July 24, 2012

A Month at the Farmers Market(s)

Farmers markets have been around for a long time, but are greatly increasing in number and popularity in the last decade as Americans become more informed about food and look to purchase healthier food while supporting local farmers and businesses.  As of mid-2011 there were 7,175 farmers markets operating in the United States, a 17 per cent increase from 2010 per the USDA.  Since 2002 the number of farmers markets has increased by 128%.

In San Diego we are fortunate to have a great climate for growing many items both seasonally and year-round.  There are also many farmers markets available to residents.  My favorite market in San Diego is the Little Italy Mercato and we have started many a weekend with a Saturday morning visit.  Another market we often visit is the Horton Plaza Farmers Market, which takes place on Thursday afternoons in downtown San Diego.  It's convenient for us because it's close to home and a nice place to meet for a family lunch during the week.

I like to purchase food at farmers markets for a few main reasons:

  • Fresh, healthy produce with a lot of variety
  • Supporting local farmers and the local economy
  • Many options that are certified organic and/or pesticide free
I often hear criticisms of farmers markets, primarily that they are too expensive.  It's true that there are many items at farmers markets that cost more than at a grocery store, but there are deals to be found and farmers markets can also provide great quality food at a very good prices.

For four weeks this August (8/4 - 9/1) our family will be solely shopping at and eating food from the two farmers markets noted above.  The one exception to this is for milk, which our doctor recommends for Eva, and is not currently available at the markets.  Our budget will be the average amount spent by Americans on food each month.  Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for a household of two persons the average monthly food expenditure is $496.50 and for a household of three persons the amount is $608.08.  These amounts are from the BLS 2010 Consumer Expenditure Survey, the most recent report available.  For additional information see the BLS website.

We have three people in our household, but since Eva is a baby I decided to use an amount between the figures for 2 and 3 person households.  Our budget for the 4 week period will be $550, $137.50 per week.

I'll be recording our purchases and the per unit cost, as well as other data on this online spreadsheet.  Hopefully this data will be handy if you're interested in comparing the costs at the markets to those in your local grocery store.

If you have a farmers market in your area check it out this weekend.  You might be happily surprised by the prices you'll find there, and it's a great opportunity to support your neighbors and local economy.  

Thanks to the Little Italy Mercato and Horton Plaza Farmers Markets and if you live in San Diego I highly recommend both of these markets as resources for fresh, healthy food and friendly, informative producers.


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