Saturday, June 18, 2011

7 Ways to Get more Fruits and Veggies without Breaking the Budget

As we talked about yesterday, on June 2nd the USDA released their new MyPlate guidelines. The new guidelines show a diet filled with more fruits and vegetables with less grains. Have you looked at the price of fresh produce in the grocery stores? Not a pretty site! And many people, including our family, have always viewed the "grains" as fillers....I know rice, pasta and breads are cheap ways to fill up a hungry teenage boy and at that age, they are able to burn all those extra carbohydrates and calories. Of course, it probably sets a bad habit for them to fight in later life?

So....how can we increase the fruits and veggies without breaking the grocery budget? Well, I have some ideas.

  1. Many of us use the meat as the "centerpiece" on our plates. We'll throw a big hunk of meat on there and then the rest of the plate was given to fillers and a little veggies. Fruits were usually reserved as dessert or a snack. Change your thinking...if the veggies and fruit take a larger role on our plate, then we'll be spending less money on meat or "proteins" as the MyPlate guideline shows. 
  2. Buy fresh produce in season. This is a no-brainer. If the produce is not in season, it is picked early, shipped from long distances and has a higher cost especially as the cost of fuel rises. Learning to buy produce in season for your area may mean that you try new types of produce...that's not a bad thing. Have fun with it.  You might find a new favorite! 
  3. Shop at discount stores like Aldi's. The Aldi's store near us gets their produce shipment in on Tuesdays. That means I am there usually on Wednesday buying our produce for the week. The produce varies but I have always found it cheaper. For example, our local Walmart and other grocers charge about $2.88 per head of califlower but at Aldi's, it's $1.49. Bell peppers at other grocers cost about $0.89 each...at Aldi's, I've purchased them in a three pack for $0.99 on sale with a regular price of $1.49. That's quite a savings. Of course, I stock up on them when they are on sale...bring them home and slice or dice them to put in the freezer. 
  4. Check the "discounted" bin at your local grocer. If you are uncertain where it's located in your store, ask the produce manager.  Just because it's marked down doesn't mean it's bad...choose the best packages from those available. When you get it home, if you don't plan to use it immediately, chop it up and put it in the freezer.
  5. Find your local restaurant supplier. In or near every town there is a company that supplies produce to local restaurants. Find that company...they are usually listed in the phone book but you can also call your favorite restaurant and simply ask where they get their produce. Then contact that company and find out if they offer sales to the public. Many of them do. If you must buy a case of something to get the special pricing...find friends to go in with you to buy a case and then divide it up.
  6. Don't forget frozen and/or canned fruits and veggies. Although fresh is best, sometimes we must use alternatives. Frozen foods would be the second best to fresh as it's "flash frozen" and retains a lot of the vitamins and minerals. Canned is also fine, however, with fruits, try to choose those canned in fruit juice or light syrup instead of heavy syrup. 
  7. Lastly, it might be in your best interest to have a small garden. If you are new to gardening or it sounds daunting, I recommend the "Square Foot Gardening" method. It's great because it produces a lot of stuff in a small area. It's great for rural areas, city lots and even those who live in apartments or townhouses.
I hopes these ideas have helped. What do you do to keep the costs of fruits and veggies down? Share them with us by leaving a comment.

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

1 comment:

Susan said...

Great tips! I need to remember to check Aldi's on my occasional trips to town.

As for fresh being best, these days the fruit and vegetables that we buy in the grocery store are usually picked prematurely and treated with something to help them "ripen" after they're shipped to the stores. Nutrient count in today's fresh fruit is horribly lower than it was in fruit we used to buy before this practice. Since frozen fruits and vegetables are flash frozen, as you mentioned, oftentimes they really are better for us than their grocery store counterparts. Picking your own is probably the best solution, or buying at a farmer's market.