Better than them taking it back or taking it to another market.

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Cara August 18, 2010 at 12:09 pm

The only place I have found the FM cheaper is in little towns where they are local farmers and not in big cities with the organic farmers, who although are local too are a lot more expensive.

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Jillian August 18, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Here in NC, we have a small (about 20 families give or take) co-op that we put together to make shopping at the farmer’s market more economical. Every other week, each family puts in $15, and one person goes to the market with about $200 to spend. When you have that kind of buying power, and you tell the apple vendor you would take this much more off their hands if they’d lower the price, they usually will. Also, there is a section of our farmers market that sells in larger bulk quantities (for canning, or even for grocery stores to purchase from) and we can buy those with this plan. We average about $0.50/lb doing this. Our blog has a post about it.

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Jan August 18, 2010 at 12:33 pm

I don’t think the FM has good prices- but it’s local farmers and you can ask them just how they farm, fertilize, if they use pesticides, etc. Plus its fresh, in season, and grown locally. I got this HUGE cantalope the other day for $2 I thought that was a good deal.

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Heather August 18, 2010 at 1:08 pm

it depends on which market i go too….my town’s market the prices are about the same. I go there just b/c i know the veggies are local! I also go to a local farm stand that is MUCH cheaper than the store. I get 2 reusable bags of fruits/veggies for about $30 where i’d get half that much for the price at the store. we also like to support our local farmers/businesses.

But if i go to the next town over’s market, its much more expensive!! For the same food…I think its b/c its a better community and bigger.

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sarah August 18, 2010 at 3:06 pm

I find farmer’s markets to be more expensive and half the time don’t have much produce, around here they are turning into nothing but baked goods and crafts. I signed up for a food co-op that delivers to the house, much happier with that.

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Charity August 18, 2010 at 4:43 pm

Our Kroger is way cheaper than the farmer’s market. I wish it were the other way around because I love buying from locals. Kroger does advertise “local” produce, though, and it is usually produce from our state or a neighboring one.

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Michelle August 18, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Same here, sometimes its amazing deals at the farmers market, other times its the opposite. I think this is why i;m contemplating joining a CSA, for consistency.

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Carol August 18, 2010 at 7:09 pm

I have found the farmer’s markets around me (central Massachusetts) can be pricey, especially for fruit so for the time being the apples & pears my family eats regularly are coming from the grocery store. I have “splurged” and bought the “specialty” fruit at farm stands, such as the Saturn peaches and mini plums.

We also split a CSA share with a friend, we have $11.25 per week to “buy” at the farm. We paid in advance and I think that was a great investment. I make a point to build my weekly meals around the veggies I get there and have been able to freeze some of the extras and make freezer meals. It was a large initial expense, but it will pay off when I don’t have to buy as many vegetables during the winter months.

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Jennifer F August 18, 2010 at 9:18 pm

In NY Hudson Valley the Farmer’s Markets have the same prices as those fancy Health Food stores. It’s unbelievable. When I lived in the Pittsburgh area, the Farmer’s Markets were a MUCH better dear than the grocery stores.

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Allie August 18, 2010 at 9:59 pm

In Upstate NY, it seems that the FM is unfortunately more expensive. I wish this wasn’t the case because I would prefer to buy local, cut down on food transportation and eat fresher foods but sadly the FM is not an option on a strict budget.

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Jennifer August 19, 2010 at 7:15 am

There are two farmers markets in my town (in Northern VA). One is just as expensive as the grocery store. The other is usually cheaper. Sometimes it is a little pricier than the grocery store but the quality is better. For example: peaches were on sale at the grocery store for $.50/lb but were $1.69/lb at the farmer’s market. It was still worth it to me to buy them at the FM because they were organically grown and freshly picked.

We go to the same farmer’s week after week at the market and are noticing that they are starting to cut us some deals (without our asking). This past week we bought 8 large tomatoes, 2 pints cherry tomatoes, ~2 lbs green beans, pint jalapenos, pint other peppers, 4 sweet potatoes, 3 onions, and an acorn squash for only $10. The list price would have been closer to $25 but the farmer knows we will be there every week rain or shine.

I think the key to getting the most out of the farmer’s market experience is to build a relationship with the farmer’s. They will often steer you towards the best produce for a great price.

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Andrea August 19, 2010 at 9:28 am

The farmers market prices are higher than the grocery store, nearly always. But the produce is fresh and grown localy. Some booths there have produce from other states, but I generally won’t buy most of that. I will pay a little more for the local produce for a few things. The blackberries and peaches are always better tasting from the farmers market.

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Bette @ Frugal Mom x3 August 19, 2010 at 9:29 am

In the summer I go directly to a U-pick farm to pick my own produce. This week I went and picked 1 bushel of tomatoes cost of $10 and I canned 9 jars of tomatoe sauce. I did a post about it http://frugalmomx3.blogspot.com/2010/08/you-say-tomatoe-i-say-tomato.html

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Emily August 19, 2010 at 12:06 pm

When I shopped at the farmer’s market on my own, it was hit or miss as to whether it was cheaper or not. However, I have joined up with a coop of moms now and its awesome! Two of us shop every other Saturday very early in the morning. We each chip in $25 and get a mountain of produce. We get at least 8 fruits and 8 vegetables each time. It is wonderful! I actually have so much that I share it with my mother-in-law. Another great place for produce deals is Sprouts.

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Jessica A. August 19, 2010 at 12:07 pm

It depends on which one I go to- if I got to the FM in the small town where I work it is aboutthe same as the grocery store. If I got to the one in the town where I live which is bigger then I pay more.

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Lea Stormhammer August 20, 2010 at 8:16 am

It sounds like I’m very fortunate! Here the prices are equal to or much lower than the grocery stores (1 pint of beans for $1, a bushel of tomatoes for $5, corn for $0.25 an ear). I buy in bulk at the farmer’s market – which tends to lower the price (13 ears of corn for $5, 3 pints of beans for $2.50, etc.) – and blanch and freeze for the rest of the year. Since the produce is local, it’s worth it to me too!

Grateful for the opportunities we have,
Lea

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Nikki August 21, 2010 at 1:51 pm

For us, an alternative to FM, CSA or GS this year has been our neighbor, who grew such a large bountiful garden that he set up a self-serve roadside stand. He stocks it twice a day, and it always sells. He grows organically even though he’s not certified. And the garden is less than 5 miles from our house. Talk about supporting/buying local. He will go to the area grocery stores weekly and price his produce in the same range or slightly lower. He is expanding his garden size next year. Yeah! The other more “commercial” produce stands around here truck food in from GA, FL or NC (we’re near Chattanooga) so that’s not very green friendly to me. The closest FM is downtown, at least a 40 minute drive, and while they grow on surrounding mountain area farms, it’s still not as close by. Does anyone form relationships with local gardeners who have surplus you can buy? What do people consider a good radius for buying local? 30 miles? 50 miles? I would love to pressure grocery stores to at least buy produce closer to home.

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Robbie @ Going Green Mama August 22, 2010 at 8:17 pm

I tend to do better on my purchases at the markets. Sure, sometimes you can buy cheaper at the supermarket, but the taste just isn’t the same!

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Sydney Roth November 1, 2010 at 4:02 pm

I live in KS. For me, it is better to buy direct from the farmers because our small grocery store cannot keep many different varieties of produce. For example, our tomato variety may as well be “red,” same as our apples. I actually buy wheat from the farmers and it is extraordinarily cheap. I grind it or use it for oatmeal and get much more food for the money than what I would spend on bleached flour in the store. I have found its actually cheaper to grow your own food, so long as you know how to make use of extras. This way you can grow whatever varieties you wish and it is always fresh.

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