Get outdoors and enjoy shopping your local farmer's market this weekend. (Peathegee Inc.)

Get outdoors and enjoy shopping at your local farmer’s market this weekend. (Peathegee Inc.)

Old habits die hard. If you’re accustomed to gathering your produce at your grocery store, it may seem like a stretch to add a weekend trip to the local farmer’s market. But spending a half hour or so strolling among the tables of fruits, plants, vegetables and, if you’re lucky, fresh baked goods can boost your health, save you a few bucks, and maybe give you a chance to flirt a little or make some new friends.  

Here’s why:

1. Fresh tastes best. That gorgeous red apple that you bought at the grocery store last week might as well have been picked a year ago. And that’s not all. Most grocery store fruits and vegetables are anywhere from a few weeks to a few months old by the time you purchase them. Certain meats may also have been packed for weeks before you purchase them. Thanks to new food technologies, growers and meat packers can keep meats pink and produce crisp long past its prime. Even if old food does not make you sick, it spoils faster at home and loses taste and texture.

At the farmer’s market, you may be able to purchase freshly picked fruits and vegetables and meats that have been in the package for about a week.

2. You can save a few bucks. Some say farmer’s markets are too expensive, but some products are actually cheaper than grocery store fare. Try these tips for saving: 

▪ Your produce will last longer, so buy in bulk to get a deal. Don’t be afraid to haggle.

▪ Shop the Environmental Working Group’s dirty dozen and clean fifteen. These lists tell you which foods have the most and the least pesticide residue. There’s no need to buy organic if the food is one of the clean fifteen.

▪ Go late. Farmers often mark things down toward the end of the day.

▪ Be adventurous. Try a new fruit or vegetable to take advantage of specials.

3. No GMOs. The debate rages on about the dangers of genetically modified foods (often called GMOs). Proponents say genetically modifying food (by inserting genes into a plant that were not in Mother Nature’s plans) is harmless and will lead to a more bountiful, cheaper food supply.

Opponents point to credible research showing that genetically modified foods can cause allergic reactions, disturb healthy intestinal bacteria and possibly cause serious diseases. Yet the Food and Drug Administration does not require labeling or safety testing of genetically modified foods.

Right now corn, soy, sugar beets, most papayas from Hawaii or China, and some green and yellow squash are genetically altered.

Produce from small farms is far less likely to have been grown from GMO seeds. Plus, you can ask the farmer yourself. Meat, poultry, eggs and cheese from small farms is also more likely to be from grass-fed animals. Factory farms most often feed animals genetically modified grains and soy.

This free, Non-GMO Shopping Guide will help you avoid GMOs and protect your health.

4. Better nutrition. Spinach can lose more than 50 percent of its vitamin C just 24 hours after picking. Broccoli does the same after about five days. Other fruits and vegetables also lose antioxidants and vitamins just days after picking. The farmer’s market offers you the best chance to get fresh-picked produce, unless you grow it yourself.

5. Shopping in sunshine. You get to enjoy the great outdoors while helping the environment by supporting local farmers (local foods use fewer pesticides). You can learn more at: The What and Why of Local Foods.

About Fierce Fridays — Tips for Weekend Well-Being

We each cherish those precious days off at the end of the week, but increasingly those of us who are charter members of the sisterhood of the stressed and overworked are losing our Saturday and Sunday leisure time to weekend work and domestic duties.

To make sure that you do something every weekend that’s just for you, we’ll be sharing a little advice to make those 48 hours a great time to recharge your batteries, bring a little good news into your life or discover a quick and easy way to improve your health.