Food prices are no joke! While the stock market reverberates daily and many of us are seeing the values of our portfolios decline; the one variable that certainly isn’t decreasing is the average cost of food. Rapidly escalating food prices, especially for basic staples such as dairy products, meat and fresh produce, are rising faster than average household income. Many consumers are combating the high prices of fresh fruit and vegetables by falling back on time-tested methods of canning and preserving while those who are fortunate to own acreage are growing and harvesting what they need. However, not everyone has the time, the inclination and most of all, the land available to grow their own supply of fruits and vegetables. How can we as consumers save on fresh produce without skimping on our health and well-being? Saving money on fresh fruit and vegetables is not as difficult or as loathsome a chore as one might first think. There are a few steps we can take to reduce our expenses on basic staples as well as on our favorite fruits and vegetables by making a concentrated effort in terms of organization, meal planning and a willingness to become a better informed and more alert shopper.
1. Developing an effective price book is the first concrete step in formulating a “savings strategy”. A price book should be simple in layout so you don’t waste valuable time in hunting for information. Everyone’s price book will be slightly different as you may want to create special columns for notes or other miscellaneous information. You can create a price book using any spreadsheet software or even an ordinary notebook. Here’s the layout for my price book. I have a column for “Nutrition Info.” as I like to jot down brief entries on nutrient information for various fruits and vegetables. I also included a column entitled “Freeze” which serves as a guide for purchasing my favorite vegetables such as artichokes, asparagus, baby carrots and zucchini. I know that I will freeze these for later use. Some coupon websites also offer menu suggestions in addition to free printable coupons.
Fresh Produce Price Book
Price Per Item
Additional Savings - Coupon, etc.
Produce For The Week
2. Collect all supermarket flyers and coupons. Take time to review and organize them before you go shopping.
3. Plan your meals ahead of time, generally, a week ahead. This will help you prepare a “targeted” shopping list and cut down on unnecessary purchases.
4. Blanching is a simple process to prepare vegetables for freezing that can save you both money and time. It’s also a great way to enjoy all your favorite vegetables year round! Get yourself acquainted with this time-tested method. Many agricultural colleges and farm organizations have websites that provide free information on home freezing so you don’t have to purchase any books!
5. Buy fresh herbs in bulk whenever possible. You can successfully freeze fresh herbs without blanching. However, many individuals still prefer blanching herbs before freezing.
6. Don’t overbuy perishable items that need to be consumed in 3-5 days. It is amazing how often we buy more lettuce than we can actually consume only to end up having to toss it out.
7. Don’t duplicate your purchases of fresh fruit. If you buy oranges, you don’t have to buy grapefruit. Try to make as broad a selection as possible. This is not only economical but it will allow you draw upon a greater variety of vitamins and essential nutrients.
8. Buy produce that is in season as this is usually less expensive and you will have more money left over to purchase items that are not available year round for freezing.
9. Read actively news articles and features on conservation of fresh produce. There are always new tips and methods we can learn. Store fruits and vegetables separately because ethylene gas from fruit can accelerate the ripening process of other nearby produce. You can obtain helpful tips on preserving fresh produce from farmer.net.
10. Stock up on fruit such as apples and berries so that you can make pies and tarts ahead of time and freeze them. Use any additional quantities to make your own fruit preserves and jellies.
11. Don’t just limit your shopping to supermarkets! Buy fresh produce from farmers' markets, food co-ops and “pick your own” farms. Become informed about farms your in area and peruse the websites of agricultural organizations. Search for local farms on localharvest.org.
12. Check the websites of supermarkets for special coupons and promotions.
13. Monitor the vegetable crisper drawer daily for any sign of moisture and/or food rot. The crisper drawer should be clean and dry. If necessary, you can place an absorbent paper towel underneath the vegetables.
14. Try to play the “daily double”. Buy items that are marked down and offer additional coupon savings.
15. Keep your refrigerator organized and go over its contents before you go shopping.
16. Check all sales receipts as errors can still frequently occur.