Fresh fruits and vegetables are one our largest grocery expenses. We try to eat as healthy as possible, which means we need to save money on produce when we can.
My kids can easily eat three pounds of bananas or a quart of berries 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 on Produce
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
If you haven’t heard of loss leaders, it’s when the grocery store heavily discounts items to get shoppers in the store.
For example a grocery store might price white grapes for $0.99 a pound. They advertise this in the flyer to get people in the store. People might purchase the grapes, but they will also buy things that aren’t on sale.
This is a great way to stock up on some favorites even if they aren’t in season.
Remember, 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.
Shop at Farmer’s Markets
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 Fruits and Vegetables
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.
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.