We all know that we should include plenty of fruits and vegetables in our diets. But sometimes the healthy stuff is more expensive than junk food! Is it possible to eat healthy and not blow your grocery budget? Of course!
Here are some ways to bring home more produce for less money:
1. Plant a garden. (Like I should talk, right?) Seeds and plants are relatively inexpensive, so you'll see a huge return on your investment...provided your garden actually produces :)
Yes, I grew them myself...can you believe it?
Gardening can be time and labor-intensive, but time is money, remember? Make it real by putting your yield in terms of "How much would this cost at the grocery store?" For instance, every time I picked a red pepper this year, I thought "I just saved $1.00", and when I picked 20 jalapenos for jalapeno poppers, I reminded myself of the fact that "This would have cost almost $7.00 at Meijer!"
2. Eat local. The produce is fresher, more flavorful, and usually cheaper because it's not being shipped very far. Our grocery store does a pretty good job of stocking local produce (and putting it on sale), but the grocery store isn't the only place to pick up local fruits and veggies. Check out "5 Frugal Ways to Enjoy Local Produce Without a Garden" for more ideas.
3. Buy what's on sale. (duh, right?) There's always something on sale. Not only will this save money, but it will also force you to eat a wider variety of fruits and vegetables.
4. Shop the "reduced for quick sale" rack at your local grocery store. Sometimes the produce department orders too many strawberries or bags of lettuce, and then marks them down to get rid of them before they go bad. Sometimes the produce on those racks looks kind of questionable, but often it's something that just needs to be eaten today or tomorrow. If nothing else, you'll probably be able to pick up some cheap bananas for banana bread.
5. Buy what's in season. As with #2, the produce will be fresher, more flavorful, and probably cheaper! Here in Michigan, we can't "eat local" in the winter, but we can eat what's in season. Citrus fruits might be never be in season in Michigan, but they're usually cheaper here during their California or Florida season.
6. Buy it by the bag, not the pound. If the price per pound of bulk apples is the same as bagged apples, always buy the bag. Farmers and packing plants err on the side of caution when packing those bags, so a 3 lb bag of apples usually contains about 3.5 pounds...which means you're getting more for your money. (No, I'm really not this smart. I read this tip in a magazine and decided to test it out myself. Try weighing multiple bags of "already weighed" apples and see how many funny looks you get!) Of course, the rule of exception applies here: when bulk fruit is on sale, it's usually cheaper than the bagged stuff, irregardless of that extra half pound or so.
7. Buy it whole. Precut fruits and vegetables are almost always more expensive than buying them whole. More on this next week.
Have you found a cheap source for fruits and vegetables? How do you save money on produce?
Check back on Monday for more money-saving produce tips, and come back every day this month as we explore ways to Save Money in the Kitchen.