How to spend $20 at the farmer’s market

Pictured: Nine dollars worth of produce

I’m lamenting the fact that in my area farmer’s markets will be ending for the season in just a few short weeks. Boo on that.

  • Green pepper — $1
  • Corn — $0.50 per ear X 4 = $2
  • Tomatoes — $3
  • Little Cukes — $3
  • All of this produce was grown within two miles of my home.

The fruit was more expensive — $11 dollars above

  • Peaches — $6
  • Blueberries — $5

The fruit is from Michigan. These photos were taken back in August when I went to the farmer’s market with only a $20 bill and I had to stretch it. Peaches are gone now…

Here’s how to spend just $20 at the farmer’s market: Stick to produce — it’s cheaper and more versatile in recipes than fruit.

The  peaches were gone within days, but the blueberries lasted the week (as snacks or in cereal/pancakes). The cucumbers lasted the week too, though they started to get old — they were great as a snack or placed inside a sandwich. Corn worked as a dinner veggie plus leftovers for a lunch. Tomatoes were for snacking and the green pepper was sliced into rice.

How long could these veggies and fruit sustain your family?


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12 thoughts on “How to spend $20 at the farmer’s market

  1. Nice haul. I went to the farmer’s market that comes to my campus. Not really any produce besides sliced, seasoned melons. They did have spaghetti and meatballs stuffed into a giant breadstick, though. How to spend $20? Get 5 small bags of kettle corn. Maybe next week actually farmers will come. (Sorry, only tangentially related to topic.)

  2. Many of my friends are amazed when they hear how little I spend on food each week. It’s because at the start of the year I buy in bulk then cook and freeze things, and top up veg from the market. I got a week’s vegetables for about £3 a few days ago – I would have paid that for just one of the items (which would have come in an impossibly large packaged quantity) at the supermarket. And it’s fresher!

  3. WOW- that is all you got for $20? How would you expect a low income family to purchase “Fresh” then? That is probably close to what they have to spend for the week.

    Fresh/organic/grown close to home does not matter for those who are actually “hungry”.

    I agree it is healthier, but not feasible for a lot of families incomes.

    1. Just a quick comment on this – most areas that have a farmers market do work with dshs or other types of organizations that help low income families with food vouchers. during the summer, there are several vouchers that are only to be used at a farmers market.

      I have helped out with a booth at a farmers market and there doesn’t seem to be any issue for those that receive food assistance in buying farm fresh or local produce. The vouchers are worth $4 and there can be no change given so they do pretty well, honestly.

      If you qualify for such programs, you should definitely take advantage of the opportunity.

    2. Zorro, check out 100DaysOfRealFood .com for ideas on how to eat fresh on a budget. The lady who did it finished a 100-day challenge to eat only real food (nothing processed) and was challenged again to do it on a budget set at $125/wk by her followers. According to her postings, a family of 4 would receive $167/wk in food stamps in their area. She shopped at 3 different stores and a farmers’ market and managed it. Her rules: the cost of anything pulled from the freezer had to be deducted from that week’s money and if she went over budget, that amount was subtracted from the following’s week budget. They ate some strange combinations of food but she did it. Not certain if she included non-food items like paper towels in her budget. I’d have to go back and read thru the postings to find out. Definitely something to consider though.

      1. No family I know in California gets $167 a week for food. On that amount of Foodstamps, many could easily survive. But sadly, farmers markets for many are out of their price range, even it they do accept food stamps.

        There is a push up buy healthy food with food stamps, but even in über trendy and progressive SF, real families cannot afford to pay $1 a piece for a peach. 🙁

  4. Peaches were expensive this year because of the crazy weather we had in Michigan this year. Many hot days made the fruit trees bloom early, then a late frost killed many of them off. Ditto on apples. Actually apples are worse, the orchards around here aren’t even at farmers markets. If I want honey crisp apples, the one store carrying local apples wants $5 per pound (roughly 2.5 apples). Cider is going for $10 a gallon this year.

  5. I’m lucky to live in the middle of farmland, so our produce is usually cheaper than that. I would never have paid $6 for 6 peaches, because they simply aren’t that expensive here. Apples are coming in now and are very cheap. Even some of our grocery stores have a local produce section, where you can buy fruit/veg that comes from local farms. Living in the country definitely has it’s perks 🙂

  6. I am in the outskirts of Houston and as such, have a huge number of nearby farmer’s markets to choose from. I rarely, if ever, do. It absolutely is not economical for us to buy produce from farmer’s markets. I would love to support local farms, but it’s just not happening. We go through 10 lbs+ (that’s the bare minimum) of fruit alone per week, and don’t even get me started on veggies (closer to double that of the fruit). My one year old son eats most of that fruit– that is what he gets to snack on throughout each day and our meals are full of vegetables. If I bought what you did at the farmer’s market, the entire pile would be gone within two full days, tops– and we would be beyond broke. Unfortunately, I think that when a family has a lot of fresh produce incorporated into their daily lives, it is just not practical to buy it from a market.

    We are a family of three (my husband, our son and myself) and spend roughly $150-$170 a month on produce alone, with only less-than-half of that amount being organic purchases.

  7. I think there are definitely ways to stretch dollars far at the farmers markets. Buying in season is huge. Veggies are “easier” to grow – especially for local farmers as you don’t necessarily have to have a lot of land for it. Fruit generally requires more land for cross pollination, but obviously not always.

    In Wisconsin I could probably find the veggies cheaper than $9, but my city’s farmer’s market is HUGE (seriously, you should check it out!!) So many stands are selling the same items at the same time that there is a lot of pricing wars going on.

    Fruit is iffy – we usually go early in the season to the market so fruit isn’t in yet. When it comes in, though, we can usually get a haul for reasonable prices. My kids love to help find new fruits/veggies to try.

    Our farmer’s market is also “good” in that we get lots of grass-fed beef, free range chicken products and local cheeses. All priced cheaper than in the stores.

  8. Wow, tasty. Similar prices near me, we live in a high cost of living zipcode. I get that veggies could be cheaper elsewhere, but given that the local farmers need to make enough to survive in our area, I don’t begrudge them charging what they charge.

    On the other hand, I am not above buying “reduced” produce at the big grocery chain I live near. Typically, the reduced stuff is just excess veggies and fruits that they want to clear in time for the incoming shipment. Artichokes that typically sell for $2.50 each can be had for 40 cents. Cukes, 25 cents. Some of it might be bruised or old, but a lot of it isn’t, you just have to know what to look for. It makes sense if you’re watching your grocery budget and you want to consume a lot of healthy fresh food. Sometimes they even put organic items in the reduced pile.

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