7 Ways to Save on Fruits and Vegetables
After my post 4 Things I Do to Keep Our Grocery Budget at $200 for a Family of Four I got a lot of questions about how I save money on fruits and veggies and still am able to spend $200/mo. In fact I had quite a few comments saying that we must eat quite unhealthful and consume only processed foods. Well, that is far from true! While I’m sure we have lots of room to improve, I think we do eat fairly healthy and actually enjoy a decent amount of fruits and veggies.
Here are the main ways that I save money when it comes to purchasing produce. Hopefully even if you can’t make them all fit your lifestyle, you’ll be able to get a couple of ideas that will help you save.
Update 3/2014: Since I wrote this post, Checkout 51 started up and has been a great way to save on fresh produce. They frequently have savings on both fresh fruits and vegetables and you can use their offers at ANY store that lists the item on the receipt. If you aren’t already signed up, check it out!
1. Grow your own
This is probably hands down the biggest way to save on produce. Obviously not everyone has space for a huge garden or the time either. But before you go writing off this option consider growing a few things in pots. You don’t need much space at all to grow herbs or a tomato or pepper plant in a pot and it will not take up much of your time either. You might even want to consider turning a flower bed into a small garden.
I’m no green thumb, in fact I really know little about gardening. But this year I planted a zucchini in a semi-shaded spot against our garage and while it bit the dust recently I was able to get 3 smallish zucchini from it. I only paid $0.75 for the plant so I at least didn’t lose any money. I also planted a pepper plant in a pot and have already gotten several peppers from it and there are quite a few more hanging on. I only paid $1.00 for that plant so it has easily saved me money! It’s been fun to grow a few things and next year I plan to add a tomato plant in a pot and I’d also like to put a few things in our only flowerbed too.
2. Buy from the grower direct
Instead of buying produce at your local grocery store go to the grower directly. Stop by local orchards, road side stands, or visit your local farmer’s market. Typically you’ll be able to save a lot by cutting out the middle man and you’ll also be getting much fresher produce!
As with all things, check around to see who has the lowest prices. The first year we lived here I bought all my fruit from a well-known local orchard because I didn’t really know where else to go and since they were so busy I figured they were reasonably priced. Well, a couple of years later I discovered another orchard just a bit further away that was consistently several dollars a bushel less expensive. I’ve had the same experience with road side stands. Stop and check prices, ask your friends where they like to go for inexpensive produce- you just might be surprised at the savings you’ll find!
3. Buy in bulk
Obviously this isn’t going to work for everyone, because some of you only have a 2 person household. But if possible, buy produce in larger quantities. At produce stands or orchards, typically a peck of peaches is less expensive than a quart. And at grocery stores bagged produce such as apples or citrus are usually cheaper per pound than buying them individually.
If you are concerned about not being able to use up all that you buy consider making muffins with the fruit or chop up the veggies and add them to soup. And don’t forget that many things can be frozen too for later use!
4. Learn to preserve
This is one of the biggest ways I save. I buy large quantities of fruits and veggies and can and/or freeze them. I know it might sound daunting but it really isn’t that difficult and home canned fruits and veggies honestly taste so much better than store bought! If you don’t know where to start, check out this how-to guide (vegetables) (fruit). I also recommend the Mennonite Country-Style Recipes & Kitchen Secrets cookbook. This cookbook has detailed instructions and tips on how to can and freeze pretty much any fruit or vegetable. When I first started preserving produce this was my #1 guide…well, that is other than my mom!
Obviously, if you decide to can or freeze things you will run into a bit of cost up front for supplies. The good thing is, most of the things are a one time purchase. Here are a couple of tips to save on supplies.
- Look for canners and jars at yardsales or on Freecycle.
- If you have a friend that cans ask if you can borrow their canning supplies.
- Instead of freezing things in zip-top bags I prefer freezer boxes that I can use year after year.
- Low on funds? Remember you can always earn Amazon gift cards through Swagbucks to help you purchase some of these things!
5. Weigh pre-packaged produce
Believe it or not, not all pre-packaged produce weighs the same amount. While the package might say 5 lb. potatoes, some bags might weigh 5.3 lbs. and some 5.8lbs. So weigh those bags and take the biggest one you can find since they all cost the same amount anyway! I only recently discovered this little tip and I’ve been amazed at the difference in weight
6. Buy in season
You don’t have to be very observant to notice that produce is cheaper when it is in season. It makes sense really, because instead of having to get it shipped in from far away locations (and very likely picked before it was even ready to be picked) the stores can get it locally which saves them money. And obviously it is healthier for you too since the produce is fresher.
Of course some of you are thinking that you like to enjoy citrus but you don’t live in Florida or California. Or maybe you like to enjoy sweet corn throughout the year. I’m not saying you have to be legalistic about it, just be aware of the fact that typically produce that is in season is going to be cheaper and shop and plan your menus accordingly.
7. Buy frozen
If you can’t get in season produce, frozen is probably the next best way to go. Often you can find veggies on sale for less than $1.00 a bag and there are even coupons frequently available for them too. Frozen fruit is harder to find coupons for, but it is still typically a great buy. To top it off, frozen veggies and fruit are much healthier than canned. In fact, research shows that frozen veggies and fruit have nearly as much nutritional value as what they do when they are fresh, so it’s a win-win situation!
How do you save on fruits and veggies? I’d love to learn from you!
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