So you’ve made the decision to shop for local produce…congrats! Buying local is not only environmentally friendly, but is better for your body and supports the local economy as well. The first trip or two to the local market may seem overwhelming, but you’re not alone! Read these tips to get the most bang for your buck when going local.

Take it all in

The Farmer’s Market can be an overwhelming experience the first few times you go. It may seem that everyone is either coming from or going to exercise, that they all know each other, and that every last one of them remembered their reusable bags, but trust me you are not alone! There are many new things to see, do, and often taste at the Farmer’s Market, but that’s what makes it so great. Don’t take these things for granted, but rather allow them to enrich your experience.

Shop around

Farmer’s Markets stock local, seasonal produce and therefore many farms are selling similar goods. The same fruits, veggies, even flowers will turn up stand after stand. Take a loop or two around the market before making any purchases to do some price and quality comparisons. A little customer service never hurt either, so if you feel drawn to one farm over another based on their service with a smile, then go for it!

Build relationships

Return to trustworthy farms that provide quality foods at a good price week after week. You can even look into the CSA (community supported agriculture) option for these farms in which you pay up front for several weeks of food boxes. Each week will stock a variety of fresh, local produce (and sometimes meat) for you to enjoy.

Be adventurous

Don’t be afraid to try new things—that’s one of the beauties of the Farmer’s Market. In most cases, the farmer and his/her staff will be more than willing to share preparation tips and recipes to help take your new food from farm to fork. And take their word for it- they’ve probably been eating lots since it harvested.

Don’t forget to be a consumer

Just because you’re at the Farmer’s Market doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be skeptical or ask questions. So those organic, made-to-order perogies are $15 per package? Don’t just ring it up, but rather take the time to ask key questions. How many will I get? How many meals will this make? How big are they? Can I freeze them? You get the idea. Find out how long produce or other items will last.

Make a budget

Many farms only take cash, so one of the best ways to keep costs down is to only take a certain amount with you. Once the money runs out, you’re done for the day. To stretch the cash even further, make a goal for how many different items you want to bring home. This will help you determine how much of different fruits, veggies, eggs, meat, dairy, etc. to load up on.

Keep the 'Dirty Dozen' rule in mind

Focus on this list of produce to buy local and organic before others.

Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD is a best selling author and the creator of "The F-Factor Diet", an innovative nutritional program she has used for over a decade to provide thousands with the tools they need to achieve easy weight loss and maintenance, and improved health and well-being. In January 2011 Tanya launched the F-Factor food line with the largest natural foods company in the US, the Hain Celestial group. She is thrilled to be able to offer the highest fiber products on the market to date. Become a fan of Tanya on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian in New York City and the author of two bestselling diet books: The F-Factor Diet and The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber.

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