HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - In this time of expensive living, WHNT NEWS 19 went looking for ways for you to enjoy the fruits of your labor and still hang onto some of that fruit--called "cash".
We found the answer - at the local farmers' market.
Many people--and even some farmers--believe farmers' markets can't compete with prices at big chain stores like Walmart or Kroger.
But there are ways to beat the big box store prices. Here's a hint: timing can be everything.
Successful savings depends on what you're looking for and some understanding of the growing season.
Local farmers will tell you they need your business to survive.
They also admit there are ways to get good deals which come with much better taste than you'd find at a big box store.
First, buying from a local farmers market--such as the Madison County Farmers' Market--helps your community and your neighbors.
Advocates of farmers markets will tell you it's a win-win situation, but farmers know they're up against stiff competition with huge grocery stores that can sell more for less.
Farmers make the point any money you save, comes at the expense of quality you can only get from home-grown.
"It's fresh," said Sherry Cloud of Cloud Cove Farm in Huntsville. "We pick it one day and we bring it to the market and sell it, so you always get fresh produce. And you know what you're eating."
Of course, anything seems to taste better when it costs less. So here are a few ways to do so from the farmers themselves:
Timing is everything. The first or last produce of the season always costs more.
Because most vendors grow seasonal products, there's often a large surplus of some things. So, buy large quantities in peak season and then save them for later by canning or freezing them. You'll save money enjoying them during off-peak times, when they're selling for high prices at supermarkets.
If you look for specialty products during the growing season--like heirloom or rare vegetables--farmers say you'll find them much cheaper at the farmers market than at the supermarket.
Also, don't forget about end-of-day bargains.
"When we're packing up, around quitting time, sometimes we make deals just to go home early," said Larry Brown of L and B Farm of New Market.
Farmers don't want to haul anything home.
"We would like to sell everything we had every day if possible," said Brown. He said he will sell veggies that may not be perfect at half the price of his veggies with no blemishes.
Don't be shy about asking for a discount. The worst they can say is 'no'.
Another money saving method from farmers, go to the market with friends. Go in with them on cases of food, then split it up later.
Consider going during bad weather. Fewer customers at the market brings out great deals and maybe secrets from the growers about when is the best time to buy.
Plan your meals before visiting the market to buy what you need for your recipes.
When paying for your produce, do so in cash. Or if you have something that could help a farmer--such as publicity materials, for example--consider setting up a trade for fresh produce.
Finally, visit your farmers markets often enough to get to know the men and women growing the produce.. and acknowledge their hard work, which could be reciprocated through a special deal.