Depending on the time of year, it can be quite costly to purchase fresh produce. While one of my favorite things is the sweet, juicy crunch of a crisp apple, it is difficult for me to justify spending $2.99 per pound on them. Luckily, there are several ways to save money when it comes to buying fruits and vegetables.
Perhaps the key question to consider when thinking about what kind of produce to purchase is whether the fruit or vegetable is in season. When a food is out of season, grocery stores must factor added expenses such as storing and shipping produce from elsewhere (whether that may be another state, or another country, like Chile) or the energy it takes to grow the food in a greenhouse. These expenses are then relayed to consumers. While it can help to look at weekly store ads, your best bet may be to research when certain produce is at its peak during certain times of year. Websites such as simplesteps.org provide easy tools to help you learn what is currently in season in your state. It may be beneficial for you to stock up on certain fruit and vegetables while they are in season (such as peaches, cherries, or blueberries), and then freeze it to enjoy during later months.
From a young age, one of my favorite summer activities with my family was visiting the local orchard to pick whatever was in season: cherries, apples, strawberries (more recently we have even discovered a blueberry farm)…often, you can find better deals on certain produce by purchasing directly from the source. Not only do you receive the added fun of getting to pick your own food—you also get better quality produce. When choosing fruit at the store, sometimes it can be difficult to really know what you are buying. Even if the strawberries in your plastic container look good when you inspect them through the container, there may be hidden moldy berries in the middle or on the bottom. Picking your own produce at a farm or an orchard can ensure you receive the best quality food for the best price, if you can take the time to do it.
Another way to save money is to actually grow your own produce. Of course, depending on where you live and how green your thumb is this may not be the most viable option. While it is easy enough to think of all the perks of growing your own food (spending less money down the road, knowing the source, and the fun activity it can provide for family and friends), it does take time for the fruit and vegetables to grow and it can require a considerable amount of upkeep. Patience, time, and effort are all needed.
If you seem to be lacking in gardening skills or if you don’t know of any local pick-your-own places, there are still other ways for you to save money. Another option is to visit a farmer's market, which is another way for you to buy food directly from its source. Not only can you enjoy fresh, seasonal foods at these markets, they also provide an opportunity for you to haggle or to ask questions about how the food was grown (or even different ways it can be prepared). Certain sellers may also offer discounts to customers who buy in large quantities or who show up near closing time.
But what if the produce you want just isn’t in season? In this case, it may be more prudent for you to buy the frozen (which tends to be second best nutrition-wise after fresh) or canned (look for fruit canned in water or juice, not syrup) versions of the item. Some stores even offer personalized coupons for these products. For example, every time I receive coupons in the mail from Kroger I inevitably end up with one coupon for a free bag of frozen vegetables and one for frozen fruit. Buying produce doesn’t need to be expensive—it’s really just a matter of doing a little research beforehand and utilizing the resources around you.
Have any tips on how to save money on produce? Share your thoughts with us below – as always, we love to hear suggestions from our readers!