Summer Veg Out Part I: CHEAP

Have you bought food, driven anywhere, or been out of the house in the last few months? If you have I'm sure you noticed that prices are a wee bit up. I practically fainted the last time I bought a loaf of bread.

With the cost of food so high, how can any of us afford to emphasize fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables? When times are tough it's tempting to stick with foods that are cheap, calorie-dense, and comforting (like starchy American junk food) instead of foods that have fewer calories and might go bad before you finish them.

But fruits and vegetables are good for us! Eating healthy foods will save us money on medical expenses in the long run, and if you're a savvy shopper they might not cost as much as you think. Here are some of the cost-saving ideas I use and would like to share.

1. Don't stick to organic.

I know, it sounds terrible. It's certainly not ideal, but when I'm trying to save money, not every vegetable and fruit I buy is organic. Organic tends to cost more, sometimes a lot more, and unless it’s on the most contaminated list I'll buy whatever is cheapest. I wash all my produce well and peel non-organic fruits and cucumbers.

2. Eat seasonally.

Produce is generally cheaper when you eat what’s in season in your area, and it usually tastes better, too. More on seasonal, local produce in the next Veg Out post...

3. Eat frozen instead of fresh

Frozen vegetables are usually less expensive, and they are more nutritious as well.

Unfortunately, my son hates the texture of frozen broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, and green beans. I have to agree; except for corn and peas the texture of frozen vegetables leaves me cold. Keep that in mind when considering switching to frozen; it’s no savings if nobody eats it.

4. Shop like a restaurant

Look for any bulk or wholesale grocery stores (aka "Cash and Carry") that cater to restaurants and businesses in your area. There are two in my city that are open to the public. Anyone can shop there and buy their personal groceries at the same price that a restaurant would.

Here is a picture of my purchase from the other day: six romaine hearts, a bunch of bananas, six grapefruit, pineapple juice, a 5-pound bag of frozen mango, an enormous bag of broccoli crowns, and cauliflower. The total cost: $19.29. The bag of romaine only cost $2.00, and the mangoes were a bit over $5. Look in the yellow pages under "Grocers-Whsle".

5. Ethnic Markets

Have you checked out the ethnic grocery stores in your area? Our local Asian market was selling bags of beautiful baby bok choy before the big grocery stores had even heard of it, and at a very low cost. Our Hispanic markets sell mangoes, limes, avocados, and more at much lower prices than the regular stores.

Was this helpful? What are your money-saving ideas? Please add your own ideas and suggestions in the comments!