Do you ever feel you’d do a better job at eating well if the “healthy” foods were just less expensive?
When your family is on a budget, it can be hard to justify spending $6 on a single pint of organic blueberries, especially when you know you can feed your kids a full meal at McDonald’s for basically the same price.
I totally get that. But I also want you to know that it’s a bit of a misconception that all healthy food has to be expensive. Fruits and veggies, in particular, can actually be really affordable.
To get the best deals, you just need to remember these essential tips for buying fresh produce on a budget.
Grocery store produce often travels hundreds of miles in a truck before getting to your store, and the price may be higher (compared to locally grown produce) to compensate for the gasoline and resources used to transport it.
Try purchasing your produce from local farmers at farmer’s markets or road side stands. You’ll typically get better quality fruits and veggies without the price hike, plus you’ll be supporting the economy in your local community. Win-win!
Buy In Season
No matter where you shop, produce that’s in season is almost always cheaper.
For example, fruits like strawberries and blueberries cost significantly more during the winter months when they’re out of season. You’d do better to opt for in-season fruits like citrus during the winter months instead.
Buy Extra and Freeze for Later
When produce is in season and at its cheapest, buy extra and freeze it! It’s super easy to freeze most fruits and veggies, and freezing allows you to have your favorite produce all year round at a lower cost.
Pro tip: Visit your local farmer and ask if they’ll give you a deal for buying in bulk.
Join a Farm Share/CSA
This is another variation on buying in season. Farm Shares (or Community Supported Agriculture) are a fantastic way to get great deals on the fresh produce your family loves.
With a CSA or Farm Share, you purchase a “share” of the crop for the season. This gives the farmer some income to rely on, and in return, your family gets a portion of the crop, often in the form of a weekly produce box.
Farm Shares usually provide you with produce from May to October or so, and you can trust you’ll have some food left over to freeze for later, too. In fact, some families find that a single Farm Share is too big for their family and will split the food (and the cost) with another family.
Watch for Sales
If you’re purchasing produce at the grocery store, make sure to check out the sales ads each week before heading to the store.
Most produce goes on sale at different times throughout the year, so you can save quite a bit of money simply by planning your family’s meals and snacks for the week around the produce that’s on sale.
Be Open to Trying New Foods
Sometimes we get stuck paying high prices for certain fruits and vegetables because we (or our kids, or even our spouses) don’t want to try anything new. We’re all entitled to our favorite foods, but if your kids will only eat strawberries and apples, you’re going to be stuck paying the high out-of-season prices for those items.
If you’re nervous about branching out, try this: each week, pick out a new fruit or veggie that’s on sale or in season at the farmer’s market, look up how to prepare it, and serve it with a meal or snack. Remember that kids (and adults) might have to try something 20+ times before they decide they’ll like it, so be patient!
Cut or Prep It Yourself
Trust me, I know that sometimes you need to buy those baby carrots and pre-cut watermelon because you simply don’t have the time for any food prep – and that’s A-okay.
Just know that when you do have the time, opting to cut and prepare your produce at home rather than purchasing the pre-cut version will save you quite a bit on your grocery bill.
Grow It Yourself
Growing your own food can be the easiest way to get fresh produce on a budget, since seeds are incredibly cheap.
If there’s something your family eats a lot of, consider growing it in a pot on your patio or small raised bed in your backyard. Like to cook with fresh herbs? These are often a great place to start as they take up almost no space and are easy to care for.
Pick Your Own
For a little bit of work, you can often get a ton of produce for a really great deal.
Why? It costs farmers quite a bit in terms of time and labor to pick all of their crops, especially smaller foods like berries, cherries, peaches, apples and cherry tomatoes. That’s why you so often see these crops available for “you-pick.”
Picking your own produce is usually cheaper than buying produce that’s been picked for you, and it can be a great family outing, too. Many farms will even have other fun activities for kids in conjunction with the “you-pick” seasons. Look for the nearest “you-pick” farms in your area here.
Know How Long Produce Lasts
Let’s be real. The absolute biggest waste of money when it comes to produce isn’t paying too much in the store. Instead, it’s buying the produce and then letting it go to waste because we don’t eat it before it goes bad.
To prevent this, be aware of how long different types of produce last, and make sure you know the best way to store your fruits and veggies to get the longest life out of them.
If something is on the verge of going bad, cook it or freeze it for later, or even give it away to a neighbor or friend. And most importantly, try not to buy more than you can use in the first place.
Try Discount Grocers like Costco and Aldi
Sometimes the produce at discount stores gets a bad rap, but if you’re looking to save money, it’s absolutely worth checking these stores out. Just be discerning. Buy what looks good that week, and skip anything that appears to have passed its prime.
And another note of caution: just because the bulk size is the best deal, doesn’t mean you should buy it. If it’s something you can freeze, great. But if your family can’t eat that bulk size bag of lettuce before it goes bad, you’re just wasting your money.
If it’s too expensive, don’t buy it – or buy it frozen.
As you now know, there are tons of options for buying fresh produce on a budget, so there’s no reason to pay sky-high prices for out of season produce. If something is too expensive, either don’t buy it, or buy it frozen.
Some people seem to think frozen produce isn’t as “good for you” as fresh, but that’s a straight up lie. Frozen produce was frozen at the peak of freshness, meaning it’s actually fresher than a lot of the produce sitting in the fresh section of the grocery store, often for a fraction of the cost.
If your kids need blueberries in their oatmeal all year round, opt for the frozen ones when berries are out of season to save some serious cash.
At the end of the day, I just want you to know that it’s totally possible to feed your family fresh produce on a budget.
Be open to shopping around, buying local and trying new foods, and you’ll be putting some of that grocery money back in your pocket in no time.