America's Test Kitchen LogoCook's Country LogoCook's Illustrated Logo
ATK Kids

Make the Most of Family Time at the Farmers’ Market

Take the whole family to the farmers’ market and use these tips to make the most of your visit (and maybe some strawberry shortcake, too)!

Published July 24, 2019.

It’s a lazy weekend morning and you’ve got kids on the hunt for something to do. Grocery shopping might seem like it’s always at the top of the adults’ to-do list. But, it doesn’t have to feel like a chore—if you’ve got a couple of kids going shopping with you.

In fact, it can be a pretty awesome opportunity for some family time, especially if you are fortunate enough to live near a farmers’ market.

These weekly (or more often, if you’re lucky) pop-ups are an excellent way to introduce kids to new foods and flavors, a non-traditional shopping experience, and members of their local community. 

We’ve put together a few tips for making the most of your family’s visit to the farmers’ market. If you can’t make it there, keep these tips in mind next time the kids join you on a trip to the grocery store.

Not sure where your local market is? This national farmers’ market directory from the USDA can help you find the market closest to you. 

Sign up for the Cook's Country Dinner Tonight newsletter

10 ingredients. 45 minutes. Quick, easy, and fresh weeknight recipes.

Tips for Navigating the Farmers’ Market with Kids

Go Early

Farmers’ markets can get crowded. To avoid lines or sold out items, get there early. Think about arriving in time for breakfast and snagging some pastries from a local bakery stand (plus coffee for the adults, of course).

Bring Reusable Bags 

Not all vendors have bags available—and we all know plastic bags aren’t great for the environment. If you don’t want to be stuck holding bunches of celery in your hands all morning, bring a few reusable bags from home. 

Turn Your Visit Into a Game

While you’re at the farmers’ market, occupy young chefs with a fun scavenger hunt. Ask them how many varieties of apples they can find. How many different colors of fruits and vegetables do they see? Or, get specific: How many red foods can they find? More advanced young chefs can try this challenge: Give your child a budget and have them buy ingredients at the farmers’ market. Then using their bounty, challenge your young chef to cook a delicious dish. They’ll love seeing how the food went from farm stand to their plate.

Try Something New 

Each visit, challenge kids to try one new food they haven’t tasted before—it could be a fruit or vegetable, olive oil, a dip or spread, a new variety of cheese, or a type of bread. The key? Let them pick it. Kids tend to try an unfamiliar food if they had a hand in selecting it.

Prep and Store Your Farmers’ Market Finds

Wash Your Produce . . . But Not Right Away

Most fruits and veggies shouldn’t get washed right after you bring them home because the extra moisture can promote mold and bacteria growth. If you need to wash your produce ahead of time, have your young chef mix three parts water and one part vinegar into a spray bottle. Then, have them spray produce with this homemade cleaning solution. Give everything a good rinse (unless you want your produce to taste like vinegar) and pat dry with paper towels. If you’re washing something like berries or broccoli florets, then grab your salad spinner, line it with three paper towels, and spin away! You want to get produce as dry as possible.

Store Your Produce

Once everything is washed, it’s time to store your treasures until you and your young chef are ready to eat or cook with them. For most vegetables, the front of your refrigerator crisper drawer is your best option.

Keep these three tips in mind:

  • Score some carrots with the leafy green tops still attached? When you bring them home, cut off the leafy tops, and store the carrots in an open zipper-lock bag. This method helps the carrots retain most of their moisture without losing firmness. 
  • To store lettuce, herbs, and other leafy greens, wrap the leaves in a moist paper towel and pack them into an open zipper-lock bag.
  • Keep onions, potatoes, and winter squashes in the dark. Store them in a cool, dry, dark area such as a pantry.

Kid-Approved Recipes for Farmers’ Market Fruits and Veggies

Be On-Trend with Toast! 

Grab a loaf of crusty bread from the bread stand and toast a few slices. Let kids choose their toppings of choice: Mashed avocado and a fried egg, fresh from the market? Creamy ricotta cheese with berries and honey

Add a Quick Side Salad to Lunch or Dinner

Grab some baby spinach (or lettuce of your choice), carrots, cucumber, and tomatoes from the market. Kids can use a vegetable peeler to create fancy carrot ribbons and a kid-tested chef’s knife to cut the cucumber into half-moons. Use a small jar to shake up an easy vinaigrette of  Dijon mustard, extra-virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper. Kids can add crumbled or shredded cheese, fruit, nuts, or other veggies to customize their salads

Celebrate Peak Summer with Zucchini “Zoodles”

Zucchini is at its best in the warm summer months and one of the most fun ways to eat it is to turn this green veggie into "zoodles" (otherwise known as zucchini noodles). Kids can prepare their zoodles by trimming the ends of the zucchini with a chef’s knife, and cutting the zucchini into long strips using a spiralizer. After the zoodles roast on a baking sheet, kids can sprinkle them with Parmesan cheese and fresh basil to finish the dish.

For Dessert, Make Strawberry Shortcake!

Grab some fresh, fragrant  strawberries from the fruit stand and have kids use a paring knife to hull them. While the strawberries macerate, kids can whip up a batch of simple drop biscuits and use a hand mixer to make some Whipped Cream. Once all three components are ready, kids can assemble this classic, summery dessert: a biscuit bottom, a scoop of strawberries, a dollop of whipped cream, and a biscuit top. 

Make a farmers’ market visit a weekly family tradition during the growing season (or all year, if you’re lucky enough to live in a mild climate!). 

Introducing the Young Chefs' Club

Every month, young chefs ages 5 and up receive a themed box filled with kid-tested recipes, hands-on activities and experiments, and other creative items, such as art projects, achievement buttons, a kitchen tool or special ingredient, and more.  
Learn More

This is a members' feature.