How to Shop the Produce Department on a Budget
Feb 05, 2016, Updated Nov 01, 2023
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Many people complain that the produce department is simply too expensive. It’s unfortunate that the price of fresh fruits and vegetables keeps some people away from the produce department. As a mother of two always-hungry boys, I’m no stranger to shopping on a budget. Buying fresh fruits and veggies can get expensive but there are many ways to save in the produce department. It is possible for every family to afford fresh produce!
How to Save Money in the Produce Department
Buy What’s in Season
The easiest way to save in the produce department is to buy what’s in season. Seasonal produce is cheaper because there’s a large supply of it and it travels a shorter distance to reach you. If a produce item has to be trucked or flown in from afar, those transportation costs are going to be past down to you as the consumer. Of course, your produce is always “in season somewhere” (yes, it’s just like happy hour!); however, the cost of import produce can be more than produce that is locally & domestically grown.
A great way to know which produce items are in season is to subscribe to The Produce Mom’s monthly #ProduceChallenge.
Buy in Bulk and Freeze or Can
Take advantage of the cheaper prices of seasonal items. Buy these items in bulk and then freeze or can for consumption throughout the year. If canning scares you or you don’t have the time, stick to freezing. Many fruits and veggies can be frozen with very little effort.
Here are a couple of resources to get you started with freezing produce:
- How to Freeze Cherries
- How to Freeze Peaches (The Easy Way)
- How to Freeze Peppers
- How to Freeze Berries
Buy Discounted Produce
Your grocery store’s produce department has a discount bin or shelf. These items are still good to eat! Produce ends up in the discount bin when it has a few bumps or bruises (don’t fear ugly fruit!), or the item is ripe and needs to be eaten soon. This is a great place to shop for produce items you need for dinner that night, items you will be baking with (hello, banana bread!), or items that you want to freeze/can for later use.
Not sure where your grocery store’s produce discount section is located? Just ask someone working in the produce department!
Shopping more frequently is a great way to take advantage of discount produce and snag the daily markdowns.
Prep Produce Items Yourself
It is convenient to buy produce that’s been washed and cut for you, but you will pay extra for this service. If money is more of a concern than time, prep the produce yourself. The other benefit to prepping produce yourself is you can cut/slice it to your liking. Plus, you’ll never find fruit and veggie party trays like these in any store!
Read your grocery store’s weekly ad and find out which produce items are on sale. Most grocery stores display their best sale items on the tables at the front of the department. Be sure to stop here and see what you can buy for a great price.
Plan Your Meals
Many people waste money in the produce department by buying more produce than their family can eat in a week. Plan out meals that incorporate several of the same fruits and veggies. For example, if you buy a head of broccoli, plan to have Broccoli Mandarin Orange Salad for lunch and Broccoli & Beef the next night for dinner. This strategy will help you use up everything you buy.
Practice Sustainability in the Kitchen: eliminate food waste & embrace whole veg cooking
Produce often seems more expensive than other grocery items because much of it goes to waste. A recent study by the Natural Resources Defense Council finds “American families throw out approximately 25 percent of the food and beverages they buy. The cost estimate for the average family of four is $1,365 to $2,275 annually.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t have $2,000 to be throwing out each year! Sustainability practices in the kitchen help me and they can help you save money too!
Kitchen sustainability practices help you use what you buy, and by doing so, you’ll be taking your grocery budget further. We’ve already discussed a few kitchen sustainability practices (meal planning, freezing, and canning). Some other practices to consider are: juicing produce that is starting to go bad; using the ENTIRE item; and storing produce items correctly for a longer shelf life.
Here are a few ways to start using the ENTIRE produce item:
The produce department can be affordable for every family, even those on a tight budget! Do you have a great tip for saving money in the produce department? Help your fellow Produce Moms out by sharing in the comments below!