Michael Grimm/Getty Images

Your first trip to a farmers market can be a bit like that first day in the gym: an intimidating journey filled with interesting smells and people who seem to have a much better grasp of what they are doing than you do. But Kim “FitKim” Olson, a certified nutrition consultant and personal trainer, insists that, by following a few simple guidelines, not only is there nothing to fear, but shopping at your nearby farmers market is easier, cheaper and healthier than slogging through the supermarket aisles.

Go before your trip to the supermarket. Olson hits the farmers market before doing her weekly grocery shopping. Buying in-season produce is often cheaper at the farmers market, and the quality is always better.

Start early. First to the scene usually gets the freshest produce, Olson says. It’s not uncommon to score tomatoes that were picked that morning. If you don’t believe that freshness matters, do a taste test with what you usually buy at the megastore.

Browse before you buy. Walk the aisles and inspect the tables before determining what fruits and veggies you want to bring home. Some stands will carry similar items, so you can compare by price and quality.

Ask questions. Knowledgeable merchants help the farmers market stand out — the people selling the food are often the same people who harvested it. They can provide preparation tips and are usually willing to offer you a taste before you buy.

Bring cash and bags. While many farmers markets accept credit cards, you should bring cash. Olson says that $40 can get you enough healthy food to last the week. Also, bring sturdy reusable bags to haul your loot.

Shop with your eyes. When judging freshness, the most colorful produce is usually your best bet. Don’t be turned off by a little dirt. That’s another good sign that it was harvested recently.



Go to www.localharvest.org to find a farmers market near you. Visit “FitKim” Olson at www.fitkim.com for more healthy-eating tips.