Farmers Market Vs. Grocery Store: A Comparison

I had to go to the grocery store this week. As I left an hour later tired, cranky, and bemoaning my overextended budget, I couldn’t help but think:

Why does a typical chain grocery store give me the feeling that I’ve been hit by a steamroller, while even a decent farmers market leaves me feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to create some sort of culinary delight in the kitchen?

I’ve been pondering this question ever since and I’m come up with a few ideas:

  • The narrow selection at a farmers market leaves me with fewer choices, so I feel less overwhelmed.
  • Usually farmers markets are in natural settings, devoid of fluorescent lightning, elevator music, and shopping carts that can be weapons in the hand of an unskilled driver.
  • A sense of community—getting to chat about vegetables or what’s in season or even the weather at each market booth gives your spirits a boost. Typically, even when I have a rare opportunity to interact with a grocery store employee the conversation is not pleasant. (One reason could be that their paychecks do not depend on the sale like they do at market.)
  • When I go to market, I typically only buy a handful of ingredients that look really fabulous to make a few great meals. When I go to the grocery, I try to buy as much as I absolutely can that can last me as darn long as possible . . . so that I can avoid going back for an extended length of time.
  • Cloth shopping bags: adored and expected at the farmers market, looked at with confusion and bewilderment at my local chain store.
  • The grocery store gives me so many chances to make bad food choices that I leave feeling like I’ve spent an hour lusting after junk and then psychologically beating myself up for it. Then there’s the inevitable buyer’s remorse when I buy any sort of prepackaged junk food item that FYI, doesn’t even taste good once you get out of the store.
  • The faceless nature of a grocery store doesn’t give you a good feeling about where your money is going. Yes, real farmers grow the food, and I even happen to know a few that grow at that scale and they aren’t bad people… but since I don’t know what came from where, it takes away the joy of supporting someone who I can see with my own two eyes.
  • Two words: screaming toddlers. This phenomenon seems to be restricted to the grocery store (and sometimes includes my own children)…. where are these kids at the farmers market? I rarely see a crying baby there, but a quick trip down the aisle of any major retail chain can have you tallying them up pretty quickly. I always want to say, “It’s okay, kid, I feel the same way.” (In season, I like to buy a box of mixed cherry tomatoes at the beginning of any trip to the farmers market. My kiddos munch on them the whole way and store up their tantrum-throwing energy for the next time we are at {a grocery store that shall remain nameless}.)
  • Overspending at market leaves me thinking, “Well, I’ve supported some great folks even if it leaves me tight on cash the rest of the week.” Overspending at grocery: “Fantastic. We now have ten bottles of beautifully packaged condiments loaded with corn syrup that I will feel guilty about eating. Think of all the books I could have bought with that money…”

I know there are many other reasons why shopping at a market is more enjoyable than a grocery store. Do you have any reasons to add to the list?

photo © 2008 NatalieMaynor , Flicker

One Response to “Farmers Market Vs. Grocery Store: A Comparison”

  1. July 11, 2012 at 8:41 pm #

    I prefer the farmers market . I also grow a big garden .
    I wish everyone had a green plot where they could have a garden .
    I got chickens this year and they are such fun to watch and great bug control