Food prices are increasing but don’t let vegetables and fruit be the area you cut back on! Healthy eating on a budget is possible.
Here are my 20 easy tips to help you eat plenty of produce on a budget and stay healthy all year long. You can read more in my interview with the Canadian Press for National Post on food waste and advice for shell-shocked shoppers looking for cheaper alternatives to the vegetables and fruit they typically buy.
– One of the best ways to save money on vegetables and fruit is to buy what’s in season. Root vegetables like beets, carrots, parsnip, rutabaga and turnip are loaded with fibre, potassium, vitamins and minerals and are good buys all winter long. Check out my delicious Roasted Root Vegetable recipe! It’s sure to be your family’s new fave.
– Leeks, onion, cabbage, mushroom, squash and sweet potatoes are other nutritious options that are in season. These aren’t the “trendy” vegetables because we think of them as being old fashioned. This is only because once grocery stores started carrying produce from all over the world, we got a little spoiled and got used to having summer food all year long. Now that these options are so expensive, it’s time to rediscover how tasty and healthy our winter veggies are!
– I hear people saying that local produce is cheaper but that isn’t always true. Oranges and pomegranates aren’t local but are in season in the winter, making them good options to get your antioxidants such as vitamin C.
– Greenhouse growers have made summer produce available locally all winter, and often at good prices. Look for cucumber and lettuce on sale.
– Let the sales dictate what vegetables you’ll be featuring in your meals. Check out flyers online for what produce is on sale and plan meals around them. Look for recipes online or in your cookbook collection.
– Meal plan! This helps prevent waste/spoilage and saves you money from running to the store every night. Make a list and stick to it!
At the Store
– Avoid buying the pre-made salads or ready-cut fruit if you’re on a budget. You’re paying a premium for convenience.
– Bags of oranges, apples and potatoes tend to be a better deal than bagging your own.
– Check the marked down produce for ripe bananas, etc. that can be used for smoothies or baking.
– Farmers’ Markets can be hit or miss in terms of deals. Go at the end of the day when farmers often lower prices.
(Photo credit: davitydave via Flickr).
– Frozen vegetables and fruit are great to have on hand. You can stock up when they go on sale and not have to worry about spoilage. Buying frozen vegetables and fruit also saves you money because it helps prevent waste. Despite our best intentions, sometimes we waste our fresh produce if we don’t use it up in time. Store brand versions tend to be the best deals.
– Some of my clients are surprised to know that frozen vegetables can be just as nutritious – or sometimes even more nutritious – than fresh. The reason is, they are frozen right after they’re picked and freezing helps keep the nutrients from degrading. Compare that to produce that has to travel long distances. The vitamins will decrease the longer the time from harvest to your plate, so frozen vegetables and fruit are a great option!
– Get frozen vegetables plain (no added sauce or salt) for a healthier and more affordable option.
(Photo credit: Miran Rijivec via Flickr).
– Some canned or bottled vegetables and fruit are great value, like crushed and diced tomatoes or canned pineapple. Buy the store brand and get ones without added salt or sugar if possible. You can also rinse canned vegetables to reduce the sodium. If you buy canned fruit in syrup, drain off the syrup to cut down on added sugars.
Other Tips to Save Money on Vegetables and Fruit
– Start growing your own herbs and tomatoes. You can do this without outdoor space. All you need is a window.
– When fruit and vegetables start to get wilty, freeze them to use in smoothies, soups or stews.
– Use scraps like carrot and other peels, tops of celery, etc. to make vegetable stock. Your stock will be loaded with potassium and comes without the high sodium and cost of store-bought stock. Try my delicious and simple Vegetable Stock recipe to cut down on food waste and eat better!
– Join a CSA: Community Supported Agriculture has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Try The Good Food Box available across Canada or find a CSA near you.
– To put the higher cost of fruit and vegetables in perspective: it’s better to have an apple or orange as a snack vs. processed, pre-packaged snack foods like chips and granola bars for your health and your wallet!