If you’re looking for a way to trim the fat from your budget, it’s time to take a closer look at your grocery spending.
Food is a necessity, of course, but chances are you’re spending more than you need to be. And while there are dozens of ways to save money on groceries, today we’re singling out the fruits and veggies.
We’ve rounded up a bunch of strategies for how to save money on produce — from the best places to find cheap fruits and vegetables to how to extend their lifespan once they’re in your kitchen.
Here’s to getting all your daily servings of fruit and veggies without blowing the bank.
Where to Get Less-Expensive Produce
The first step to saving money on produce is all about where you shop.
Spare yourself the built-in costs of grocery store overhead by going directly to local growers.
Check out farmers markets in your area for fresh fruit and vegetables from a variety of vendors. You’ll likely find prices are lower than at the grocery store, but don’t stop there. These tips for how to shop at farmers markets — like bartering and purchasing produce when the market is about to close — will help you save even more.
If you’re okay with receiving a random selection of produce, join a Community Supported Agriculture program, or CSA. CSA members enjoy shares of what’s harvested from a specific local farm. You’ll generally pay for the entire season up-front and pick up your share on a weekly or biweekly basis. Local Harvest is a website that can help you find a CSA near you.
If these options aren’t available in your area or you prefer to shop at a store where you can also pick up toilet paper and milk, consider an ethnic grocery store or a discount grocer like Aldi where you’ll often pay less for fruit and vegetables.
Of course, you could always opt to grow instead of buy. Start a garden cheaply using upcycled items around the house and regrowing produce from cuttings of veggies and herbs you already have. Of course, not all produce is worth growing at home because of how cheaply you can find them in stores. Read up on the most cost-effective produce to plant.
Be Picky About What You Put In Your Cart
Produce that’s in season is generally cheaper than the stuff that’s not currently being grown and harvested where you live. Check out this guide to buying produce in season so you know what to buy and when.
If you’re unsure how to tell if an avocado, pineapple or melon is in the right shape to take home, these guidelines to picking out perfectly ripe produce have got you covered. No one wants to bring home fresh produce only to discover it’s rotten a couple days later.
While you’re being picky about your produce, know that “ugly” or imperfect-looking fruits and vegetables aren’t necessarily bad — and they can often save you money. Stores and subscriptions services alike sell misshapen and blemished produce at discount prices. And if you’re chopping up strawberries for a fruit salad or using tomatoes for a stew — who cares what they originally looked like?
All the tips above are about choosing fresh produce, but that doesn’t mean frozen fruits and vegetables are subpar. In fact, buying frozen produce gives you the same nutritional benefits and it’s a great money-saving strategy because there’s less chance it’ll go bad.
How to Make the Most of Your Produce Once It’s Home
Food waste is wasted money. That’s why it’s important to consume all your produce before you have to toss it.
Instead of trashing things like tomato vines, carrot tops, banana peels or potato skins, learn how to use the parts of produce you often throw away.
Don’t give up on overripe produce either. Give bananas, avocados, spinach, peaches and pears a second life when they’re past their prime by turning them into smoothies, sauces, jams, salad dressings, casseroles and more.
If you’ve got too much produce than you can eat before it rots, preserve what’s left by canning, pickling or freezing your fruits and vegetables. You can enjoy them months later and they’ll still taste delicious.
Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.