Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Smart shopping for produce

Kids love routine. So does your grocery budget.

Develop a running price list on the basics you eat every day. In our house: apples, carrots, bananas, and broccoli.

That's $9/week I set aside, then let produce specials add variety.


Anonymous said...

I choose our veggies and fruits from what's on special at the three local groceries. It makes for variety and keeps my bill down.

I serve anything that can be; raw, sliced and arranged beautifully (most of the time:) I don't initiate seconds of the main course until the fruit/vegi plates are empty. If someone asks for seconds before that I'll get it, but it usually is more automatic to eat the produce first since it's in sight.

The raw thing isn't so much for health, it's just that if I keep it simple I tend to serve a bigger variety.


Anonymous said...


For lack of a better place to send this to you I'll post it here.

Found this definition of a wife that is like a merchant ship in a commentary.

It made me think so much of you, not oly because you procure food from afar, but you trade your own products to get it (ie Craig's List, consigning pottery to the consignment store etc.

Hope you enjoy.


Verse 14. She is like the merchants' ships

3. She acts like merchants. If she buy any thing for her household, she sells sufficient of her own manufactures to pay for it; if she imports, she exports: and she sends articles of her own manufacturing or produce to distant countries; she traffics with the neighbouring tribes.

Anonymous said...

In order to keep what you spend on produce to just 32 cents per person per day, do you utilize "tricks" to make it go further and also prevent waste? For example, do you thinly slice apples? Cut bananas in half? Limit how much may be eaten in a day? That seems like a small amount to spend so it would seem you have to avoid things like finding apples with a bite or two taken out of them and then discarded, which, sadly, happens to be common at my house. Do you serve leftover steamed broccoli or will you family eat it leftover?

TJ said...

Very true! For us, apples are free, and bananas are very low priced at my favorite supermarket. I find that as long as I have those on hand, I have 2 happy kids. Often other fruits go to waste, but we always accept free grapes and peaches when they are in season.

Plus they are portable, which is perfect for rushed mronings.

Meredith said...

I spend more on produce than 32-cents per person/per day.

That is my base produce budget that I KNOW I will spend; therefore, I make sure I am shopping at a store that has good prices on those 4 items.

We fill in among those 4 with whatever is on sale, like strawberries or kale or corn; or what is the best buy in the freezer section.

My kids eat all of the above raw. Those are the snacks and sides with lunch and occasionally with dinner.

WASTE: that's why these are the 4 I always buy, because there is little to no waste when my kids eat these. Unlike the grapes that often sit rotting at the bottom of the container.

I do thinly slice apples for choking reasons but otherwise do not limit the amount of healthy veg adn produce the kids want to eat.

What's the alternative, after all?

Anonymous said...

I do something similar, although I love the idea of budgeting a specific dollar amount. Each week I buy at least 1 pineapple and a big bunch of bananas. When pineapple goes to 39 cents/lb here I buy 2. Zero waste. Other fruit and veggies depend on price (I also have a my own tangerine tree in the back yard)

Recently I've started buying the 3 lb bags of really small apples. The fruit to core ratio is not as good, but a big apple is too much for a toddler so with the small ones there is less overall wastage.

I display most of my fruit on a big colorful plate on the coffee table. It's pretty and we can see and eat it before it goes bad.

Unknown said...

I mainly choose from what is on sale, but grapes make it home EVERY week, along with carrots, mushrooms, lettuce and tomatoes (unless it's summertime when they are right outside my back door).

Jessie Weaver said...

If y'all like them, Kroger is having a REALLY good sale on green peppers this week. :)

Nicola said...


Anonymous said...

I buy half-bushels or bushels of apples and store them in our cold breezeway. None of us like the red-delicious that always on sale in the smaller bag. Purchasing the larger quantity at the fruit and meat market lets us choose among varieties we really like such as Ida's or Jonamacs and we get a decent price that has a set for weeks.

I stock up on carrots when they are on sale and then cruise. Actually, for the first time this fall, I bought a 40 lb. bag of carrots for $4.44, grown as deer feed. They are grown more naturally because they don't care if they are ugly for the deer. My kids loved picking out the strangley shaped ones and then munching them at lunch and they went into many soups. Next year, I will periodly take them out and wash to stop the mold that eventually started. Even with loosing some I still came out way ahead.

In the winter, I do use more canned fruit (mandarin oranges, pears in pear juice). We freeze applesauce, blueberries, and peaches on our own and rely on that more than fresh when produce is expensive. In the the summer we eat seasonal fruit like crazy. Bananas always come home with us.


Anonymous said...

Plant one cherry tomato plant in a big pot, water it and put it in the sun. Great all summer/fall and a good intro to gardening with the kids

Anne Marie@Married to the Empire said...

I choose our fruits and veggies based on what's on sale during the week. But then, I don't have small children who might be picky.

I was thrilled yesterday to find a bag of squash and zucchini yesterday on clearance at Kroger. Only $1 for a whole bag of it! What's so thrilling about it is that I knew Steven wouldn't be home for dinner tonight. He hates squash and zucchini, which means I never buy it. Because I'm on my own tonight, it's squash heaven for me! :-)

Jackie said...

What a wonderful idea Meredith. I love veggies, but if I put aside the money for the ones we always eat, that might encourage me to get a bit more inventive with new purchases.

God bless.

Anonymous said...

The best thing we ever did was find a fruit and veggie wholesaler that would sell to a group of us. Cut our grocery bill by at least a third. We got way better quality. We trade off pickup and sorting amongst our group.


Jennifer said...

What a great idea. My kids would prefer berries every day, ha! I think I will stick with in season stuff, like what you have listed. A great idea though for working your grocery budget.

Anonymous said...

We are eating lots of apples and bananas too. Pears are popular when I can find them at a decent price ($1.49 this week!). We also add in fresh carrots and frozen berries (strawberries and blueberries)

Anonymous said...

Produce is a large part of my grocery budget. There's only the two of us, my 2 yr old and myself, and he loves all sorts of fruits and veggies. I buy on sale when I can, also seasonally, but tomatoes, cucumbers, blueberries, broccoli, kiwi and more are part of his daily diet. I sometimes pass on a favorite when its too pricey, and I am trying to by smaller quantities and not waste anything, but I still try to fit these things in my budget, which gets smaller every month! I do want him to continue to get the healthy foods he loves if I can!

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a great idea... never thought of that before. I always thought... get what we need and will eat whatever the price. Great thinking!

This should work for us this winter. I joined a CSA (Community Sustained Agriculture). So my family will get fresh fruits and veggis through the summer. I do not think I am getting the best deal tho.

Unknown said...

I keep a weekly running list of items that includes apples and bananas for the kids. It also includes my husband's sandwich makings, plus milk.

Every other week, we go to a local produce place to get apples, oranges, lettuce for my husband's lunch. I also pick up carrots, onions, potatoes, and mushrooms here when we need them. This place has a great reduced section where I've been able to pick up bananas, tomatoes, grapes, red peppers, and mushrooms very cheaply. Since these items are on the verge of going bad, I make sure that we use them up first or I preserve them for later use either through freezing or drying.

I've also started cutting up veggies on Sunday and putting them in bags to use during the week. This saves me time and stress when I'm making my salad for lunch. It also makes it easier for me to encourage my children to like veggies. :)

Edi said...

Apples/oranges and carrots are the fresh produce that are usually in our home. I also buy a pineapple or two when they are cheap like 99 cents at Aldi this week. I personally prefer berries/peaches/grapes - but those are more expensive so I get them when they are cheap. I'm finally getting used to apples and oranges for myself - and I try to serve them at least once a day...sliced up - helps to mix the apple varieties.

Christi said...

I do the same thing; "separate" the money I need for certain categories. For me, that's fresh produce & milk. I have a set limit for those things, so when my regulars are on sale we get to add to it.

Anonymous said...

What a timely post!

Just yesterday, we sat down to dinner at 4 p.m. DD was just home from school (she always comes home STARVING); and DH was home with a cold.

Along with dinner, I sliced up a bunch of leftover veg. To my surprise, DD said, "If you had something like this ready when I get home, I would eat it." (This was the kid who helped herself to leftover cheese Danish for 'snack' the previous day.)

So, today I'll make a quick grocery stop and pick up a few things for a veggie plate.

Sadly, when we moved from the Midwest, our produce prices skyrocketed. For example, I used to get cucumbers at Aldi for about $0.30 or $0.40 apiece. Here, they're $0.89 on sale. And these are regular cucumbers, not the English ones.

And our local Farmers' Market is even worse. Trendy and spendy. For example, in season, fresh spinach costs $2 ... for a QUARTER POUND. Yes; $8/lb for fresh spinach.

So I've got to be creative when it comes to produce. I will buy a couple of cucumbers now that they're on sale. And this weekend, we'll got to Sam's Club, where I can get our once-a-month treat of berries ... and maybe even asparagus.

Just wish I had more delectable ways to serve frozen produce!


Jenny's Vegcafe said...

Meredith, do you buy your produce at Aldi?

If you're afraid of losing grapes to rot you can always freeze them. Frozen grapes are a great treat in the summer and healthier than freeze pops.

Anonymous said...

Costco is my best friend -
i get lots and lots for less -
at any grocery store here, it would make you cry and whine from the prices per pound alone!

Plus, Costco is just two blocks away!
ex., 10# bag of small RED potatoes: 4.99 -
10# bag of Granny Smiths: $4.99
(imagine the pies, cobbler and snacks!)
Meredith, another thing - mind sharing a GREAT CRUST recipe with an old friend?
latrice -

Anonymous said...

My local grocery store has a "reduced produce" rack. I check it every time I shop. You can get big bags of ripe bananas, organic apples, pears, carrots, etc. for less than $1 a bag. I try to use them up within a day or two because everything is ripe. Fortunately my kids love produce. If I have leftovers, I make banana bread or baked apples/pears. This is a nice budget stretcher for our family. I use the same strategy when buying meat. Our grocer has a special bin where all the meats near expiration date are sold at 50% off. I check it every time I shop. When the store has a $10 off a $40 purchase coupon special, I stock my freezer with lower cost meat. Miss Kris

Anonymous said...

Just curious how you arrived at the $9 figure.

Meredith said...

More or less $9:

$3/bag apples
$1.50/bag carrots
$2.50/head broccoli
$1.50/bunch bananas

These are the foods I KNOW my kids will eat without any complaints.

Meredith said...

Latrice, I don't make real pies often enough to do my own crust! I make a nut crust for my diabetic husband.

Jenny, I often shop at Aldi but not always. Their veg prices are most consistently low in my area. Kroger, Walmart, and Publix are much closer.

Anonymous said...

I live in CA where our fruit and veggie prices are ironically MUCH higher. I have joined a local CSA and get a box of organic, local produce a week for $30. It seems like a lot compared to $9 but compared to our grocery stores it is a bargain.We are a family of 5 and we all love fruit so it goes pretty fast. Plus it is important to me to feed them locally grown and organic food as we are trying to be greener and according to recent studies organically grown produce has about 40% more nutritional value than conventional produce. So when thinking about value I also try to evaluate not just price but what we are getting for that money. A cleaner planet, and healthier kids is really worth the extra to me, but I am still trying to be as careful with our money as possible and I have found the CSA to be the best value, over both the grocery store and the farmers market.
Having said that, I don't want to sound preachy. My husband and I have been very blessed finacially and we have he ability to make these kinds of choices without going into debt. All fruits and veggies are wonderful choices and a great way to save money and stay healthy.
One last thing. I always pick up frozen broccoli. It makes a perfect easy side dish and I have a great broccoli soup recipe (on Martha Stewarts web site) that the kids love and is a super frugal meal when served with bread.

Meredith said...

I wish my kids would eat frozen broccoli! They don't like the texture compared to raw or barely steamed.

I just wrote a check for our first CSA membership! I have always put it off because pickup is a problem--especially when I already live within walking distance of the grocery store.

But for $25 I can pick up at a house down the street. In fact, that's why I was totaling up the cost of our regular produce--because even $25 plus $9 is do-able within my regular grocery budget.

Excited to see how it goes!