Simply Fresh Meals

Using local markets to plan healthy summer meals

Shopping at farmers markets may not be as convenient as the supermarket, but it’s a wonderful way to introduce healthy foods to your family, and help kids understand our food systems. We asked Cathy Vogt, a certified health counselor and professional chef who uses fresh Hudson Valley ingredients in her meals to share her market shopping secrets and her tips on how to create summer meals for busy families. Find more of her recipes at


Choose foods in season

Focus your meal planning around these foods. You can find what’s fresh using the calendar on New York State’s Department of Agriculture and Markets website. Include your children in the shopping experience by having them pick out a new vegetable or fruit.


Bring cash. Or food stamps.


It’ll be faster and easier for everyone. Unlike what is available at the supermarket, fresh, local food is not subsidized and can sometimes cost more. Many farmers markets in the United States participate in the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) program. WIC provides Federal grants to States for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women. If your family qualifies, you can receive coupons good at farmer’s markets that help supplement your meals. Find more information on the Food and Nutrition Service website.


Another money saving alternative is participating in a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). CSAs provide a partnership between a farm and a community of supporters. Common Ground Farm in Beacon is part of the CSA movement and offers a traveling farm stand called “Common Greens” that sets up in Beacon and also visits other towns. This mobile market accepts foods stamps and features cooking demonstrations, raffles, giveaways and more.


Shop early in the day


You'll find the best selection and the freshest produce at this time. Go late if you are looking for deals and are not picky. Vendors will be happy not to haul anything back with them and will want to get rid of leftovers.


Be social


Ask the farmers about their growing practices, how the food is raised, and if they have any cooking suggestions. Many markets offer free recipes and samples, and have cooking demonstrations to inspire you to try new foods. This is a great time to get your kids to experiment, too.


Keep your meals simple


Focus on one or two main farm market ingredients and build a meal around those. A recent trip Vogt took to her local market resulted in the following menu when she purchased a large head of crispy cabbage: quick summer slaw with cabbage, carrots, summer herbs, apples and toasted sunflower seeds, served with locally raised organic turkey burgers on toasted olive bread.

Vogt loves planning meals from farm market finds. Read here for one her favorites.