I hear it all the time: Vegetables are expensive. Fruits cost too much money. How can I buy produce on a budget? What produce are cheap to buy? So I put together what I do to eat healthy quality vegetables and fruits while keeping my grocery bill reasonable.
1. Buy in season.
It’s always cheaper to buy produce when they’re in season. Plus, they taste better and are packed with more nutrients when picked in their peak. Most of us are used to finding produce in the grocery store year-long that we don’t know what’s seasonal and what’s not. I created this What’s in Season (click on this link) sheet for you! Print it and stick it on your fridge.
Buy seasonal produce in bulk–blueberries are a great example. Freeze them, can them, or pickle them(more on naturally fermented vegetables and their health benefits in another post).
2. Use what you buy.
Many of my clients complain than veggies go bad in their fridge before they use them up and they feel that they are dumping their hard-earned money in the trash when buying veggies. Often, it’s not that they’re buying more than they need, rather, they are buying without having a weekly menu planned in advance. They often have the best intentions in the morning to cook when they get home, but they didn’t prepare in advance and detoured by the fast food restaurant on the way home. Plus, when you cook at home, you don’t eat out as much and your total food spending (restaurants and groceries) is lower.
3. Grow your own.
Grow a garden, as big or as small as your backyard allows. You can even grow plants in pots on your deck or create a vertical garden. Herbs like mint, parsley, basil, and thyme are a great addition since you typically need a little bit and a whole bunch can go bad in the fridge very fast.
4. Skip organic produce if they’re typically clean.
The Environmental Working Group tests the pesticide content in common produce every year and puts together 2 lists: The Dirty Dozen and Clean 15. The Clean 15, such as avocados and bananas, are typically low in pesticides so save few extra dollars and buy conventional. The Dirty Dozen, however, is what you want to buy organic. Read more about these 2 lists in this previous post and get the most recent list on the Environmental Working Group website.
If you don’t usually buy organic, this tip might cost you a little more but it’s well worth it. We don’t know the long term effects of ALL pesticides. Many pesticides were considered safe, eventually were banned, but they remain in the soil and in our food supply. Your liver is detoxifying numerous chemicals and toxins you’re being exposed to every day (cleaning products, hair and skin products, air, water, oxidized fats, and many more). Give it a break and buy the Dirty Dozen in organic.
5. Look for farmers markets, CSA, wholesale stores, or ethnic stores.
Check out other sources of produce than your mainstream grocery store. Are there any mom-and-pop shops in your area? Ethnic stores (ask for source of food and maybe stick to the Clean 15 List if in doubt)? If wholesale stores are cheaper, you can split the bag of carrots or broccoli with another family? Farmers markets and CSAs sell produce in season and that often means more affordable and better tasting.
6. Settle with fewer convenience items.
Baby carrots are more expensive than regular carrots. Anything pre-washed or pre-cut is more expensive. Making yourself a plate from the salad bar is going to cost you more than buying the produce and chopping your own. Salad kits are more expensive, as well as individually wrapped snacks. If you want a lower grocery bill, plan to spend few extra minutes in the kitchen. Get your kids, significant other, or anyone else in your household to help. The tips in my Dinner: Done guide might help you figure out how to create your own shortcuts.
7. What’s wrong with good old vegetables?
Goii berries? Pomegranate? Other super fruits? Sure they taste delicious, but they come with a price tag, especially when not of season. The best vegetables when it comes to detoxification and antioxidants are still your good old cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and Brussel’s sprouts.
8. Don’t waste your money on junk food.
Processed foods like chips, soda, breakfast cereals, cookies, and crackers cost money and are devoid of nutrients. When your cart is full of these foods, you’re literally just paying for calories, sugar, and rancid free-radical-causing fats. Buy foods in the least amount of processed form to save money. For example, buy real potatoes, not freezer French fries.
9. Where else are you spending your money?
Okay, this is outside of the grocery store, but how much money are you spending on ‘stuff’? We all like to buy something new or go out watch a movie every now and then, but look at your overall spending. How much money is really going to places when they can be better spent on food or even savings for a rainy day. Each person is different and I’m no money coach, but set your priorities right. Treating chronic conditions is expensive. If you don’t take care of your body now, it’s going to cost you a lot later in life (minus quality of life which you can’t put a price tag on).
Now I want to hear it from you! What do you do to eat healthy vegetables and not break the bank? Comment below!