I love going to the farmers market. Every Saturday I look forward to seeing all the fresh, seasonal produce.
Supporting local farmers is so good for the environment and local economy. It also puts a face behind the food you consume, a key step that’s missing at the supermarket. You never get to meet the people who grew your food at the grocery store.
Related: A Trip to the Farmers Market
Local food also means fresher food. The taste can’t be beat, and neither can the fact it doesn’t have to travel half way across the world to reach your plate. Certainly, cuts down on carbon emissions!
Also, it’s important to eat in season produce as much as possible.
What’s in season depends on your region and what the farmer decides to grow, but seasonal foods have higher nutritional density. Plus, it’s much easier to find plastic free berries at farmers markets during the spring and summer than the winter!
Here are my top four essentials for the farmers market that help me stay waste free every time I go.
1. reusable produce bags
These are my life line. I use them to store apples, pears, carrots, huge heads of lettuce - you name it. All kinds of produce gets put straight into my reusable produce bags.
You can find several different kinds on the market. There are ones made from cloth which can be composted at the end of their life. There are also produce bags made from synthetic fabric that are very durable.
Both cloth and synthetic produce bags are machine or hand washable. They also have these handy drawstring tops to secure all your food in place (assuring no produce tumbles out).
Whichever type you use is up to you, but they certainly beat single use produce bags every time. They’ll help you cut back on so much waste.
There’s also different sized produce bags available too. I personally just use the large sized ones because it’s guaranteed to fit anything I want. I tend to get things in large quantities, so I like a bag that can keep up, you know?
You can also make your own produce bags from some scrap fabric you have lying around, if you’re good at sewing. Or, you can even use an old (clean) pillowcase to house your fruits and veggies. Whatever works, right?
I recommend bringing anywhere from 8 to 10 produce bags. It depends on how much food you plan on getting, but you can never have too many (just in case).
2. tote bags or baskets:
While at the market, you’re going to need a place to store all those fruits and veggies you put in your reusable produce bags. I use a tote bag, but baskets are really cute too.
My farmers market gives out free tote bags in an initiative for New York to go zero waste by 2030. I have several of these tote bags because it’s important to support efforts like this, plus why refuse a free reusable bag?
You can see if your farmers market gives any away for free. If not, reusable bags aren’t too hard to find. Most grocery stores sell them right at the cash register.
There are also several companies that make reusable tote bags such as Blu Bag or BagPodz.
Related: Reusable Bags Made Easy
I recommend taking anywhere from three to four tote bags with you to carry all your supplies comfortably. It might be nice to ask a friend or family member to come and help you carry them as well.
Bringing a basket to the market is also a really cute way to carry around your produce before and after purchase. Just be prepared: If you get a lot, it easily gets heavy to hold!
Make sure to get a basket that’s sturdy and comes with handles for easy holding and carrying.
You could even get a wicker trolley to take with you to the market. Just imagine how cute and efficient you’d look carting it around with all your plastic free goodies.
3. mason jars or containers:
Sometimes, bringing a mason jar or container is a really good idea. If you have a meat or fish vendor at your market, and you happen to eat meat, you can ask them to put it in your own container.
This eliminates the need for it to be wrapped in paper or plastic. Most of the time if you’re nice, they’ll say yes without even blinking an eye.
As always, do your best to keep your meat consumption to a minimum. Eating a more plant-based diet is overall better for your health and the environment.
Mason jars and containers from home are also great for storing berries in. Berries sweat a lot in the summer, so they can easily stain your cloth produce bags.
Lots of farmers markets sell berries in the summer months in paper containers (which you can return the following week by the way). That said, berries tend to bleed and get crushed easily, so putting them into a mason jar will protect them better.
Before you do that though, make sure to ask the farmer if that’s okay and pay for it first. Don’t want them thinking you’re stealing!
4. beeswax wraps:
If you enjoy getting bread or cheese from your farmers market, consider bringing some beeswax wraps with you. Assuming the bread or cheese isn’t pre-wrapped there, you should be able to get it in your beeswax wraps.
Cheese tends to come wrapped in plastic or paper, so walk up to a vendor and see if they pre-wrap them or not. If not, ask them if you can have a piece put into your beeswax wrap before they wrap it for you.
This will prevent any waste from being generated, and keep the cheese fresh. Just make sure to store it properly when you get home (yes, it can stay wrapped in the beeswax wrap).
If you plan on getting a baguette, there are baguette sized beeswax wraps available. Just ask for your bread to be wrapped into it, simple as that.
You can also use two large beeswax wraps to wrap a round loaf of fresh baked, package free bread. Personally, I get a loaf of bread to go in my cloth produce bag, but it’s totally your call.
For more tips, be sure to check out the ultimate guide to zero waste grocery shopping.
What are your farmers market essentials?
Guest Post: Ariana Palmieri is the founder of Greenify-Me.com, a blog dedicated to zero waste living and sustainability. Her work has been featured on MindBodyGreen, Green Matters, The Penny Hoarder and several other publications. Get her free e-book "10 Ways to Reduce Trash" by signing up to her newsletter and learn how to reduce your waste today.