Whether you are trying to go vegan or just get a healthy dose of fruits and vegetables into your family’s diet, there is no question that we all need to save money on fresh produce. The trick is not blowing the grocery budget when we hit the produce aisle.
I have heard many a person say this is impossible, but with a few helpful tips we can all cut the cost of buying produce and use that extra money to buy steak. So get ready for the rabbit food, cause here are my best tips for spending less money on produce.
Where to Purchase
As with anything you purchase, where you buy your produce can make all the difference in how much you pay. All of these alternatives can save you money over heading down to the regular grocery store.
It will cost you time, but seeds and seedlings are relatively inexpensive compared to the price you pay for fresh produce. There are a bunch of benefits to growing your own produce. Aside from the sense of accomplishment, you know exactly what was used during the growing process. On top of that, if you have plants that produce year after year, like blueberries or fruit trees, The initial investment will pay off time and time again.
Neighbors and Friends Gardens
If you were born with a black thumb of death instead of a green thumb, or if you don’t have the space in your yard, then mooching off the extras from friends, family and neighbors is a good way to go. If they are gardening nuts, then you can just bring up the subject and they brag and then beg you to take some of that cheap fresh produce off their hands.
Local farmers markets have been growing in popularity with the organic revolution. Not only do you get to support local small businesses, the produce tends to be more environmentally friendly than the industrial farms. Along with local produce, you can usually find some other fun items like local honey.
If your area hasn’t organized a farmers market, look for local farms where they sell their produce. You can get even better prices if they give you the ability to pick the produce yourself. We have done this with apples, strawberries, pumpkins, and a few other types of produce from local farms in our area.
I know they look shady, but most of the time they are just a way for local farmers to sell their produce. On the way to my in-laws old house there was a roadside stand that had been there since I was a child. They always had great tasting produce at reasonable prices.
Putting together a cooperative is a great way to purchase your produce in bulk. The way it works is that a group of people get together and purchase from local farms. This way the farm gets a bulk order and can give a discount to everyone involved. Many times co-ops can negotiate wholesale prices because of their buying power.
Check Out the Discounters
If you are fortunate to live near an Aldi, then you can really save a lot over the other grocery stores. On top of saving you money on standard produce, Aldi is making a push into organics. I have yet to see another store that can compete with Aldi in helping people to save money on organic foods.
Check The Ethnic Stores
Asian and Hispanic markets frequently get the prices of produce down much lower than traditional grocery stores. I don’t know where they are getting their produce, but it is worth checking out if you have that option in your area. One lady I ran into said she gets avocados for 1/3 the price by shopping at a Hispanic market.
Many people do not know this but Wal-Mart will price match groceries as long as the item is an exact match and it is not a buy one get one free deal. What you can do is collect all the sales flyer for all the grocery stores in your area, take them to Wal-Mart, and get them to price match all of the produce that is on sale. I recommend doing this first thing in the morning when there aren’t many people there, because the cashiers are not too quick on the price matching and the line will get backed up.
Check Out Pre-Bagged Produce
Here’s a dirty little secret, prebagged produce is usually based off of volume and not weight. So weigh the bags and see which one will give you the best deal. You’ll grab a few extra cents every time you do this.
When To Purchase Fresh Produce
When you purchase produce makes a HUGE difference in how much you pay. Use these three tips for getting the best prices on when you purchase your fresh produce.
Go for In-Season Produce
Some items can be purchased all year round but most have a specific season when there is a ton of overstock. During these peak harvest seasons, the price of that particular item will drop dramatically (sometimes half!).
If you have the ability to stock up, buy up your produce during this time and then freeze whatever you are not using right away.
When are You Cooking?
Need a few freshly grown items for tonight? Buy some of the produce that is about to expire. It will be on a special sale price and since you won’t need it in a few days it is perfect for your next meal.
Follow the Sales
Even when items are out of season they sometime go on sale. The sale prices are rarely as good as the in-season discounts, but they are still much better than full retail. Like I mentioned above, don’t be afraid to get a bunch of sale flyers and head to Wal-Mart for the price match.
Which Produce to Buy
Knowing which produce is safe to buy no matter whether they are organic or not can save a ton of money. Here are the way I break down the different options.
Safe from Pesticides
There are 15 famous foods that are called the clean 15. This means that there is no chance that pesticides are covering the part of the plant you eat (unless you are weird and eat the funky parts of plants). If your main motivation is to keep your pesticide exposure to a minimum then these are the foods you can purchase from a discounter instead of spending extra for the organic version.
- Honeydew Melon
- Sweet Corn
- Sweet Peas
- Sweet Potatoes
Dirty if not Local or Organic
Obviously if there are foods that we call clean then there are foods that are dirty. With these foods you need to focus your efforts on organic or local growers who can show you that they aren’t dousing your produce with pesticide. With that I give you the dirty dozen:
There are others, but basically anything where you eat the part that could get sprayed. The good news is that most of these are pretty easy to grow yourself or find locally. Pretty much anything that doesn’t grow on a tree or a long vine can easily be grown with just a little bit of space.
Frozen produce has proven to be just as healthy as the fresh stuff. They don’t freeze the vitamins out of the plants. For this reason, you can get some really great deals by purchasing frozen stuff. I particularly like items like peas, where I now the pesticide stayed on the outside of the pod.
The truth is if you watch for sales and do some coupon matching you can get some really great prices on frozen food to supplement all your fresh produce buying.
Use Your Produce Wisely
You’ve done all the shopping and gotten the prices as low as you can. Now let’s make sure we aren’t wasting anything. So when you end up with excess here are the options to make sure you get the most out of your produce.
You made some great meals, but there are still veggies left over. Take the ingredients you have and plug them into Google find out what soup you can make from the leftovers. Being a picky eater, this is never going to make me a happy camper but Amy sure does enjoy this kind of cooking, especially in the winter.
You’re going to have some stuff leftover that is technically edible but not very appealing. You can cook it down into vegetable stock and use it in different recipes. There will still be some large pieces mixed in so skim those out and use them on the final money saving idea.
You need fertilizer for next years crop so make sure to take all the inedible parts and pieces and compost them. This will allow you really have great soil available for you next round of annual plants. It is also good for flower beds and as a place to threaten to put your children when they misbehave.
Final Thoughts on Buying Cheap Produce
Produce can get really pricey. Making sure you get the best prices on your produce purchase and then taking care to use it up as wisely as you can will make sure you never overspend on produce again