Just about any given Saturday morning from April to December, you can find me at the Charleston Farmers Market (this is not anything new) most people know, I love it! I usually post a few picks each week from some of my favorite stands or produce that I think looks exceptionally good or perhaps some pics of rarer items. However I was recently asked by a blog and Instagram follower to help her navigate her visit…she said, “I love the farmers market, but I don’t which stands to go to, everything you post pictures of looks great, but I get overwhelmed and then end up leaving with only soap and olive oil.” LOL. I can totally relate and understand. I’ve been there and I’ve felt like that, and now I go in with a plan. I told her that I would be happy to go with her and show her my fav spots. She then suggested that I should do a blog article about it and I couldn’t agree more!
We did some food shopping, ate some ice cream sandwiches, grabbed some crepes (yes, we ate multiple snacks throughout the morning-we had to, there are too many great stands not to try several things) lol! The kids got to go crazy in the jump castles, which allowed us to chill out for a few minutes! We had a great time and most importantly Amber left with more than just olive oil and soap (well, actually she did get some olive oil) but she had planned on it!!!
Here is my outline of how to have a successful farmers market visit, leave with a full basket (of food you will actually use) and not get overwhelmed!
1). Try to make a list of vegetables/fruit etc… of stuff that you use each week. For me, I can not plan an entire weekly meal chart in advance, my brain and my appetite don’t work like that (though I applaud you people that do)! I usually try to pre-plan 2-3 dinners or meals ahead of time for the week. For instance, if I know that I’m having friends over for brunch, I will pre-plan the menu and then try to grab some kale, onion and bell pepper for a quiche (then plan to use the leftover kale in a salad later in the week). I then try to think of what would I like in the salad and grab that too. I AM NOTORIOUS FOR BUYING WAY MORE FOOD THAN I CAN USE, SIMPLY BECAUSE IT IS BEAUTIFUL PRODUCE!!!! So now, I try to make a list and plan. One rule I have is, I won’t buy more than what is needed for 3 sides or salads. Another rule I have for myself is I will not buy more than 3 fruits (of course all of this is subject to change based on what I have going on).
2). Pick the items that really matter to you (do a little research). I have a list of things that I really try to only buy organic (they have less pesticides and more nutrition). However I am more lenient about that list when the produce is coming from the down the road because it typically is more recently picked and gets to my table faster, in turn it has a higher nutritional value, so when those items are in season I try to buy them from the CHSFM. Some things on MY LIST: any kind of berries, apples, peaches, lettuces and basically any veggie that is really porous like: celery.
3). Pick at least 1 fun (random) item. For me this is something that I might not usually use or buy (like oyster mushrooms or swiss chard or some random kind of squash I have never seen). I like to get out of my box and try new things, this is a great way for me to experiment or look up a recipe and give it a go.
4). Examine what your staple items are and see if any of them are available at the market. For me the top 2 things on that list are: local honey and snack bars. Other items might include items like, olive oil, candles, lotion, pickles etc…
5). Take your own reusable bag or basket. The amount of plastic bags we go through as a country is appalling….lets try to cut down on that carbon foot print. I usually take a basket with a folded up recyclable bag in it. The basket helps to keep items from getting bruised up while I’m walking around, and much of the time the bag comes in handy for cumbersome items like: watermelons. I usually take a small cooler and leave it in the car too, much of the time after leaving the market I don’t go straight home and I don’t want items like fresh pasta or blackberries sitting in the heat for too long.
6). Get there early! We really like beating the crowds…however that seems harder and harder to achieve because our little gem of a market has become uber popular and gained a lot of attention (but usually 8-9am the first hour the market is open, is a great time) and its pretty easy to maneuver and not get stuck in long lines or be shoulder to shoulder crowds the entire time.
Other fun tips: After you get your goods, take a load off and plan to grab a bite to eat there and chill out for a bit! There are so many great food vendors at the market, its a great place to try something new or treat yourself! There is usually some kind of local music on the mini stage near the tables. ITS THE WEEKEND…STOP RUSHING AROUND, JUST ENJOY WHERE YOU ARE:) Also, the market has some really cool artisans and craft items that make great gifts anytime of year. I typically like to add some of these items to fun packages I send to relatives or friends or sometimes I’ll grab a splurge item for myself:)
My Favorite Vendors: The Owl’s Nest Plantation (great apples, berries, rhubarb, lettuce, tomatoes), Joseph Fields Farms (cucumbers, bell peppers, kale, watermelon, eggs, corn), Wich Cream (ice cream sandwiches: they are all SUPER TASTY, but I personally suggest getting the mint chocolate chip), Rio Bertolinis Pasta (LOVE ALL THE RAVIOLI and the pasta bundles are amazing and they are $1 each-thats a steal for fresh pasta!!!), Nicole’s Nutty Goodness (love the whey good bar), Outta My Huevos (love those English muffins with egg sandwiches), Charleston Crepe Co (gotta get the nutella and banana crepe), Shuler Peaches (they have the best peaches and strawberries!!!!), Lowland Farms (flowers, eggs), Blue Pearl Farms (MOST AMAZING HONEY, EVER), Maple Ridge Farms (great blueberries)!!!!! There are so many great vendors but these are my absolute favs!!!!