Struggling families and savvy shoppers will appreciate these cost-effective strategies that also provide nutritious meals for families.
If you want to buy fruits and vegetables that are actually fresh and well priced, this list will tell you what to buy and when. Depending on where you live, you can also buy these fruits and vegetables at a farmer’s market. Keep in mind that the times of harvest will vary depending on where you live.
Asparagus, Beets, Celery, Spring onions, Greens (arugula, lettuce, kale, spinach, Swiss chard), Peas, Peppers, Turnips, Rhubarb, Strawberries
Artichokes (limited availability), Greens (arugula, collards, kale, lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard), Beets, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Cucumber, Eggplant, Garlic, Beans, Onions, Peppers, Okra, Peas, Potatoes, Radishes, Summer squash, Sweet corn, Tomatoes, Turnips, Zucchini, Apples, Apricots, Blackberries, Blueberries, Boysenberries, Cherries, Currants
Figs, Melons, Peaches, Raspberries, Strawberries, Watermelon
Beets, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Greens (arugula, collards, kale, lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard), Cucumber, Eggplant, Garlic, Gourds, Beans, Onions, Peppers, Leeks, Peas, Potatoes, Pumpkins, Summer squash, Sweet corn, Tomatoes, Turnips, Winter squash, Zucchini, Apples, Pears, Plums, Melons
Grow It Yourself — and Share Your Produce
Consider gardening in whatever green space you can use.
- Backyards can be great spaces for veggies and fruit, including fruit trees.
- Look into community garden spaces if you live in the city or suburbs.
- Transform your balcony railing into a place for smaller varieties of fruit and vegetables.
- Kitchen windows can often grow tasty and pricey herbs that enhance your meals.
- Ask your building management if any rooftop space is safe and available for growing plants.
- Family and neighbors can pick a few crops that are ideal for their spaces and share. So one family may grow tomatoes while another’s garden may be ideal for corn.
- As you grow in your knowledge about your growing zones, try to rotate through the seasons. Spring (radishes, strawberries, asparagus — that takes two years to produce the first crop), summer (squash, onions, potatoes, beets, melons), late summer (fruit trees). See the list above for more ideas.
- Valleys may produce better some years during droughts, while hilltops may do better in a wetter season or climate. Sun is key for most fruits and veggies.
- Containers around your patio work well for small plants like cherry tomatoes and herbs.
- Consider terracing a steep hill that you might otherwise think useless.
Learning to compost your leftovers, prep your garden, harvest, and store for the months ahead is fun and rewarding for many families. No space to compost? Check with your local government. Many municipalities offer community composting services allowing residents to drop off their scraps and pick up rich soil for their personal gardens.
To store, canning, freezing, and dehydrating are some of the most popular strategies to keep veggies and fruit for the year ahead.
If you are new to growing plants, you may not want to take on too much at once. Grow what you love. Your county extension office can help you learn what grows best in your area and can provide free guidance for those who are new to growing plants.
Buy in Bulk
It can make sense to buy in bulk when one has a large family and is trying to budget. Instead of getting one package of hot dogs for $5, you could buy a whole box for only ten.
As well as saving money, you can also save time by buying in bulk. When you stock up on common household items that you know you’re going to use, you’re saving yourself time by eliminating extra shopping trips.
You can also split large quantities with other relatives, neighbors, and friends.
In case you’re wondering if buying in bulk really does save money, check out the 3 reasons below:
- The price per unit should be lower. You can figure this out by comparing things such as price per pound, etc.
- You don’t run the risk of needing something in an emergency that will cost you extra at a local store. Most of these stores make their products more expensive by marking up the price point, which defeats your carefully planned out budget.
- Finally, by choosing to buy in bulk, you learn more about deals and have better habits while shopping.
If you would like to “try before you buy,” many warehouse retailers offer a visitor pass so you can visit the store before purchasing a membership. Or ask a friend who has a membership if you can tag along for her or his next shopping trip. Members are often allowed to bring a guest.
If you don’t want to get a membership or tag along with a friend, some stores let you get a gift card from the store and it gets you in the door as long , so you use it to make your purchases. You can then have a member reload the card online, if you like. It’s a good way for friends or extended family to share a membership!
When you decide that buying in bulk is the best option for you and your family, there are 5 tips to be aware of.
- Keep an inventory of the items you already have. This way, you won’t buy more of what you don’t need.
- Make sure to buy items that will not expire before you need them. Check the expiration dates on items such as milk so they won’t go bad.
- Keep a running list of bulk prices on items that you regularly shop for. This way, if you notice any price changes, you can make sure that you’re still keeping within your budget.
- Make sure that the sales you are attracted to aren’t actually items that may have been marked up in price.
- Keep using the items you know and trust. This way you won’t waste money on bulk items that won’t work or aren’t as effective.
- Finally, it is especially easy to compare bulk prices online from big-box companies, grocery stores, and delivery services.
Finally, here are some items that you maybe didn’t realize are worth buying in bulk: alcohol and eggs!
If you’re worried about where to store bulk items, think outside the kitchen! Bulk bags of rice can easily be stored under a bed.
Clip Coupons — in Paper or Online
Coupons, whether they are in your newspaper, a mailer, or online, are a great way to save money. Below are great coupon resources, both online and in magazine format.
- Print or clip your coupons as soon as they come out.
- Read fine print on the coupon in order to correctly use them, especially note the expiration date. There are also a few other places where you can find great coupons. If you live near a Wegmans grocery store, their Nature’s Marketplace magazine contains coupons. You can also find coupons on Recyclebank, Common Kindness, and Mambo Sprouts.
- Some grocery stores offer a store-specific app with personalized coupons.
- Keep an eye on the sales, as the coupon flier comes out every two weeks.
If you want to shop organically and make healthy food choices for your family, co-ops can help you while supporting local farmers and staying within your budget.
Co-ops, or cooperative grocery stores or markets, are a group of grocery chains committed to higher quality, locally, and ethically sourced food and household products. They source produce, grains, meat, and dairy mostly from local farmers, and provide knowledge and resources on how to live a healthier lifestyle.
Many co-ops provide you with coupons, savings, and deals, along with programs that partner with WIC, food stamps, and Medicaid.
Know what products are carried at your store. Chances are that co-ops will not fulfill your every shopping need, but at least you’ll know where to get certain products at a better price. For example, bulk products are good to buy at your co-op. You often can buy spices for a better price. Finally, you can buy grains, legumes, and flour for less money because they are provided by local farmers.
Finally, you can join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) system, which allows you to buy many fruits and vegetables for a fair price from a local farmer. Some farmers partner with butchers to offer locally raised and butchered meat at a very good price when purchased in bulk. If you have the space to store it, this can be an economical way to get high quality meat.
Compare Local, Big-Box, and Other Online Shopping Services
By shopping locally, you can save money using these three methods:
- Ask for a discount. If a product has been sitting on the shelf for a long time, chances are you will receive a discount on the item.
- Buy handmade items. Not only will these items be better quality, but they will also be cheaper because they are made by someone in your area.
- Buy fruits and vegetables from a farmer’s market.
If you have a large family, you can save money by shopping at big-box stores. You will be able to buy items in bulk with less money.
You may also save money even when you shop online. Credit cards, such as Discover allow cashback when you use your card enough times. Also, programs such as Fetch Rewards give you gift cards every time you upload a receipt from any store.
Freeze Dated Food, and Don’t Waste Leftovers
Wasting food is one of today’s biggest problems. Below are 16 simple ways to creatively use up your leftovers.
- If you have leftover raw vegetables from a veggie tray, you can combine them with foods, such as casseroles, stir fry, or soup.
- If you struggle with wasting leftovers, make a list of meals where you can use them.
- Don’t buy more food until your leftovers are gone.
- Freeze your leftovers so they don’t go to waste.
- You can also can your leftovers.
- Dehydrate your leftovers.
- Any leftover fruit can be used for smoothies or in desserts. Just make sure that you freeze it.
- Repurpose your leftovers.
- You can get bored eating the same thing over and over. If you find that you have too many leftovers, chances are that you are not cooking according to your needs. For example, if you only eat one chicken breast, don’t make two.
- If you are feeding young children, make sure to use small dishes, heat up leftovers for the next day, and only feed them what you know they will eat.
- If you enjoy buying in bulk, learn how to package the food correctly so it doesn’t go to waste.
- If you have pantry food that needs to be used immediately, make sure that the meals you make include them.
- Every year, do a freezer cleanout. This way, you won’t forget about freezer food and will make sure that everything gets eaten. Make an inventory of your freezer and pantry. This way you will see what you have, what you need to use immediately, and what you need to buy.
- If you are able to, compost what you do not use.
- If you have bones or scraps from vegetables, you can make your own broths and stocks.
- Finally, have people over for big dinners, or bring dinner to others.
Bonus Tip: Sometimes, other people’s leftovers can help you save, too! Salvage grocery stores sell food that is nearing its expiration date but still perfectly safe to eat, at drastically slashed prices. One salvage grocer that opened in Arlington, Texas, was selling “$4 packages of pizza rolls, T-bone steaks for $5.99 a pound and blueberries at $1.29 a pack.”
Tips for Storing Your Food
- Rotating stock is always a good idea for dry and canned goods. New cans of green beans, for instance, can go at the back of the cupboard, and then you pull the older cans forward as a matter of habit.
- Also, even in small apartments, there is often unused space above short kitchen cabinets where a box or basket of cans and such could be stored.
- After Halloween, you can bake a leftover jack-o’-lantern and freeze the pumpkin for later use in bread and pies.
Stretch Milk by Mixing in Dry Milk with Water
By stretching your milk, not only are you saving yourself needless trips to the grocery store, you are able to save on grocery expenses, too!
Dry milk is made by dehydrating milk. Because it is shelf stable, you won’t need to put it in the fridge until you add water. By using dry milk, you can either make whole, skimmed, or low-fat milk.
Reconstituted milk can be made up to three days in advance, and you can put it in the fridge. You can store it in a clean container in the fridge for up to five days.
In order to store the milk, you can sterilize glass bottles and jars.
There are also health benefits to consuming powdered milk. It contains vitamins A, D, E, and K. It contains magnesium, zinc, calcium, and phosphorus minerals, which enable the body to function every day. Finally, it contains amino acids and proteins, which repair body tissue.
If you don’t like the way that the milk tastes, you can adapt it. For example, if you add vanilla extract to the milk, it becomes vanilla milk! Make chocolate milk by adding cocoa powder or chocolate syrup. Strawberries or strawberry syrup will give you strawberry milk. Finally, if you want just plain milk, you can add it to your store-bought milk and give it a good shake.
You can also use powdered milk for buttermilk, condensed milk, evaporated milk, and other flavored milk. If you want to bake or cook using powdered milk, you can make everything from mashed potatoes to milkshakes!
Here is the recipe to make powdered milk:
Prep Time: 5 mins
- A measuring cup
- Mini whisk or fork
- Milk bottles for storage
- 2 cups of cold or cool water
- ½ cup of powdered milk
- Add dry milk powder to water and mix till combined and lump free.
- Let the milk mixture stand for about 2-5 mins, then mix again.
- Pour into a sterilized milk bottle and use immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Dry milk is best reconstituted with cold or cool water.
- Hot water makes it more lumpy (remember heat coagulates protein).
Finally, tap water is practically free. Your water company should be testing regularly for impurities. You can also run your water through a filter and keep it in the fridge. There are plenty of flavorings out there from fresh lemon to powdered fruit to liven things up.
By Elizabeth Hardt
The author wishes to acknowledge the contributions of Cheryl Blake, Serrin M. Foster, Colette Moran, and Molly Pannell.