Everyone is always telling you to eat more veggies. Your Mom. Your Doctor. Your vegetarian friend. The ads on your Instagram feed. The list just goes on and on and on…
How do you get fresh fruit and veggies and stick to your budget?
This stuff is expensive. I want to eat well but it’s just not in my price range.
Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! Let’s start with the common sense tips that we all forget from time to time.
First, only buy what you and your family will eat in a week, unless you’re in to canning and can preserve it. Serious common sense right there.
Second, check out what is on sale this week.
Whether you shop at the local grocery store or a big box store, they all have weekly sales on produce. Watching prices and knowing what is in season is a big step towards cutting that steep bill.
Third, only buy what’s in season. Why, you ask? Because in season produce is the cheapest. Unfortunately, that is not always what you or your picky 16-year-old will eat! We’ll cover that situation later in this post. Unsure of what fruits and veggies are in season in your area? No problem. Check out our seasonal produce lists, which are broken down by region.
Let’s move on to the less common sense savings tips.
The next option after your usual grocery haunt is to head to stores like Aldi or Trader Joe’s, if you have them. They don’t have all the fancy marketing and packaging (heck, they don’t even have people to collect carts in the parking lot!) and this allows them to have lower prices on a wide variety of items – especially produce and meats.
I know many people who shop at these stores strictly for produce. So, if you have these stores you might want to check it out and save some money.
Next, there’s the local farmer’s market. You don’t necessarily want the big town-sponsored one in the park. I suppose it depends on where you live. Where I live it means $6.00 a pound for tomatoes that look like they fell on the concrete once or twice – thanks, but I’ll pass on those.
That’s not saving! I’m talking about the big indoor farmer’s markets where the restaurants shop. They are usually open to the public too and they have a HUGE variety of items with prices that will often blow your mind!
My problem at first was that I could fill a whole cart for $20.00 or so, but then a lot of the produce, especially fruits, would go bad before we got around to eating them. This was a waste of food and money, and it made me mad.
So, taking us back to my very first tip at the top of the article, only buy what you need and will use in a week (unless you are in to canning). It might be hard to resist the temptation at first, so share with friends and neighbors to avoid spoilage. The farmer’s market is hard to beat.
Worst case scenario, there’s always frozen produce if you can’t find a price you can live with at any of these stores. Defrost the bag of frozen veggies and pour them into a colander to drain off the water. In a pinch, I’d rather have frozen veggies than no veggies. (Warning: if you’re roasting veggies don’t decide to forego the defrosting and toss them on the tray frozen. Trust me, it doesn’t end well.)
Let’s be honest here, when it’s 90 degrees out at 7:00 a.m. in August, and you want a smoothie for breakfast, do you really want to stand there chopping fresh fruit? Or do you want to grab that bag of frozen mixed berries you got at your grocery store on special with a coupon and a rebate to sweeten the deal? Of course you want the frozen fruit…It’s. Really. Hot. Out. Depending on the fruit or veggie, you could cut and freeze your own. I have friends who make smoothie bags they keep in the freezer.
Frozen produce is really good for your picky child who will only eat white corn niblets on alternate Thursdays. I have a child like this, who you know as “picky eater” if you watch my YouTube videos. It’s not just you, everyone has a picky child or knows one or three. In a pinch, just to get vitamins into them, frozen produce may save your sanity.
Are there coupons for produce?
Produce coupons are generally rare. You will see coupons for bagged salad. When paired with a sale it can be cheaper than a head of lettuce sometimes.
Driscol’s gives coupons for their berries you just need to sign up for their mailing list.
Halos and Cuties (clementines or mandarins) put out coupons when they are in season.
You can also get a small rebate on some produce. Apps like Savingstar, Ibotta and Checkout 51 have all had various rebates on produce. It’s usually something small like .50 or less, but every penny adds up! I often post this kind of weekly information on Instagram.
If you’re unfamiliar with these apps, don’t worry we’re going to discuss them at great length because they are going to put a lot of money back in your pocket.
Want to save the absolute most on produce?
Yes, grow it yourself. Believe me, I know better than anyone that this is easier said than done. In 2014 I spent around $900.00 setting up a large raised bed garden with all the bells and whistles. I got three pieces of lettuce for all my time, labor and money.
Three. Pieces. Of lettuce. Seriously?!
So, if gardening isn’t your bag, I don’t blame you one bit.
I’m going to try tomatoes and basil in pots this year and see if I have any success. It’s possible I’m just a glutton for punishment. If you have a green thumb it may be your ultimate money-saving tool when it comes to produce.
What are your best produce saving tips? I’d love to hear them.