1. Buy the loss leaders. A loss leader is something sold dirt cheap on the front of a grocery store ad, with the intention of getting you through the door so you’ll do all your shopping at that store. When you see that broccoli is a prominently featured item for less than $1, plan to stock up.
2. Buy in season. Know when fruit and vegetables naturally ripen, because that’s when they’ll be cheapest and be at the peak of nutrition. Winter produce includes kale, cabbage, root vegetables, and citrus. Spring finds tender lettuces, spinach, radishes, and cool weather crops. You’ll get the best deal on watermelon and corn in the summer, and of course fall is best for pumpkins and squash.
3. Think twice about organic. Organic produce creates less pollution and often contains more nutrients than conventional produce, but that doesn’t mean regular fruits and vegetables are bad for you. If exposure to pesticides is a major concern, keep an index card in your wallet with a list of the “Top 10 dirtiest fruits and vegetables” and avoid them, or purchase organic varieties of those items only. Make your organic dollar count by not paying a premium for fruits, such as bananas and oranges, that you will end up peeling, anyway.
A good goal with organic eating is to make changes where it will have the most impact, such as switching to organic milk for kids. Wash your veggies well and don’t stress too much. It’s better to eat a conventional apple than to skip fruit altogether.
4. Hit the markdown rack. My local grocery store marks down produce in the evening, and it’s not unusual to find 5# bags of bananas or 4-packs of organic bell peppers for 99 cents. These are usually fruits and vegetables that taste just fine, but don’t look as pretty on the rack or are nearing their spoilage date. Don’t buy any food that’s obviously spoiled, moldy, or that you won’t be able to eat before it rots.
5. Grow your own. Learn to sprout beans, which is a cheap and easy way to get fresh greens in the dead of winter. If you can, plant a garden. Spinach, radishes, lettuce, and zucchini are easy for amateur gardeners. Even basil in a pot on the windowsill will reduce your grocery bill a little bit. Note: Never sprout kidney beans!
6. Buy frozen when it’s cheaper (and it almost always is, for broccoli). Frozen veggies have as many vitamins as fresh, are picked when they are at their peak, and are already prepped. A bag of frozen broccoli is 100% useable, without any waste in the form of leaves or tough stems, which will maximize your food dollar.
7. Shop off the beaten path. Ethnic grocery stores often have rock bottom prices on produce. Markets that cater to Asians, in particular, usually have an excellent variety of fruits and vegetables, including many you may not have tried before. Throughout summer, farmers markets and roadside stands can offer great deals.
8. Cruise the produce aisles of every time you shop. You never know when you’ll get a deal. Then, change the menu plan accordingly. One week, I happened by a display of eggplant and did a double take. They were marked 25¢ – not per pound, but a quarter each! I bought a ton and ate eggplant in spicy tomato sauce, eggplant with white beans, and eggplant dip that week.
Eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables will save you more money than you spend in the form of good health. It’s no secret that apples cause fewer cavities than a cheap bag of cookies, and plenty of vegetables may keep you out of the doctor’s office. Put your new found penny pinching produce skills to work and reap the benefits.
Check out Tammy’s Recipes for more Kitchen Tips.
How do you save money on fruits and vegetables?