Fruits and veggies on a shoestring budget

Produce – getting more for less.

With the prices on everything on a rise, combined with last summer’s draught making some commodities scarce, food dollars are being stretched more than ever. Walking through any grocery store will show that prices have increased. To economize, some people are eating at home more often, and some are even reporting that they are learning to become better cooks! The fact remains, there are bargains to be had at the grocery store – and evaluating your shopping cart may be the place to go to see if you’re getting the most “bang” for your buck.

We know that prices on fruits, vegetables and other meal staples have increased, but prices on desserts, snack foods and beverages have risen comparatively. Generally speaking, the cost of a serving of fruit will be similar to, and often less than, a serving of a snack food. Pick up a bag of apples and compare it to a bag of chips. They may cost the same, but which will last longer? Which has more nutrition? Which can be used in more ways?

Michigan State University Extension says that a two liter of soda-pop costs an average of $1.69. You could purchase lettuce, shred some carrots, chop an onion and add shredded cheese from your stock that does not add up to that. Think of ways you can add fruits and vegetables to your shopping cart with the money you might spend on “treats.” You can choose to buy fruits and vegetables that are in season, or buy juice in frozen concentrate which is generally cheaper than pre-made juices. Any time of year, try to purchase items with a long shelf life, like apples, carrots and celery. This decreases the chance of spoilage. Canned fruits and vegetables are essential in any pantry – see if you can find them on sale. If you have the money, buy some to put away. Canned vegetables have much of the same nutritional value as fresh, as they are picked at the best time and processed immediately.

Remembering that everything in your cart is part of your food budget may be a way of eating well in spite of the prices. Keep a clear head, use a grocery list, and think about the nutritional value in your menu and cart. Find new in-season fruits and vegetables to try – and increase your culinary expertise! Also, plan a garden. Browse through the seed catalogs or stores and start dreaming of what you can grow for yourself – herbs are great to try even on a windowsill and pots of tomatoes and peppers can add to your diet as well as your decorating spirit!

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