I generally eat a smoothie for breakfast with bananas, some other kind of fruit, and spinach or kale. I have a salad for lunch at least 5 days a week. For dinner, most of my plate (or bowl) is full of vegetables. I also have eaten nothing but produce for months at a time while eating all raw food. I’m also sort of poor.
There are lots of people that make WAY more money than me, that claim that they can’t afford the type of food that I eat. So the first thing to do is practice thrift in other areas. I buy almost everything at goodwill or other used outlets. I live in modest housing that I can afford. I don’t carry credit card debt. I hang my clothes to dry, instead of spending $20-$40 extra each month to dry my clothes in the dryer. And so on.
If you make more money, you probably don’t have to economize as much as I do (if at all) to eat real food if you practice these thrifty buying habits.
1. Stock up on produce that’s on sale.
This is a no-brainer, right? But I’m serious. STOCK UP. If pineapples are on sale 10 for $10, buy 20 (or 30). Then cut them up and freeze them. A small pineapple yields about a pound of fruit, a large one about a pound and a half. The small ones are the ones that usually go for a dollar on these type of sales. That’s 1 dollar per pound. If you buy the pineapple already cut and frozen, you’ll spend at least $3 per pound.
After a while you get to know which things have big sales. Pineapple goes a few times a year here, and I make sure I hit it. Blackberries tend to go on sale 10 for $10 several times a year. Those are even easier, because you don’t even have to cut them up.
2. Go to the Farmer’s Market and STOCK UP
Farmer’s markets aren’t going to save you a lot of money–most of the time. But in the glut of the season, peppers will be 50 cents each (and they freeze so well, with so little effort). Corn is generally dirt cheap as well. Winter squash will give you huge savings on grocery store prices. Tomatoes are usually pretty cheap in August (not to mention 100 times tastier than store tomatoes). Our farmer’s markets aren’t great for fruit, but I regularly bought apples for applesauce last year at a huge discount since they were the spotty, ugly ones. Talk to your vendors, tell them what you want. They want your money, so it’s a win-win situation.
3. Buy heads or bunches of greens.
That stuff in the plastic containers and bags will cost you 50% to 100% more than the same lettuce fully grown and sold without the bagging. The same thing goes double for organic spinach ($6-7 per pound in a box, $2.19 per pound in a bunch). Hardy Greens like kale are almost as cheap organically as conventionally, sometimes they are cheaper!
4. Find produce only stores
In NJ, there is this amazing store called Produce Junction, which only sells produce (and plants and flowers). You can buy things for half of what you’d pay at a grocery store, and then save even more if you can buy by the case. Cities may be your best bet for produce markets like that, but ask around, when I was living in Pennsylvania, I found a family-owned produce market not 5 minutes from the house.
5. Shop a couple different stores, and don’t forget Walmart.
If you don’t shop at Walmart, skip this part, but Walmart will price match any stores sales. There is this chain in my area that has a banana sale once a week on Tuesdays, but it’s a half an hour from me, in the wrong direction. So I go to Walmart every Tuesday, and price match 27 cents a pound bananas. Also check your circulars for good deals at grocery stores you don’t normally go to. Kroger has far and away the best deals and the best quality on almost everything around here, but I might stop at Shop ‘n Save if they are practically giving away peaches or have walnuts on sale for $5 a pound. (They also are more likely to have ripe bananas if I’m out of them.)
6. Always check for “clearance” produce.
Kroger puts sale stickers on stuff that is close to the sell-by date. They are usually marked down half off. They also have a stand where they have random produce bagged up for a dollar. I guess this is un-stickered apples and stuff, because the quality is usually pretty good. So I always make sure to check it for things that I want.
7. Frozen fruit and vegetables, in particular, can be a good deal.
I prefer fresh produce, but sometimes I buy bags of soup vegetables or corn or spinach (but only for lasagna). Frozen fruit is usually more expensive than buying fresh on sale and freezing it, but sometimes I run out, and go for the frozen. The bigger the bag, the better the deal when it comes to frozen fruit.
8. Don’t waste ANYTHING.
If you aren’t going to eat your produce, don’t buy it! Make a plan for your meals, and then eat what you planned. My brother said that most of their compost last year was spoiled lettuce and vegetables that they didn’t eat. I waste almost nothing.
If you buy spring mix and strawberries, you need to eat them before the romaine lettuce and apples. If you buy cut-up fruit or vegetables (because they were marked way down), you need to use them almost immediately.
If you buy bananas, you are going to need to freeze some by the end of the week most likely (frozen bananas are a delicious snack). Mushrooms also freeze well. Soup is a good way to use up that rubbery celery and drying out carrots. Make your own vegetable stock with the outer layers of your onions and the inner stalks of your celery and potato peels (though I don’t peel potatoes) and those carrots that you threw in the freezer before you went on vacation.
9. Oh yeah, and have a garden!
Seriously, dig up your lawn, and plant as much as you can. I have a small lot, and I’m digging up more and more every year. My front yard is actually the most productive (with the BEST dirt). I’ll post a video of my garden sometime this week or next.
10. Buy in Bulk.
This was implied in a couple of other ones, but it’s worth mentioning on it’s own. Everywhere you go ask about bulk discounts, particularly at the farmer’s markets and produce places. Grocery stores and Walmart typically won’t help you out here, but farmer’s usually will. And produce only markets, typically offer food to suppliers, so they already have set wholesale prices.
Well those are 10 ways I’ve saved money on produce. The thing to buying produce is to get your variety throughout the year. Eat things when they are in season or when they are on sale, and eat your fill of them.
How do you save money on produce?
Blog Posts Coming Up:
-Save Money on Real Food besides produce
-Save Time Preparing Real Food
-Make Your Own Folding Shelves for Craft Shows-Cheap!
-A video tour of my garden
-Buy Nothing Summer