How to Save Money on Produce

Fresh fruits and vegetables are one our largest grocery expenses. Since one of my goals is to get our family eating healthier, our consumption of these items has risen significantly in the past year.

My kids can easily eat three pounds of bananas at lunch. There are not normally coupons for produce but you can still save by shopping smart and using a few of these tricks to get the lowest price on produce.

how to save money on produce

Coupons

I rarely have produce coupons, but use them when I do. Ibotta, Checkout 51 and Cartwheel all offer produce coupons so use them when you can.

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.

Eat seasonally to save on produce and stock up and freeze produce so you can enjoy your favorites year round.

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.

Shop Produce When It’s 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

This is a fun little produce secret that will save you a few cents every time you shop.

Citrus, apples and potatoes are all familiar items that can be purchased by the pound or in three, five, and ten pound bags. You almost always get a better deal buying the bagged stuff.

Companies are required to fill produce bags with at least five pounds of produce in a five pound bag. However, almost always the bags are even heavier. Use the scale in the produce department to find the heaviest bag for the biggest savings.

When you bag your own produce you are charged on the actual weight, so you usually get a better deal when buying produce in bulk bags.

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 Buy Organic Only Pay Extra When It Matters

I try to buy organic when I can, but I also want to send seven 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.

Join a CSA

When you join a CSA you are buying shares of a farm’s produce. Every week or two you pick up your box of produce. You don’t always know what you are going to get, but the produce is very fresh and grown locally.

You can find out more about CSA’s and find one in your area on LocalHarvest.org.

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.

Make Friends With a Gardener

If you live in a more 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.

Buy Frozen

Frozen vegetables are usually fresh frozen and there are more coupons available. You also don’t have to worry about frozen vegetables going bad before you can eat them.

You can eat healthy on a budget if you follow these simple steps and stop paying full price for produce.

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Comments

  1. Hi! Thanks for leaving a comment on my menu plan! I love YOUR blog and I’m right there with you on just about everything you said in your veggie/produce post! My! My! I’m hoping to do the Square Foot Gardening thing this summer so I don’t have to buy icky veggies–we’ll see how that goes. Sorry to hear about your husband. God bless you all.

    I’m subscribing to your feed right now so I can gleen as much as I can from you! 🙂 Thanks for sharing.
    Blessings,
    Melissa

  2. I have the same issue with veggies/fruit. It’s too expensive to eat really healthy.

  3. We love fruits and veggies. We grow our own as much as we can, but with 6 kids still at home, we can’t keep up. This year we decided to try supporting a local farmer who has a subscription farm. We still have our little garden and we are blessed to have fruit trees, too.
    Rose

  4. Loved the produce advice. We’re big veggie eaters in my house. Luckily, we have a great farmer’s market within a few miles of our house. This location supplies a lot of the local restaurants so they have a super selection and better prices than any of the chains — even on some of the sale items. I know, too, when my ladies at the FM say wait to buy peaches — only thing in the store now are what is brought in from (whereever) and they won’t taste like the real deal — then I wait.

    I almost never see produce coupons. Have you found a website to get these?

    My hubby and I started our own veggie garden this year. We’ll see how it turns out. So far, it’s been fun and not too much work. Besides I just love fresh tomatoes. Simply can’t grow enough of those.

  5. I’m going to be growing some of my own veggies this year. My dad has a very large garden however this is the first time that I’ll be planting my own – not a big one, but some plants. 🙂

  6. Thank you! So many sites tell you how to save money on groceries, but it’s always processed foods. We spend more money on produce than we do any other food group. This helps!

  7. Great tips…I’ve recently started buying the top items organically, since I’m worried about all the chemicals they are getting. But, I save money on the bottom of the list by buying “normal” fruits and vegetables.

    So which of your kids isn’t going to college, since you said you wanted to pay for 6 kids to go to college :-).

  8. TheHappyHousewife says:

    Thanks 😉
    I am now sending all 7 kids to college.
    THH

  9. Buying produce seasonally and loading up when the reduced produce is available are my favorite tips!

    I started a garden a year ago and didn’t expect it to be much of a money saver, but during the summer we significantly cut down the produce we bought because of it, and the cost to grow it ourselves was pretty modest.

  10. One of my friends taught me once that she only buys whatever produce is .99-cents or less per pound. Since the sales change each week, you get variety, and you save! I try to follow this as much as possible as well. I was going to write a post about it actually; I’ll link to your’s if I do 🙂

  11. If you are fortunate to live in an area with multiple grocery stores, you can take all those wonderful ads with their loss leaders and price match them in one place–saving time and gas. I know Wal-Mart’s price matching policy includes produce, and there are probably others who do the same.

  12. Southern Gal says:

    Our homeschool group started a Farmer’s Market Produce Co-op quite a few years ago. It’s evolved to include more than homeschoolers. Plus we now have two co-ops with some getting produce twice a month instead of once. I take advantage of both. We usually have around 25 baskets (laundry baskets) to buy for. Shopper’s choice. YOu get the chance to buy exactly what you want when you shop. Each person pays $21 per basket and must shop once or twice per year.

    I can’t list everything we’ve gotten here because it would take up too much room. We always have overflowing baskets for just $21! I would suggest starting one if there’s not one already organized in your area. It’s so worth the money!

  13. I do what Cheryl’s friend does… I always buy whatever’s $0.99/lb or less and plan my menu around that.

    My only issue with buying fruits in bags is that the quality can be less (at least at my grocery stores). I have to carefully check the fruit in the bag, and sometimes it’s not even worth it. :/

    Thanks for a great post!

  14. I never knew that the bagged stuff could weigh more than stated. I usually buy potatos and onions this way but will have to start looking at the bagged apples again.

  15. If you have any local farmers, ask if they give a discount for buying in bulk. We have a local (organic and hydroponic) strawberry and vegetable farm. Prices are on a sliding scale (the more you buy, the cheaper your price per pound), so if you buy 10 pounds it’s $30, if you buy 30 pounds it’s $30. Once a week some ladies from my moms’ group go together–the farmer lets us pay separately for our purchases, but he counts it all as one big order so we get the discount. It’s great food, and you can’t beat the price.

  16. Great post! I love these tips, especially the one about eating seasonally.

    Thanks for sharing your money saving ideas!

    🙂

    And by the way, stop on over to Free 2 Be Frugal some time soon.

  17. These are great tips! We have a local produce stand that always end up having the best price on veggies when in season.

    I have an award waiting for you at http://mommysmoneycents.blogspot.com/2009/10/my-first-blog-awards.html

  18. When the fruit is on sale in season, and it’s a loss leader, I stock up. This means buying several hundred pounds of fruit at one time. I go the first day of the sale and order as many pounds as I want. Then on Friday (when most stores get another delivery) I go in and pick up boxes of fruit, and take them home to can and for fresh eating.

    For example, peaches went on sale for .49 a pound here. This was 60% less than the peaches from the farmer I have ordered from in the past. I bought 324 pounds of peaches–3 times as many as I usually can in a year, since peaches were so much less this year.

    I did this with pears and apples (twice with apples) this year as well. I made applesauce with the apples. I’ve bought 560 pounds of apples this year. Normally these go on sale for $1.49 apound here. I bought all of them for .49 and .50 a pound.

    In the winter, we can eat the fruit that I canned, which saves us a lot of money. It also saves metrips to the store.

    I also have 31 semi-dwarf and dwarf fruit trees in my yard, and I don’t have a big yard. My trees are still small, but in a few years they’ll be producing more.

    Right now I’m harvesting pomegranates, and lemons will be ripe soon.

    I also grow other vegetables in my garden, all year-round. Right now I have swiss chard and butternut squash ripe in my garden.

    I have a friend in North Dakota who has a short growing season, and a small garden, but still manages to grow 90% of her family’s produce in her garden. She cans, dries, and freezes what she grows to last her family all winter. Last year she only spent $20 on produce, and that was during the winter.

    She has 4 full-sized apple trees, and they give her more juice, cider, and sauce than her family needs. She has enough to give away apples every year.

    A garden can really help!

  19. I have the hardest time finding decent fruit at the store. I do not like buying the bagged fruit because every time I do, the fruit ends up tasting terrible. We end up wasting the bagged fruit because of this so I’ve quit buying bagged fruit. And I’ve noticed that the apples and oranges that are bagged do not look as good as the loose ones. Maybe this is just a problem I have, but I’d rather spend a little more and have my family actually eat it. I’ve got a bag of grapefruit in the fridge right now that I bought 3 weeks ago because it was on sale. I started not to buy it because it was bagged but decided too. Now I wish I hadn’t. It would be nice if I could have my own fruit trees and grow my own veggies. Maybe one of these days I can…..

  20. I have been trying to make use of the list of produce to buy organically. I do get sucked in some times by the prices though on non-organic ones. LOL!

  21. These are great tips on saving on produce … I really love doing garden activities with my kids, and taking them to places like a farmers market can really encourage them to eat well, but I certainly want to do this on a budget.

  22. I would like to add that you can find cheap produce at Costco and great quality. I find that Costco is cheaper than the commissary on most items. And also find if you have a restaurant supply store nearby. Most of them will sell to individuals too and not just restaurants or businesses. And they are much cheaper especially if you have a large family and buy large quantities anyway. I buy cases of apples or other fruits and vegetables when they are in season and can them or freeze them for future use.

  23. We do the same thing! When potatoes went on sale for $1.99 for a 10lb bag I bought 100lbs and dehydrated most of them, made 24 qts of potato soup and we had 3 months of fresh potatoes for eating or making homemade potato chips from. Now I just wish I would have bought more. I also buy organic apples buy the case (50lbs) when they go on sale for .99lb and can and dry them.

  24. Great tips!! We went through four bunches of bananas last week!! I always buy apples and bananas and then whatever else is on sale for the week. And I do frozen vegetables more often than fresh.

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  1. […] The Happy Housewife has some great tips on saving money on produce including: […]

  2. […] the prices on these foods can be very high. The Happy Housewife offers some really great advice on saving money on produce, including shopping seasonally, buying organic only when it really matters, and getting to know […]

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