Frugality 101: Produce Picks

Hello, Readers! Well, I don’t know about a lot of you, but I have often wondered what life would be like if I won the lottery someday or ended up with a larger-than-life inheritance. Life would be great, then. There would be no worries about money; I could spend without a second thought. I would never have to worry about money again. But, that isn’t reality.

The reality is that I, like most of the world, do watch my pennies and I do try to keep my spending low. I budget every month with my husband, as do our families. I may be a SAHM, but I will be the first to admit that we pinch pennies to make it work, and my husband doesn’t make a six figure income. We are your average family, and like every family we focus on maintaining our budget.

One way that I do this is by understanding how to shop for produce properly in order to feed my family the best possible produce choices while still not spending a fortune on food. My first way to do this: I don’t shop organic. I understand that organic may be a better choice in many ways, but it isn’t realistic for my family and I. Besides, “organic” does not mean pesticide/insecticide free; in fact, an “organic” crop is a crop that contains a smaller percentage of pesticides/insecticides. I know that some of you may stick to an organic diet regardless, and that’s fine. I won’t say that I don’t understand it, because I get why people do follow an organic diet. But, personally, I don’t adhere to one.

Now, if you do want to follow an organic diet but you don’t want to spend the extra money required for organic produce, I highly recommend growing your own food in a garden. Right now is actually a great time to stock up on seeds and gardening supplies for next year that will keep during the winter months until next Spring when you can plant seeds and grow your own produce. It can be a great way to guarantee your family gets completely chemical-free and true organic produce at a fraction of the cost (we’re talking pennies on the dollar), and it’s a great way to teach kids about food, nature, and responsibility. I can remember helping my grandmother in the summertime with her garden, pulling weeds, planting seeds, watering plants, and picking fresh produce. I would never trade those lessons for anything, and it proved to be a great bonding experience for myself and for my grandparents.

I understand that right now is not the time to discuss having a garden since Summer is wrapping up for the year. So, let’s discuss what you can do right now—and during the cold Winter months—to get produce at a lower cost. It is possible to get fresh produce in the Winter, even organic produce, and it’s an oxymoron that produce is not in season in colder months. Now, the produce found in the colder months is not always your run-of-the-mill summer variety, but Winter provides its own unique choices that can be enjoyable at that time.

See, during the Northern Hemisphere’s colder months, the Southern Hemisphere experiences its version of summer, and their warm-weather varieties become available. This means that more tropical produce like papaya and mango are more readily available when it’s cold outside. Typically, these produce picks are cheaper at this time as well, and they can be processed at home—via canning, pickling, and/or freezing—to keep them for later use. But, that’s a topic for another day.

The important thing to keep in mind when shopping for produce is to remember what’s in season at that time—and to shop your circulars for the best deal. One way that I do this is by checking this article about produce in season by month on Wisebread.com. This helps me pre-plan and plan my meals based on what foods I know will be available. And it helps me maintain our budget while also regularly offering a variety of meals based on produce picks, which means my family doesn’t get tired of the same meals every week because I regularly switch them out based on what I can find and what’s on sale.

Now, what do you do if it’s Winter and you don’t want papaya? What if you want fajitas, but the bell peppers look weak and are extremely expensive? My next tip for produce picks: shop in the frozen foods section. Contrary to popular belief, frozen foods can often be fresher than your fresh produce picks. Why? Because frozen foods are often flash-frozen, or frozen at the peak of the season, which means they are chock-o-bock FULL of nutrients. They can be boiled, roasted, steamed, and more. What I really love about frozen options is that I can sometimes get them for far less than their fresh counterparts—especially in March, which is National Frozen Foods month—and I can use them as I need to rather than having to use them before they spoil like their fresh counterparts. I currently have half of a 2 lbs. bag of California blend veggies—broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots—that I bought three weeks ago in my freezer, and they are still as fresh as the day they were packed.

So, here are just three ways to get the best produce picks on a budget. Tell me, Readers, what methods do you follow when shopping for produce? What tips can you offer to us to help us save even more money on our produce picks?

Until next time,

-BBM

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