One way that I save money is by making purchases from our local Amish produce auction.
It operates like any auction. The auctioneer announces the item up for bidding, and the bidding begins. I like going to the auction as it reminds me of the many farm auctions I went to with my Dad as a child.
I have been asked by several for tips and how-to’s of buying from the produce auction, so I thought it was time to write a post about it.
Save money- shop at a produce auction!
Our local auction is this one- Plowboy Produce Auction. The produce that they auction mostly comes from the Amish farmers in the area. Don’t be mistaken, just because it comes from an Amish farm does not necessarily mean it is organic. The Amish use just as many chemicals in their farming as we English do. I have seen items marked as “no spray” and such, indicating it may be organic. But, at our auction, there is no way to tell how the produce has been grown. If buying organic is most important to you, purchasing from the auction may not be your best choice. Visiting the individual farmers, or buying from a farmer’s market would be better suited to you.
I live in Tennessee and our state has a great website promoting Tennessee products called Pick TN Products. If you live in TN, or close by, visit this site to find markets. You can also do a Google search for produce auctions in your state to see what may be available near you.
On auction day, be sure to arrive at least 30 minutes before auction time begins. This gives you ample time to register for a bidder number and peruse the produce up for auction. You should be able to inspect and touch the produce before bidding (within reason, of course!). Try to pick out the produce you most desire ahead of time. Once bidding starts, it will move quickly and you may bid on say, large cucumbers when you really wanted small pickling ones.
Also, by being there early, you can get a closer parking space, purchase a cold drink or snack, and take care of any necessary potty breaks.
Take cash with you. Our local auction will take debit/credit cards, but they charge a 3% fee for doing so. Checks are not generally accepted.
To be really prepared, see if you can get a copy of the market report from the last auction day. Our local auction is held every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. They have a Facebook page where they share photos and the market reports. This is not to say that you will get the same prices the next auction day, but it gives you a good idea of what to expect. Remember, supply and demand as well as fellow auction-goers will determine the prices.
Every auction house does things a little differently. For example, at our local auction, you bid per piece, and must purchase at least 4 pieces (if there are that many available for that particular lot). You might be bidding per head of cauliflower, but have to purchase an entire box. Or you might be bidding per box of green beans, and have to take 4 boxes.
Know ahead of time how much you want of any particular item you bid on. I don’t think there is much more frustrating as a fellow bidder (and must be for the auctioneer) than to wait while Susie Homemaker makes up her mind if she wants all 10 boxes of green beans, or 6 boxes, or just the 4 minimum. When you win a bid, hold up your number and tell him how many you want. This helps the auction flow smoothly and quickly. This time of year, the auction is FILLED with produce to sell. Having to wait extra time on bidders slows the process down. Our local auction can take 2+ hours to complete. Imagine if every item had bidders slow at telling the auctioneer how many boxes they want from each lot!
Our auctioneer is easy to understand and always announces the item up for bid. He seems to me to be a patient man, but one who has a job to do. It’s hot and there is a lot to auction off. Being prepared will make everyone more happy.
My best tip is to clear out your refrigerator before heading to the auction. The produce you buy was most likely picked that morning, but will have set outside in the heat (and it’s hot here in Tennessee!) all day. Getting it into the refrigerator once home will chill it down and make your window of preserving time stretch a bit.
I normally set aside at least two days for auctioning. The first day is auction day. Since it begins at 1pm, I won’t be home with my produce until 4pm at the earliest. All I want to do is unload the produce, eat supper, and rest when we get home. The next day is processing day or days.
It’s always more fun with a friend, or a bunch of friends. Also buying with friends means that you can take advantage of the savings by purchasing a huge lot of something and splitting it. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think my family would eat 20 cantaloupes before they went bad. (of course, I could cut up the cantaloupes and freeze them). My point is that buying in bulk is generally a money-saver, but only if you can actually use it all before it goes bad. Preserve it, share it with others, or eat it fresh. But do so before you are throwing that produce away.
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