National Farmers’ Market Week is upon us, which serves as a great reminder to upgrade our kitchens with locally grown, in-season vegetables. Venturing into the bustling farmers’ market can be a little intimidating if you’re used to shopping at the grocery store with its year-round offerings and organized displays. That’s why we’ve put together 5 tips for entering the scene with confidence and coming out with a basketful of delicious offerings.

1. Start early

The farms that visit your local market produce goods on a smaller scale than the farms that supply the supermarket. This gives the food more personality and makes the process more sustainable, but it also means that there’s going to be less of it. Start your shopping trip early to ensure you don’t miss out on your favorite foods.

2. Prepare to eat in-season

The produce you pick at the market is coming to you straight from the vine rather than from a greenhouse several hundred miles away. This means all the food you buy will be in season and at peak flavor and nutritional value. Before heading to the market, plan a few meals for the week that incorporate seasonal produce currently growing in your area.

3. Take a lap

Many stands offer something beyond produce, such as eggs and meat, fresh jams, and homemade baked goods. Take a look around the entire market before deciding how you want to load up your basket. Also take the opportunity to chat with farmers and stand owners, as their stories or suggestions might help inform your purchases.

4. Stock up

Savor the sweetness of locally grown produce all year round by stocking up now. Buying in bulk can often save you money, and excess produce can be frozen or canned for later. Make large batches of tomato sauce, turn cucumbers into pickles, and make jam out of berries to enjoy long after the farmers’ market closes for the season.

5. Stray from your shopping list

Getting out of your usual grocery store routine will introduce you to products you wouldn’t typically think to buy. Take advantage of the unique offerings and swap your usual spinach for rainbow chard or zucchini for pattypan squash. Simple changes like these can take your cooking to unexpected heights.

Farmers’ markets offer the unique opportunity to meet new people, try new things, and shop in the fresh air. Don’t be surprised if what you expected to be a quick shopping trip turns into a wholly mindful experience.

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