Save money and stop being so wasteful with fruits and veggies! They're a delicious way to get some good nutrients into your family. Use our tips on buying cheap produce that's in season and start eating healthier!
There is nothing more frustrating when trying to eat healthy and stay on budget than opening the fridge and realizing you forgot about the lettuce you bought last week. Hello, brown and soggy mess! We've done this too many times in the past to count and wasted so much money throwing away fruits and vegetables. Talk about frustrating!
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After trial and error, we've come up with some tried and true tips that are going to save you some major moolah. Start buying that cheap produce in season and stop wasting it at home! These tips don't require expensive kitchen gadgets or hours of prep time – just a few minutes and a little planning. You ready? Let's get to it!
BUY CHEAP PRODUCE THAT'S IN SEASON
All produce has a growing season that's in the sweet spot. Not only can you get some cheap produce when it's in season, but they're usually much higher quality and tastier. Here's when the most common fruits and veggies are in season:
- Bell Peppers
- Green Beans
- Acorn Squash
- Brussel Sprouts
- Sweet Potatoes
- Butternut Squash
That's definitely not all, but you get the gist! If you'd like a more complete list for each season's produce, you can find those here: spring, summer, fall, and winter.
PLAN MEALS AROUND YOUR CHEAP PRODUCE
You know we are all about meal planning around here! It's a great way to use what you've got and keep your grocery budget low by planning ahead. Plan meals that use the same vegetables so you can decrease waste. Pay attention to the cheap produce that's in season when you're figuring out your meals for the week. Just like most things, if you watch prices, you can find it on sale.
Look at your local grocery store ad or online app before planning out your weekly menu. If bell peppers are on sale one week, plan as many meals as possible to include bell peppers in different ways. For example, if you make tacos for dinner one night, use the leftover toppings like lettuce, tomatoes, bell peppers, and avocados to make a salad for lunch the next day.
EXAMPLE WEEKLY MENU USING YOUR PRODUCE
This sample menu uses up all your cheap produce in a week. Prepare… you're about to become a shelf cooking ninja within a few weeks!
- Monday: Taco salad using carrots, corn, bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, and avocados, and a homemade taco seasoning, of course
- Tuesday: Zucchini squash, and tomato pasta made with homemade spaghetti sauce
- Wednesday: Shredded chicken salad using remaining lettuce from taco salad
- Thursday: Avocado chicken pizza using leftover shredded chicken, avocados, and tomatoes on a homemade pizza crust
- Friday: Pork chops and roasted vegetables, using any other leftover vegetables (They all taste delicious roasted with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper!)
STORE YOUR CHEAP PRODUCE PROPERLY
Help yourself out by storing your produce the proper way! The refrigerator isn't king when it comes to all types of produce – it can actually ruin some fruits and veggies and makes it go bad a lot quicker. Don't make that mistake!
- Apples will last longer when they're stored in the fridge. But you can also store them on the countertop if you don't like to eat them cold.
- Nectarines, peaches, and melons need to ripen at room temperature for a few days. Then store them in the refrigerator to last longer. Make sure that you cut the melons first before storing them in the fridge.
- Lettuce should be washed and dried before storing. Put it in a plastic bag with a few paper towels in the refrigerator to soak up all of the moisture to keep it from going soggy and brown as quickly. Change the towel out every few days if you don't eat it right away.
- Berries need to be stored in their containers in the fridge. They can also be stored in vented containers like these.
COOL, DRY PLACE OR THE COUNTERTOP
- Potatoes, garlic, and onions need to be stored in a well ventilated, cool, dry place (but keep those onions away from the others)!
- Pineapples need to be turned upside down for a few days. This helps to sweeten the whole pineapple.
- Avocados should be stored at room temperature until they're ripe. Once they are ripe, you can also put them in the fridge to last a few more days.
Those are just a few of the most common ways to store your fresh, cheap produce. Don't miss out on even more tips on storing fruit and veggies to make them last longer!
KEEP YOUR IN-SEASON, CHEAP PRODUCE VISIBLE
Out of sight, out of mind! Don't waste your produce by hiding it away in the recesses of your fridge or pantry, never to be seen again (until you find it moldy and growing weird things in a few months, that is). Keep your fruit and veggies where you'll easily see them. They'll be a daily reminder to eat your fruits and veggies.
Keep your produce that doesn't need to be refrigerated on the counter. It makes it easy to grab as you leave for work or when you go looking for a snack in the kitchen!
Spending 10-15 minutes after grocery shopping to prep salad jars is also a great way to make vegetables a more convenient snack or meal. Don’t be afraid to eat your veggies with a little bit of dip or salad dressing, too! Most vegetables are rich in different vitamins. These vitamins are better absorbed by your body when eaten with a little bit of fat. And it's a good excuse to eat a little fat, right?!
FREEZE FRESH PRODUCE
Freezing fruits and vegetables when they are in season is a great way to have cheap produce all year long. You can freeze most produce at home without any special equipment. Not only can you freeze it when it's fresh, but you can also freeze produce that is a little past its prime to use in smoothies.
We love how easy frozen smoothie packs are to throw together and whip up for breakfast or a snack! Throw your fruit or veggies that you won't be able to eat before they go bad into a freezer bag and they'll be ready to go when you need them. Just make sure it doesn't have any mold and cut off any badly bruised parts before freezing.
FLASH FREEZE YOUR PRODUCE
One of the easiest ways to freeze fruits and vegetables is by flash freezing them. This simply means that you individually freeze cut fruit and vegetables before placing them in a bag for long term storage in your freezer. Here's the quick and easy how-to for you:
- Wash and Dry – Make sure that you thoroughly wash your produce and then let it dry completely! If it's not dry, ice chucks will form on the produce, decreasing its shelf-life in the freezer and also causing it to clump together with the other produce around it.
- Place on Sheet Pan and Freeze – Line a sheet pan with a piece of parchment paper and place the produce in a single layer on the cookie sheet. Place the sheet in the freezer and freeze the produce until hard. It doesn’t have to be completely frozen, but just hard enough to prevent it from forming a large clump when you put it in the freezer bag.
- Store in Freezer Bag – Once the fruit or vegetables are frozen, dump them into a labeled and dated freezer bag and store in the freezer until you want to use them. This method works best for vegetables like broccoli, onions, bell peppers, and corn cut off the cob. It works best for fruits like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, peaches, nectarines, bananas, and grapes.
Don't let individually freezing produce freak you out! It's seriously so easy and will save you some money in the process.
BUY CHEAP FROZEN OR CANNED PRODUCE
Produce loses very little nutritional value when it's frozen, which is why it's a great way to get inexpensive, healthy food in your diet! Grabbing some frozen produce at the store is a great way to save money, especially if you want to buy a fruit or vegetable that is out of season. Frozen stir-fry kits and mixed vegetables are a great way to always have an easy, healthy meal on hand.
Canned produce is another great way to always have produce on hand that'll last you for a long time! When buying canned vegetables, try and select low-sodium options or vegetables that have been preserved by simply using water. When buying canned fruit, grab ones that are packed in water, 100% juice, or light syrup. Selecting these options lessens the amount of added sugar.
MAKE TIME TO FIT MEAL PLANNING AND PREPPING INTO YOUR DAY
We know this can all sound daunting, thinking about the amount of time it can take to meal plan and prep. But where there's a will, there's a way! Productivity Boot Camp is the perfect answer to your worries. It'll walk you through your day, helping you to set up systems that will make your life run smoother, opening up your time to the things that are important to you (like keeping those strawberries from becoming fuzzy)!
It sounds pretty darn amazing, right? Let PBC help you get your life in order! Use the code FCFBLOG for 10% off at checkout, just because. 😉
Alright, there you go! Are you ready to start saving money on cheap produce while making sure that it doesn't go to waste?
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Our brand new site is dedicated to helping you cook delicious, homemade, down-home-cooked meals for your family without spending too much time in the kitchen! Basically every parent's dream, right? Join the Shelf Cooking Community today!
Want more great ideas?
- If you have some sweet potatoes that are about to go bad, make up this easy and delicious sweet potato breakfast bowl.
- These apple ring pancakes are a fun and different take on breakfast!
- Here are 50 things to do with pears if you have an abundance of them.
How can I keep watermelon in the refrigerator for a few days (3-4 days) without it getting dry as the liquids leak out? How can I freeze watermelon?
Try only cutting how much you need at a time off of the watermelon and wrapping the rest of it with plastic wrap before putting it in the refrigerator. Freeze it by cutting it into slices/pieces and flash freezing on a cookie sheet before storing in in a freezer bag!