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You could easily be spending hundreds more than you need to on produce each year. Luckily, healthy eating on a budget can be pretty easy if you know where to find the best deals on produce. Find out how to save money on produce with these easy, year-round tips. Your bank account, your meal plans, and your health will thank you!
We're quickly approaching my favorite time of the year to hit up the farmer's market! It's not too hot (and not too cold yet) and the options for produce varieties seem endless.
It's also the best time of the year to start buying your fruits and vegetables in bulk so you can preserve your food for winter. While you can easily head to your local grocery store, buy your favorite fruits and vegetables in bulk, and then can them – you probably aren't getting the best quality. You also are most likely paying more than you should.
So if you're trying to figure out how to eat healthy on a budget, start by saving money on produce and learn these easy to follow tips for saving money on food.
Buy In Season
One of the easiest ways to save money on food is to buy in season. Think apples, pumpkins, and squash in the fall. Melons, berries, and peaches in the summer. The more in season produce is, the less it's likely to cost. Not only that, but the better it will taste.
By buying in season, the produce you buy is more likely to be local or at least have less distance to travel. Seasonal fruit is also harvested at the peak of ripeness, meaning it has better taste and flavor. Produce that is out of season is harvested early so it can be distributed to the grocery stores before the produce would go bad.
The best way to save money on food when buying in season is to preserve as much as you can so you can enjoy it during the months that it's more expensive and less available. Herbs and fresh fruit, especially.
Related Reading: How To Dry & Store Herbs
Not only is buying local and in season is more budget friendly since it has less travel-time, you'll also get much better quality.
Willing to haggle? This might be one of the best ways to eat healthy on a budget. Head to the Farmers Market later in the day before they're going to close and see what's available. You might be able to negotiate a lower price for the remaining produce.
Most farmers would much rather make the sale than have to haul their produce back with them. This is a great option if you're willing to buy in bulk or aren't very picky about the produce you're purchasing. If you do buy in bulk, be ready to head home and preserve it so it doesn't go to waste.
Related Reading: Five Simple Tips for Sustainable Eating
Buy From Farmers
Not all farmers go to Farmers Markets. The closest true Farmers Market to us is 45 minutes away, but we have tons of farms around here. Instead of going to the Farmer's Market, you can instead get to know the farmers around you. Learn what they plan and see how or where they sell it.
If you're trying to figure out how to save money on groceries, especially local produce, check with your local farmers to see if they offer any of the following:
- CSA or Co-Ops
- Pick your own fruit/veggies
- Volunteer work on the farm in exchange for produce
- Discounts on excess produce
They may also be able to refer you to other farmers for different crops or products that they don't carry or don't regularly sell.
Grocery Store Clearance
Eating healthy on a budget can easily be done when you buy from grocery stores, too. You may not get as good of quality as you would from a farmer, but there is potential for it to be even cheaper.
The clearance section can be one of the best ways to save money on groceries, especially when you get to know your store.
Ask them when they clearance out their produce. Some may do it daily, on a specific schedule, or even by expiration date. Check with your grocery store(s) to see when they do it so you can go in and get the best deal.
Some stores may not be willing to disclose the information or you may simply not want to ask. There are still a few ways you can easily save money on groceries and produce:
- Look for stickers that say something like “Manager's Special”
- Go early in the morning so you get the first choice as most produce tends to be clearance out in the morning
- Ask if they offer a bulk discount if you want all or a majority of it
Keep in mind that it's on clearance for a reason though. This is produce that most likely needs to be preserved or eaten right away. It may have cuts or be missing items from it's packaging. It can still be a great deal and an easy way to save money on groceries as long as you have plans to eat or preserve it right away!
Buy In Bulk
This is a great way to save money on produce and it's an eco-friendly one, too. Whether it's from a Farmers Market, your grocery store, or a local farmer – buying in bulk usually yields the best deals.
The one problem that can sometimes arise when buying groceries or produce in bulk is that you may not be able to eat it right away. Food waste is a huge problem so this should be taken into consideration when buying in bulk.
Still want to buy in bulk? Split it with friends or family. Split the cost, save some serious money and then divide amongst everyone. It's a win-win for everyone. This is a great way to become a more environmentally friendly shopper, too.
Plant Your Own Garden
Willing to put in some extra work? Healthy eating on a budget can be incredibly fulfilling if you plant your own garden!
Consider a raised garden if you have enough land or container gardens if you're short on space. You can do this for just a particular fruit or veggie if you don't want to dedicate much time to it, or you can build a large garden to have a variety.
This is an easy, active and fun way for the whole family to eat healthy on a budget, but be careful. Gardening can cost you more than you save if it's not done properly. Ensure that you have enough time, energy and money to maintain it before you even begin.
Put some thought into the produce you're planting. Research if it will grow well in your area or if it can it be easily preserved if you end up with too much. Also, think about what's expensive at your local grocery store and consider planting those items.
For instance, potatoes, corn and carrots tend to be incredibly cheap around here so we won't plant those. But herbs and kale are insanely expensive here so we plant those.
Considering regrowing your fresh produce to save money, too.
Related Reading: 21 Upcycled Container Ideas for Container Gardens
Trade with Friends, Family and Neighbors
Whether it's in a community garden, with your neighbors, or with your best friends – healthy eating on a budget can easily be done by trading.
The trades can be for fresh produce from your garden or extra vegetables that you bought from the store. Or maybe it's just whenever you have extras that you realize that you may not eat before they go bad and don't preserve well.
Keep in mind that it doesn't have to be produce that is traded, too. You could trade lawn services, car repairs, handmade goods, cooked meals, or any other skills you may have. Use your imagination!
If you're focusing on fresh produce, chat with your your friends beforehand. Find out what they like or don't like and share your preferences as well. Also, find out what they're planting so you're both not struggling with too much of the same thing. You may be able to try new produce this way and you're likely to need less space in your garden.
Related Reading: Making the Most of Your Summer Garden