I wrote this post several months ago. Now that I have given up soda and am making a real effort to eat healthier it seemed pretty relevant to my life. I have also had people comment to me that you can’t eat healthy on a small grocery budget. I disagree. I cook most of our meals from scratch. We eat fruits and/or vegetables with every meal. Fruits and vegetables can be expensive, but there are ways to find bargains.
Coupons- I rarely have produce coupons, but use them when I do
Buy Seasonally- I find saving money on produce in the winter is the hardest. Most of our favorite fruits are out of season and their prices are at a premium. We eat food that is in season. Apples, citrus, and squash are in season during the fall and winter so it is easy to find them on sale and under a dollar a pound. Grapes, berries, and corn are in season in the spring and summer so we don’t eat grapes until then. I also stock up on frozen fruit and veggies (with a coupon, of course) so that we can have our berry smoothies in February.
Look for produce as a loss leader- This week one of the local grocery stores had white grapes on sale for $0.99 a pound. This is a great way to stock up on some favorites even if they aren’t in season. Just don’t drive 20 miles to save three dollars on grapes. Plan your trip and only buy from your list and what is on sale.
Buy bagged produce- Citrus, apples and potatoes are all familiar items that can be purchased by the pound or in three, five, and ten pound bags. You always get a better deal buying the bagged stuff. Companies are required to fill the bags with at least five pounds of potatoes in a five pound bag, but almost always they are at least a quarter or a half a pound heavier. I usually take a few bags over to the scale and weigh them and then buy the heaviest. I have never found a bag to be underweight. If you bag your own you are charged on the actual weight at the check-out.
Get to know your produce manager- Ask them what they do with their expired produce and if they would be willing to sell them to you at a discount. Most of these items are still fit for consumption. You can make applesauce out of bruised apples and there are so many uses for brown bananas. Many fruits and veggies can be shredded and frozen or canned even when they are a little over ripe.
If you must buy organic only pay extra when it matters- I try to buy organic when I can, but I also want to send six kids to college and retire some day, so I have limits on what I can afford. The USDA has published a list of produce with the highest and lowest levels of pesticide contamination. Spend your money on the items that are on the top of the list and don’t bother with the foods that are at the bottom.
Farmer’s Market- This is a hit or miss. Sometimes you can find really great deals and other times you are just paying for the atmosphere. Know your prices before you go and know what you are willing to pay. Don’t get caught up in the quaintness of it all, if you are trying to save money. If you are going to support your local farmers then spend like there is no tomorrow. I happen to think this is a cause worth supporting. Mom and Pop farms are dying out and they will only survive with our support.
Grow your own- I have friends with huge gardens that support their family and then some. I also have friends that grow tomatoes and peppers in pots on their front porch. I think it is debatable how much money you will actually save on a garden, depending on the size, and how many trips to the garden store you have to make in the summer. It is a great project for kids. Last year we started seeds in egg cartons inside our home, in March, in a little miniature green house. It was fun to see which ones sprouted and which were the duds. It also encouraged the kids to eat vegetables since they were the ones responsible for weeding, watering, and picking our small harvest. The nice thing about growing your own is that you know that your food wasn’t picked before it was ripe four weeks ago, sprayed with something that just can’t be good for you, put on a ship, then on a truck, and then delivered to your local store where it sat on the shelf for a week before you bought it. Check out this blog if you want to find out if a garden really saves you money. You can read about my garden project here.
Become friends with a gardener- If you live in a rural area there are probably many people who have sizable gardens every summer. Most people I know have more food than they know what to do with, especially things like tomatoes and squash. Offer to help them in the garden in exchange for some free food. If weeding isn’t your thing offer to babysit, or trade something else in exchange for some fresh veggies. I have a friend who bakes delicious fresh ground whole wheat bread which she then trades with others for food and other services.
These are just a few ways to save money. I am sure there are many more. If you have a way to save money on produce leave a comment and let me know!
Check out Frugal Fridays for more frugal tips!