Should I Be Allowed To Eat Free Farmer's Market Samples? Day 49: Eating Well On $1 A Day


We have the first new rule controversy that needs to be put in front of all of you (as the new rules dictate when there is a disagreement) to decide whether or not I am allowed to do this as part of my $1 a day challenge. I went to a farmer's market this morning and had a great time walking around and sampling all the foods that were being sold there. Not only was there an abundance of different types of fruits (oranges, peaches, plums, apricots, raspberries, nectarines, etc), there were also flavored nuts, wonderful cracker spreads, candied popcorn, breads, pies, pastries and much more. By the time I had walked through the entire market, I felt as if I had eaten a full meal.

Of course, when my sister found out that I had done this and had even brought some of the samples home, she said that getting free samples at the farmer's market should be against the rules of the eating on $1 a day challenge:

farmers market

farmers market samples

Since we disagree on this, the question goes to you all to decide. Am I allowed to take free samples when I am at the farmer's market? Here is my sister's argument against it and mine for it:

Sister's Argument: The farmer's market samples are for people who are thinking about buying something to taste it to make sure it is something that they will really like. They are not meant for people like me that have no intention of buying anything. They are also not meant to be taken home to use later. The samples are supposed to be eaten right then and there at the farmer's market so you can instantly decide if you are going to buy what the vendor is selling.

My Argument: The free samples are part of the marketing effort of the vendors. I am not abusing the system – I only take a single sample of each food sample that is available. In fact, many of the vendors encouraged me to take samples as I walked by. While it is true that with my current budget I can't afford to purchase most of the food at the farmer's market, that doesn't mean that when my finances are better that I won't. Free samples are part of the farmer's market culture and there is nothing wrong with taking them if I am there.

Those are the two arguments and now it's up to you to decide if I can take samples when at the farmer's market in the future. I will abide by whatever the results of the poll indicate and feel free to comment your opinion when it comes to this question.

Can I take free samples at the farmer's market?

View Results

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With the warmer weather, the blackberries are beginning to ripen. I think that in another week, there will be a lot ready for picking (can't wait). Today on my morning walk I found a few more:

foraged blackberries

Blackberry Banana Smoothie

My daily morning blackberry banana smoothie (handful of blackberries, banana, 7 ice cubes) didn't turn out nearly as well as usual. I was down to 4 ice cubes, so decided to add water for the other three. The result was that it didn't have the thickness that it usually does:

berry smoothie

Fruit Salad & Quiche

I took about 3/4 of the different fruit I had taken from the farmer's market and made it into a fruit salad which was really good. I also had another 1/4 of the quiche I had previously made:

fruit and quiche breakfast

Veggie Noodle Soup

I took the advice of DeeAnn and had some leftover pasta from my Beefy Pasta Florentine which she suggested could be made into an easy vegetable soup (water + bouillon + frozen veggies + leftover noodles)

veggie spiral pasta soup

I had a bowl of the veggie noodle soup with the rest of the Roasted Veggies I had left over:

veggie pasta soup

Veggie Rice

Between the meals I had and all the snacking at the farmer's market, I wasn't really all that hungry in the evening. I decided to cook up some of the rice (2 cups) I had and took the advice of a number of readers and added chicken bouillon to the water to give it a bit more flavor. I also added a cup of frozen veggies (I have a lot of left overs):

Veggie rice dinner

This is the current list of food I still have
This is the current list of what I have purchased:

Money Spent $37.50
Money left to spend: $23.50 ($1.33 must be spent at CVS)
Retail Value of everything bought: $995.24

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The Beginning ::: Day 50″ Square Watermelons

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47 Responses to Should I Be Allowed To Eat Free Farmer's Market Samples? Day 49: Eating Well On $1 A Day

  1. Priskill says:

    You are totally entitled to the samples — it’s kind of like foraging. And all over America, people are getting free samples at farmer’s markets, supermarkets, Costco, etc., so this is completely open to anyone.

    I am going to try and talk to my store managers to find out about coupon policies as you suggested . . . Thanks and cheerio!

  2. T says:

    I voted yes, however it’s definitely a, “Yes, but…”

    In this case, you and your sister are both half right (and I say that as one who read the title and was sure your sister was being a sore loser again).

    You should be entitled to farmers’ market samples WHILE YOU ARE THERE. If your farmers/vendors are so generous with their samples that you fill up as a meal, good for you. That’s creative and good thinking (akin to the copious free samples elsewhere, such as Costco & Sam’s Club, as the first commenter mentioned).

    However, no place else would you be welcome to take some home without purchasing, and I do not think it’s any more appropriate at a farmers’ market than anywhere else. If you want strawberries (or, in the case of Costco, strawberry pop-tarts) at your house, you have to buy them. Simple as that.

    It’s unfortunate you didn’t include a third option of “other, and I’ll explain in the comments” in your poll to account for the folks who might have a “yes, but…” or “no, except…”

  3. Kai says:

    Farmer’s markets all over the country operate that way, so yours is certainly no exception. Would your sister have a problem with you doing a Costco lunch round, or having a Sunday breakfast at church? If it’s something everyone has access to, I don’t see a problem. =)

    However, taking them home would be stockpiling, which shouldn’t go hand-in-hand with free, in-person samples, as that would be far more difficult and/or unreasonable place to place.

    Definitely yes, but I agree with ‘T’. At least for the challenge, don’t take them home.

  4. deana says:

    I think you should be able to take it home with you if you want. I don’t consider it stockpiling because you are only taking one sample from each vendor (if you take a bunch from one vendor, that is stockpiling and another story). It is your choice if you eat that sample then or later.

  5. Leslie says:

    I think samples are allowed. I’ve gotten samples and coupons when they’ve been given out. Even if I wasn’t planning on buying that day. The whole point is that those offering the samples want you to try it and hope that you’ll buy it. If not that day, then another. Its basic marketing, and they know from the get go, that some will succumb to the marketing ploy and some won’t. If it wasn’t a successful tool, they wouldn’t do it. And yes, I have at times taken home a sample… I won’t like this, but my daughter might (I actually specifically remember this from being given a sample pack of Welch’s fruit snacks at Sam’s years ago, and they were more than happy for me to take it home). So, yes, free samples are free samples.

  6. Anisa says:

    I think the farmer’s market thing counts as foraging.

  7. Kelli says:

    I think samples are totally allowed. I also think your sister wants to make your experiment as difficult as possible so it’s less likely that you’ll succeed. >:(

    You homeless people with nothing but a dollar in their pockets enjoy those samples? Absolutely. Could you possibly buy up to a dollar of produce there? Absolutely. Are you required to in order to walk around the farmers market? Absolutely not.

    However I have to agree with the previous poster who said that taking samples home seems like cheating. You can have a free “fruit plate” while at the market… but taking samples home, unless they are handing out packaged samples, doesn’t seem right.

  8. ShorterMama says:

    There are 3 of us here. We all agree it’s okay to eat samples, but not to take any home. In fact – my Father in law says you’re a bum for taking them home. He says he could eat for a $1 a day if he pan-handled.

  9. amber says:

    I voted yes but, like the other posters said I would not bring the samples home. Eating the samples at the farmers market would be fine. They could be part of you breakfast.

  10. Aimee says:

    Sample…but don’t take home. That’s my take! =)

  11. Eric says:

    I vote ‘no’ because I think supplementing your diet from the farmer’s market violates the original intent of your bet, which I believe concerned whether or not you could eat well on $1 per day and coupons. Although you seem to have succeeded admirably, if you had failed you would no doubt have sought other means to supplement your diet, including free samples, getting yourself invited to dinner at friend’s houses, dumpster diving, soup kitchens, and perhaps shoplifting. In theory, then, you might end up spending nothing at all for a month, but I don’t think that would prove anything about your original bet.

  12. marge says:

    I am surprised at the number of people that think that taking home the samples is not allowed. Personally I wouldn’t, but this is a challenge to eat on $1 a day which means doing things much differently than we normally do. If it is not illegal, then I think it should be allowed.

    Just because I wouldn’t personally do it doesn’t mean that it isn’t a way for someone to save money if they need to. If I only had $1 a day and that is the only way I could get fresh fruit for my family, I would consider doing it.

    The reason I am surprised is because I often have people tell me that I am cheating when I use coupons to save so much. I do it differently than most people and so they think it is wrong and shouldn’t be allowed. I assume other couponers have been treated the same so I’m surprised more people here aren’t looking at this as a creative, legal way to get food.

  13. Kelli says:

    By the way, a possible money maker for you at Safeway…

    Yoplait Fiber One 4-Pack $2
    -$1 printable on Coupons.com
    -$1 Cellfire eCoupon (stacks with manuf coupons)
    -$1 Shortcuts eCoupon (stacks with manuf coupons)
    = free yogurt + $1 overage for other things!

    Should be good until 6/22, although likely a one shot deal (rather than something you could do 6 or 7 times). Still, it should stretch out your daily budget a bit!

  14. jeffrey says:

    @Kelli,

    Yes, I saw that when Niki mentioned that deal: http://www.grocerycouponguide.com/articles/rolaids-moneymaker-free-yogurt-safeway-deals-616-622/

    I’m still deciding whether I will get 2 for free or use $1 for something else.

  15. Sheila says:

    The farmers market is open to the public so the samples are freely avalible to anyone. The samples are given away by the vendors. Gifts come without strings attached. You are free to taste it, throw it out, give it away, take it home, or what ever else you decided to do with the samples. The sample becomes your property once it has been given to you.

    I know several people who live off after market gleanings that the farmers give away at the end of the day rather than take them home. My sister feeds a small home flock of laying hens, several meat rabbits and a couple of milk goats this way.

  16. Jill B says:

    Unless there is a sign at the entrance to the farmer’s market that says, “must have food budget of $2/day or greater to enter and enjoy samples”, it’s fair game. Also, the farmers offer the samples, and suggested you take some. They did not say, “only take some if you promise to come back and buy my food.” They know they’re giving them away, they know that most of the people who sample their wares won’t be coming back to buy from them. It’s the way it all works. Especially in a system where most of the people purchasing from them aren’t taking samples. If you were STEALING samples (ie, taking what wasn’t being offered), that would be inappropriate. And as the vendors suggested that you take some home with you, that was THEIR suggestion – you didn’t even ask for it. All is good, as far as I’m concerned.

  17. ami says:

    I’m leaning toward the “Yes, but” side.

    I think foraging at the farmer’s market, eating samples being offered by vendors is ok. Eating your fill of such samples is ok. Eating your fill and taking extras is not.

    However – I think the deciding factor is: what was the original intent of your quest? Are you trying to show that a person who has access to no more than $1/day can do it – or are you trying to share the tricks that can be used to get by on $1/day – or something else? The mindset of someone with only $1/day is very different from someone with more who is trying to prove a somewhat academic point – and the circumstances might dictate different outcomes and approaches. Maybe the rule should be no samples until the end of the day – when you’re ‘gleaning’ what’s left.

  18. Colleen says:

    I think you should be that is a part of eating on a budget! Today I went ot a BBQ and came home with 3 plates of food (that were forced on me LOL) + a pineapple, 6 bananas and 2 coconuts. My daughter said your $1 a day guy would be proud! when we where growing up, very broke…we always looked forward to free sample and bbq or bday parties I think everyone who is trying to stretch thier money does the same thing, good luck to you, I think your sister might be a little jealous bc you are doing so good at this challenge!

  19. Colleen says:

    BTW , I went to costco in Thursday and you know how they give you so many samples, some just don’t go with others in your tummy, so I had a small baggie of almonds in my purse and added 3 of my little cups of sample to it some jelly bellies , some flavored almonds and some chocolate and had it for a snack a work…but hey that’s just me.

  20. Kaitlin McCormick says:

    Hi! I love your blog 🙂 I just recently started to coupon and I’m finding that I’m acquiring a TON of razors and other household items. I would like to donate them, but I don’t know how to find somewhere in my area. Do you have any suggestions?

    P.S. Sampling is OK in my book. I wouldn’t take them home, though 🙂

  21. Suga says:

    I did vote yes, but next time–eat it at the farmer’s market. I would treat this situation as I would a buffet, take what you want but want all you take.

    Oh BTW, that veggie rice is one scrambled egg away from fried rice!!!

    Directions: put a TBSP of oil in your pan (if your rice sticks to the pan–add more oil), dump veggie rice in pan to heat over med-high heat, scramble one egg and dump on top of rice, stir into rice until egg is cooked. Salt & pepper to taste. Enjoy!

  22. jeffrey says:

    @Kaitlin McCormick

    There are some food banks that take items like that as well to distribute (others don’t). Any type of homeless shelter or place where people are trying to get back onto their financial feet (mothers getting out of abusive relationships, group homes for at risk teens, etc) always can use goods like that. Start asking around and you should find plenty of volunteer organizations that would love to get your extras.

  23. Suga says:

    @Kaitlin I usually donate my extra toiletries to the local homeless shelter. If you don’t have a homeless shelter, or a food bank (which sometimes won’t accept non-food items) you can try calling local churches. During the post-Katrina days, I was completely AMAZED by how many churches have a free pantry/closet to clothe and feed those people who come to their doors in need. Good luck in finding a good home for your surplus!

  24. Mel says:

    I voted yes, and w/o the “BUT”, for a few reasons.

    1) This is the 2nd month of the challenge, not the first, and so the rules allow for some flexibility, yes?

    2) You are giving so much to Food Banks…this is not a selfish act on your part.

    3) Like others mentioned, this is a marketing deal and they know the percentages. You are actually part of their advertising if you walk around with their food, are seen eating it…etc. So it’s a win-win.

    If you weren’t giving to the Food Banks I may have agreed with the “BUT”; but 🙂 to me that overrides everything else.

    Btw, bcz of you I saved $21, over 75%, on red seedless grapes. Tx.

  25. jeffrey says:

    @Mel

    Congrats! Always great to hear that people are able to keep a little more in their pockets from any info that I may have provided 🙂

  26. Angela says:

    My first thought, like some others, was that your sister was being a poor sport about this. Of course, I don’t personally know your sister so I am not going to assume that she would intentionally WANT for you to suffer.
    Anyway, it’s my opinion that samples at the farmer’s market would fall under the “foraging” category. It’s not like you were going from stand to stand stuffing things into a bag to bring home! I also do not think that samples should be consumed at the farmer’s market only. I don’t see any difference between this and the blackberries or lemons that you have been able to pick.
    I’m looking forward to hearing the results!

  27. Beth says:

    I love this challenge, I’ve been following it devotedly since I stumbled onto it.

    One thing: you often don’t comment on the taste some of your new creations. For example, today’s ‘veggie rice’ and ‘veggie noodle soup’ — you show the dish and give its ingredients, but how did it *taste*? Did you like it? Do you plan to eat it again?

    Or should we just assume that ‘no comment’ means you didn’t like it?

  28. Mary says:

    Yes.
    Free food shouldn’t count either…birthday parties, friends inviting you over for a meal, and the like.
    … we eat with friends or family a couple times a week. LOL Maybe around here we have BBQs and get togethers more than most.

  29. Peter M says:

    I think some people will instinctively say no but in reality..its just not average or normal practice instead of being wrong. I will have to vote yes. The free samples are a lure to get you to buy the food, it didn’t work. They lost the game lol.

  30. Jamie says:

    I also voted YES and would agree that this is a type of foraging. I have really enjoyed following this challenge.

  31. Tami says:

    I say yes. Anyone could walk through there and get the samples so why not you? As for the taking some home, I don’t think that I would do that BUT as long as you don’t take more than one sample from each vendor, I don’t see a problem with it. They offered, you took. Doesn’t mean you have to eat it right then and there. Now if you were there and grabbing handfuls of stuff from each vendor than yeah, I think that would be wrong.

  32. Alicia says:

    I voted “yes” but feel a comment should be made. Since your sister thinks that eating free samples at the farmers market is forbidden and against the rules, then it follows that picking fruit in the wild (foraging) should also be against the rules….since you’re not paying for it.

    I don’t agree with some of the other readers, that you shouldn’t take samples home. If someone happens to eat at a restaurant (such as Eat N Park…here in PA), they’re offered a box for the leftovers. Would that be against the rules, too? As someone else mentioned, there’s also church suppers, birthday parties, dinners with friends, etc. I seriously doubt there is anyone who ONLY eats what they buy themselves.

    What you’re doing is commendable, Jeffrey. I’ve followed this challenge since the beginning and gotten so many helpful hints it isn’t funny. I think there must be a mindset out there that tells people it isn’t right to try to eat cheaply and healthy. So please keep up the good work. Your sister should praising your efforts and ingenuity, not putting roadblocks in your path. Perhaps she doesn’t realize how many people out there who are struggling desperately that you are potentially helping!

  33. Ryan says:

    Voting no since it’s not routinable – if that’s a word – because most people won’t be able to fit a jaunt through the local Farmer’s Market regularly. I mean, there’s free food, and then there’s dignity. It would almost be the equivalent to begging since the food is offered for free to strangers, which would be the equivalent to going to a food bank which is against the rules.

  34. Dana says:

    I think you should be able to eat as you did at the farmer’s market and bring samples home for several reasons:
    1) The samples they are offering are perishable, so the sellers can’t save them for another day. Assuming they have more samples than they have customers, they would just have to throw away the samples that you didn’t take. You might even want to go back next week at the end and ask them if they have any fruit samples you can haul away, to spare them the bother and to also keep them from throwing away perfectly good food.

    2) You’re not taking a large amount of samples from one seller, so his cost is minimal. I mean, what’s the going rate for a slice of nectarines lately?

    3) Sellers give away their samples to encourage sales, but they are also hoping to build good will and create word of mouth. By blogging about them, you’ve definitely created good publicity that’s worth far more than one grape. (You might want to link to their site so people in the area can know where to find them.)

    4) I see no difference between the fruit samples you brought home versus the samples you got in the mail last month. As long as you’re honest and abide by all rules, I think a free sample of any sort should be allowed.

  35. Michelle says:

    Definitely think you should be able to get free samples at the farmers market, but am inclined to think you should eat it there and use it as a free meal or snack. My husband on the other hand thinks it counts as a foraging trip and says your sister should give you some slack since you have given some of your excess food to a local food pantry and this should allow you to get some free stuff in return for a good deed.

  36. T says:

    Let me concede on one point (but not the whole thing).

    IF there are sample or seconds (for within your price range) at the end of the day, AND the farmers are fine with it (which, frankly, they are likely to be), taking home samples is probably fair game and more akin to foraging than not.

    However, I still think it inappropriate to take home samples during the height of the market, if that’s what you did.

    I should also say, and unrelated to this post but related to other comments, I do think it’s crazy that you’re only eating your food at family picnics and such. Especially while sharing your hard-earned food (however you earned it) with your sister’s children. I don’t ever go to a BBQ or school potluck and only eat what I brought, so it’s unreasonable to think you can’t eat whatever is there as well. Furthermore, in a case like that, it’s fair game to take home anything someone wants to send with you (and I’d say it’s even fair to go so far as to ask if you can take home something you wanted or liked at the end, presuming you know the person well enough). That’s a big part of what those very bonding experiences are about, shared food!

    Samples serve a very different purpose, and so should probably be viewed with that purpose in mind. If you go at the end so as to balance that purpose with the goal of not wasting samples or other food, well, I do not see anything wrong with that either (somewhat contrary to my original comment, I realize).

  37. Mel says:

    You are not eating the food offered at gatherings??! Somehow I missed that part in your blog. If this is your sister again, it is mean-spirited. Under the first month’s rules, I might have been able to understand her point…maybe. But now it is just outrageous and sadistic to be prevented from partaking in the food being served. I am the older sister for my brother and we’re competitive, but I’d never be that severe.

  38. Christina says:

    I voted yes, but I, too think that you should only eat the samples while you are there. I don’t think that you should take samples home.

    And @Alicia, at a restaurant, you pay for the meal you’re eating that you are given a takeout box for, I don’t think that these 2 things are really the same.

    Keep up the good work! Can’t wait to read your post about the Father’s Day BBQ today!

  39. mmmdonuts says:

    I voted yes because, really, aren’t we all trying to play the system to save money (and in your case help feed hungry people)? Companies offer coupons in order to profit by our buying their products – they don’t intend for us to play the system and get their products for free. Similarly, credit card companies offer credit and rewards for the purpose of getting us to borrow so they can profit from interest and fees. But we can play the system – borrow, pay within the grace period, collect our rewards – and never pay a cent of interest.

    I also believe it’s fine to take samples home. As someone else commented above, free samples are a gift and so there should be no strings attached.

    Now, if herds of foragers started hitting the farmers’ market, vendors might get concerned about losing product, and might have to police samples personally, or post a sign along the lines of “one sample per person please.” That would kind of spoil the friendly, down-home ambiance, so maybe you could decide this issue for yourself with the moral question: do you want to be part of a trend that caused something like that to happen?

    Anyway, thank you so much for blogging this adventure. I finally have a glimmer of how this extreme couponing thing works! Your writing is entertaining and informative, and it’s been a lot of fun seeing your cooking skills improve, too.

  40. jeffrey says:

    @Beth

    I’m not sure that me writing about the taste of the food would be a good thing. My palate challenged status definitely extends to my taste and since I basically didn’t care about what food tasted like before I started this (and I’m still not convinced that I ever really will to the extent that most people do), it may be better that I don’t comment. With that disclaimer now out in the open, I will try to give a bit more of my opinion about the taste of the meals in the future.

  41. Kellie says:

    I voted yes and I totally think it’s ok to take samples home with you too. If you were taking multiple samples from each vendor, then maybe that would be different. But the way I see it, if there are so many vendors offering samples that you can’t comfortably consume them all while you’re there, then by all means take them home. Often times you can buy produce at farmer’s markets much cheaper than in the supermarket, so really for someone doing this type of experiment going to the farmer’s market & sampling everything, checking out the prices, is really great research, because you might find some super deals on great food. And even if you were taking multiple samples from each vendor (provided they were ok with it) I still think it would fall under foraging.

  42. Ryan says:

    I should clarify my no vote. I think its ok to eat samples, but to be clear I don’t think it’s reasonable to set the expectation that a meal can be had – especially for a family of people. As long as its viewed as a snack, it might help set proper expectations for anyone anywhere. If it’s anything more, then I think it’s equated with getting a “meal” of free food from the food bank, which is against the rules (and perhaps why your sister doesn’t like the idea of “using” that option since it can be abused and set improper expectations for anyone anywhere).

  43. Shara says:

    I’m in the “yes, but…” camp.

  44. Deedee says:

    Wow, the vendors at our farmers’ market don’t give samples. Lucky you.
    I personally think it is tacky to take samples from vendors when you have no intention of purchasing anything. I think it is OK to take a sample (i.e. one strawberry) (IF OFFERED) and eat it right there to see if it is of the quality you wish to purchase.
    I’m sorry – I’m a big fan of what you are doing, but when I saw that picture of your fruit salad I think you took WAY too many samples. And that’s not even all the fruit you took? I think you violated the spirit of the law of samples. 🙂
    Oh well, maybe if I had to live on $1 a day I’d get over my ideas of social graces in a hurry!

  45. Katrina says:

    I voted yes on the samples, since foraging is allowed. If you can pick up beers on the side of the road and that is OK, i don’t see how this isn’t.

    I also wondered if you eating at a friend’s house would be OK, since us normal people do that; BUT I think the caveat to that would be that you’d have to host some friends over another night.

  46. Pax says:

    The challenge is “eating well on $1 a day”, not “eating well on $1 a day ONLY USING COUPONS”.
    I also notice new rule #4:
    “4. I am allowed to forage for food and get food from alternative places than just regular retail outlets.”
    Samples from Farmers Market is “food from alternative place”.

    So you are not breaking any rules by eating samples form any place (farmers market or supermarkets).

    The reason people put up samples has nothing to do with the challenge.

  47. roxie says:

    Definitely a YES vote from me. Anyone who has a farmers market near them has the equal opportunity to glean samples, leftovers, etc. It is foraging, just as the lemons and blackberries are. And if you would happen to start gathering wild greens, that would be seasonal foraging as well. It is the thing ANY person determined to eat for little to no money could and would do.