I love shopping at our local produce auction. My parents have frequently attended plant and nursery auctions and I wanted to try my hand at this. At first it can be intimidating, but with these tips, you can learn how to save money for your family and how to shop at a produce auction. At the end I have a list of some of the produce auctions in Pennsylvania.
Since it was summer and we all need a mental break from thinking about special education all the time….I am doing a little less special ed posting and more fun stuff–recipes, travel reviews, etc. But, my main goal for this blog is to be about special education and special needs parenting, so I was starting to feel like I was getting off track. But we’re still regular parents, trying to raise our kids happy, healthy and saving money in the process, right? And honestly, my child with special needs enjoys going and there is much to be taught there. I’m still doing lots of special ed stuff too, don’t worry.
Last summer, I really got into gardening and shopping at produce auctions and other alternative venues to buy food. I mean, other than grocery stores. I still go there for the bulk of what we eat, but more and more trying to eat healthier and save money. Shopping at a produce auction can be a great way to get health food at great prices. I have been meeting some of my mom friends there and have more that are interested so I thought I’d share some tips. In my opinion, actual shopping at the produce auction is one of the last things to do on this list!
First step to shopping a produce auction-RESEARCH and planning!
There is so much research to be done before you go. If you don’t know of a produce auction, you have to find one (list below). You should check your state Dept of Agriculture website for starters, or ask around. You can ask at local farm stands if they buy their produce at auctions or if they sell it at auctions. Then you have to find them online to research their hours (many vary seasonally). You also have to determine if they sell to individuals and not just businesses, and what types of payment they take.
You also have to research what items they are selling now (again, varies seasonally) in your area. You likely will have to buy in quantities larger than what you would normally buy–so you have to have a plan for it. Research how to prepare and preserve whatever it is that you bring home. Luckily, you really only have to do this part once or twice. Once you find an auction that you like and get into the habit of preserving produce, this part is a cinch.
Have a plan! If you are going out of town for the weekend, don’t buy 8 dozen ears of corn on a Friday. Don’t ask me how I know this! But I have friends who have preserving and canning parties, or evenings together with prepping for storage and lots of wine. If you are going to buy a lot of produce, have a plan for what to do with it. And make sure you have the time open to deal with it before it goes bad.
Next step in shopping a produce auction-find a friend and arrive early.
If you can find a friend or group of friends to go with you, makes it easier to buy more reasonable quantities. Also makes it more fun! I sometimes have to bring my kids, so then they have other kids to play with too.
If it’s your first time, arrive early. Take a look around. Find out where you go to get an auction number. You also need to confirm what forms of payment they take. Next walk around and look at the items that interest you and look at the tags on the items. That should tell you how the lots are being sold. So if you see 4 cases of tomatoes on a cart, are they selling one lot of 4 cases, or 2 of 2, or 4 of 1? This will be important. I once had a guy ask me to buy 50lbs of potatoes–he was on the hook for 10 bags when he thought he was buying one!
Also, see if they have a cash and carry section. If they do, that might be all you need. If I don’t have friends to go with, I often just purchase from the cash and carry and then leave. Still good deals to be found!
Step 3-bid, win and enjoy your bounty!
You should be aware, the auctioneers likely talk like….auctioneers. It takes some getting used to. Some are easier to understand than others. Some auctions have multiple going at once which can make it really hard to pay attention. Keep in mind that this is their job, and likely they want to get through this auction as quickly as possible. So while you shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions, try to be a quick learner and learn from observing. I’ve seen some get irritated at newbies slowing things down. At Oxford they have always been polite, gracious and answered our questions. Have a price in mind that is your max, because it will move quickly. So, for example, I was looking at 8 bunches of broccoli, that was the lot. I figured I didn’t want to spend more than $10, so I bid up to about a $1 or $1.10…and then once it hit $1.50, I knew that was way over my limit so I shook my head no and backed away.
Obey the produce auction rules
The Oxford auction has signs up asking you not to sell/resell produce on auction grounds outside of the auction. You wouldn’t do it at any other business, so don’t do it here. Respect that this is their business. (I have seen people openly reselling stuff and it’s rude!) You don’t go to a beer store and buy a case of beer and then sell it by the can in the parking lot, right? So don’t do it here either.
And in the end, it is so worth it! Here are some of my produce auction finds.
And you can sometimes find unusual, great stuff. My friend Jen got huge pots of mums for $2 each. That same day, we split this box of carrots, just $3 each!
In closing, I can usually get a whole trunk full of produce for about $20. It’s locally grown, often chemical free and much better quality than what I find in the stores. But mind you, it is work. It takes a few hours to go and do it, and it takes many hours once you get home. But to have delicious produce all winter long…I am willing to do the work.
Here are some local auctions you may be interested in.
List of produce auctions in Pennsylvania
Oxford Produce Auction, LLC
200 Union School RD
Oxford, Pennsylvania 19363
Hours-changes seasonally, double check!
Tue: 9:00 am – 11:00 am
Thu: 9:00 am – 11:00 am
Fri: 8:30 am – 11:30 am
*Buffalo Valley Produce Auction
22 Violet Road,
Mifflinburg, Union County, PA
Sales every Tuesday and Thursday at 9:30 a.m.
Kutztown Produce Auction
209 Oak Haven Road
Fleetwood, Berks County, PA
Sales Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 9 a.m.
Leola Produce Auction
135 Brethren Church Road
Leola, Lancaster County, PA
Sales Tuesday at 10 a.m.
Weaverland Produce Auction
1030 Long Lane Road
New Holland, Lancaster County, PA
Sales will be Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9am each week.
ROOT’S Country Market & Auction, Inc.
705 Graystone Road
Manheim, PA 17545
Hours: Every Tuesday
April to Oct – 9 AM to 9 PM
Nov. to March – 9 AM to 8 PM
Kirkwood Produce Auction
1597 Kirkwood Rd.
Kirkwood, PA 17536