Pruning the Produce Bill
Knowing where and when to buy your veggies can benefit your bottom line
Even if you clip coupons until your scissors dull, shop “huge” sales and always use your store card to save on groceries, there’s one section of the grocery store it’s not always easy to save in: Produce.
It’s rare to find a coupon good for anything from the produce department, and often you’ll find things on your grocery list that are not on sale. What’s more, the produce section isn’t like the cereal aisle, where you not only have lots of options, but can also save by buying for generic. Sometimes there is only one artichoke to choose from, so if you need an artichoke you’ll pay whatever the going rate is.
How can you cut back on the fruit and veggies portion of your grocery bill, without sacrificing quality or giving up any of the colorful goodies you need and love?
Buy in season: You’re going to pay more for corn and watermelon in February than in July. Why? Because local weather conditions are not conducive to growing these summer-bearing plants, they are either being grown in hot-houses, which require more resources to maintain, or they’re being shipped in from California or Florida, or even South America, adding significantly to transportation costs. For these reasons, you’ll find the best deals and sale prices on summer fruits and veggies in summer, and fall and winter produce in winter.
Produce outlets: Produce Junction has locations throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, offering huge savings on fresh produce, plants, flowers and garden accessories.
Farm markets: They've already started opening: the weekend Farmer’s Markets and roadside farm stands, offering locally-grown fruits, veggies and plants, many owned and operated by the farms themselves. Save by purchasing directly from the farmers and growers, and support your local agriculture at the same time. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture maintains a searchable database to help you find farm stands and markets near you.
Grow your own: The time to plant a backyard garden is coming up soon – Mother’s Day is the unofficial milestone for safe planting, when most danger of frost has passed. Planting veggies that you use frequently, like tomatoes, peppers, carrots, onions and beans can save you a bundle on groceries. You could also try potatoes, melons, corn, cucumbers, and many more fruits and veggies that grow easily in our zone. You’ll probably never get produce more fresh than picked out of your own garden, and there’s something extremely satisfying about preparing a meal with stuff you grew yourself.
Sign up for a CSA: A Community Supported Agriculture program is a popular way to connect you directly with a local farm, which will provide you with locally grown, seasonal food. How does it work? You purchase a “share,” which is basically a subscription for a weekly box of fruits, vegetables and farm products that are currently in season. By signing up for a CSA, you’ll get super fresh food (often organic), be exposed to different types of fruits and veggies (each box is a surprise waiting to happen!), and help support your local farmer. Find out more, and search for a local farm offering CSA shares here.