Saving money on groceries is one of the most difficult ways to trim your budget. I shared ways to save on meat, but it’s especially difficult to save on produce if you want to control your grocery budget. It can be done, though, and you won’t need to eat canned corn for the rest of your life!
Buy discounted produce
Managers discount meat at the beginning of the day, but they also discount produce that’s close to its “sell by” date. If you plan on using (or freezing) the produce that day or the next, you can buy discounted produce with confidence. I always carefully check my produce before purchasing it anyway, so I know that it’ll last for a few days before it goes bad. I very rarely include produce as part of my meal plan (unless it’s the main part of the dish, like eggplant parmesan), so it’s easy to buy whatever is discounted and then cook it up as a side dish.
You may have a discounted produce store in your town, too. These stores often sell large quantities of produce to local restaurants, but you may get lucky if they’re open to the public. We have two stores like this in our town. If the larger grocery stores are unable to sell their produce its sell-by date, they’ll often sell it to a discount store. The discount store then sells the produce for a fraction of its retail price. Especially before holidays or parties, I’ll buy an entire cart full of fruits and vegetables to make party platters for less than $10.
Buy and freeze
I often buy more produce than I can use and then freeze the leftovers just before they go bad. I especially love to do this with peppers, berries, and bananas. I wash and slice the peppers in half before freezing, and then use the peppers as part of a stir fry later (it’s easy to chop frozen peppers, and they thaw quickly so I don’t need to thaw them before cooking). I use berries as a topping for yogurt or oatmeal to make a delicious breakfast, and I use the bananas as a substitute for eggs in baked goods.
Buy in season
When produce is “in season,” grocers sell it at rock bottom prices. Eventually, you’ll get sick of eating nothing but green beans and broccoli, but by then a new vegetable will be “in season.” At the end of the season, stock up on the produce to freeze or can.
Stock up on frozen and canned produce when it’s on sale
February is National Canned Food Month and March is Frozen Food Month. In addition to having sales those months, watch your local grocery store’s ad and stock up based on the current sales. My favorite grocery store typically has a “can-can” sale two times a year.
Start a garden (or make friends with a gardener) 🙂
I don’t have a green thumb and I get poison ivy if I look out the window (not joking – I can get it from washing the farmer’s laundry). Thankfully, my parents have a small garden, and we get lots of tomatoes, squash, and peppers when we visit.
If you don’t know another gardener, try visiting a local farmer’s market or join a co-op to get fresh (cheap) produce. The best time to visit a farmer’s market is shortly before closing. While the selection may be more limited, you’ll get better deals on the produce simply because the farmers don’t want to bring the produce back home.
It’s a little more difficult to stock up on produce because it’s much more perishable than meat and not everything can be frozen and saved for later. Eating the same produce can get boring if you’re only buying “in season” vegetables. I get it. We went through a winter where we only ate asparagus (it was my son’s favorite food), but haven’t eaten it since! If you want to save on produce but still eat a variety year-round, try buying discounted produce or frozen produce (bonus points for buying it “in season” and freezing it yourself).