When I first arrived on-island, I was skeptical to buy food and produce off base. After seeing the prices for items at the on-base grocery stores, I was in shock at how expensive some items could be, and figured off-base items would be the same or more. For example, a 5-pound bag of white potatoes routinely goes for about $8.00 or more on base. Seeing that cost, we decided to switch from a potato to rice family. I blamed the crazy costs on living on an island, however, a friend encouraged me to check out a local farmers market, sharing with me all the great deals she found. I was off with directions in hand, and once I found her stand, I was surprised to see the prices off base were a lot better than on base. Sadly, it took me about six months to stop buying produce on base and find a couple of farmers markets I now go to weekly. I can normally walk out with multiple bags of items, including apples, bananas, potatoes, lettuce, and much more for around 1,500 yen.
Although the idea of going off base for groceries or produce can be scary, the items you can get will be worth the adventure. You won’t have to worry about items going bad within a day or two, and farmers markets and vegetable/fruit stands can be found all over the island, at fixed locations or just on the side of the road. Prices vary by seller, but they are all pretty reasonable, and sometimes you can find a stand that offers items you want for a killer deal. For example, last week I went to a new farmers market and got a bundle of six avocados for 300 yen. Avocados out in town normally go for 100 yen each. I definitely snatched that up and made some yummy guacamole. Nothing beats fresh and homemade favorites.
Some locations have English-speaking employees, but most don’t. So make sure you know what you are looking for or just be adventurous and try a new item or two. You never know what gem you will find. One of my favorite haunts is located in Awase, just off of Route 20 past 329. Most static farmers markets seem to only be open Monday through Saturday, as friends and I have found out the hard way. Since there are so many great stands, I ask you to share your favorites and help open others’ eyes to the possibilities of buying produce from the local economy. I look back now and wish I had not waited six months before buying local produce.