Many people trying to lower their food budget find their biggest challenge is affording fresh fruits and vegetables. For one thing, they are not all that cheap. For another, if you forget about them they will go to waste, forcing you to pour money and good food down the drain. I hate that. I try to keep that from happening as much as possible.
One solution is buying canned produce and/or frozen veggies & fruits. Both are quick and easy to use. Frozen is usually pretty frugal since you use just the amount you need– no waste. You might get some good sales on canned veggies & fruits, but it’s not always as healthy or tasty as frozen. Canned veggies are often loaded with salt & many canned fruits are packed in a sugar syrup. “Heavy syrup” means heavy on the sugar, and “light syrup” means they used less sugar. Packed in fruit juice is the healthiest. Drink the juice or add it to other drinks or recipes. Or freeze it for ice cubes to add to drinks. You can freeze it until you want to use it in a recipe too.
Frozen veggies come in several price ranges, but often the store brand is just as good as the “name brand” & is many times packed at the same place as the name brand item.
We’re supposed to get 3-5 servings of veggies a day, but a serving size is not all that big–usually 1/2 cup for adults. If you have some vegetable juice (like V-8) sometime during the day it helps with those servings. The lower-salt version is healthier than the original, IMO. It’s probably not as healthy for you as some fresh veggies, but when your budget is tight, it’s better than skipping a serving of veggies.
Of course the very best way to save on vegetables and fruits is to grow your own! If you get good at it you will have enough to freeze or to can. That takes some time, but it can really help your food budget. At the very least, try to grow some of the easier veggies next Spring. You might find you have a green thumb you didn’t know about. You can get a head start on that by starting a compost pile now to enrich your soil come Spring. It’s easy and free! Click on the label “compost” below this post for easy ways to start.
You can also get deals at farmer’s markets towards the end of the day when they just want to get rid of things rather than pack them up again. Then you will have to put them in the freezer or eat them soon.
You can easily and cheaply grown your own sprouts year round in a glass jar in your house. It only takes a daily shake of the jar to keep things going well. Sprouts are great in omelettes, sandwiches, wraps, soups, salads, etc. They can even be added to baked goods for a nutty flavor. Click the label “sprouts” below this post for how to’s. You might like to get the whole family interested in this. I can hear it now: “Who’s week is it to take care of the sprouts?”
One of my favorite ways to boost our nutrition is to use “Super Foods” that have so many vitamins in them they almost count as more than one vegetable! Click on the label “Super Foods” below this post for recipes using them.
When you simply must have a salad, go for items that last well in the fridge. Bagged salad greens usually go bad in one day, so pick them up at the store right before you use them. Romaine lettuce lasts well in a plastic bag–sometimes for as much as a week. Cabbage, purple and green, last really well. Celery can do well, but don’t forget it. If you won’t use it up soon enough, chop it & freeze it in a zip type freezer bag. Carrots that are regualr size last longer than mini carrots. Green peppers sometimes last a week, but check on them to be sure they are ok. Most other veggies don’t last as long & need to be checked every day for stage of ripeness. Whatever veggies go bad before you can use them should be crossed off your future shopping lists.
Also I drink tea. Any kind of tea has so many good things (including anti-oxidants) in it that it does count as a serving of vegetables. A cup of hot tea is soothing and warms up a winter day. Iced tea in the summer is more refreshing than soda pop. And tea is very cheap if you buy the basic tea bags. For kids, go with decaf tea & add a little honey if they are over 3 years old. Honey has lots of good things to fight germs, but it doesn’t count as a vegetable. Not yet anyway! lol
Try a few of these strategies & see which will fit into your life. You will feel better with all of those vitamins and anti-oxidants flying around inside you & will be better able to fight off germs too. Here’s to feeling good and keeping your family healthy!