Thursday, February 21, 2008

Canned vs. frozen vegetables

When the 1950s budget menu was developed, canned vegetables were cheaper than frozen convenience packs.

I had always imagined that frozen vegetables are the better value in today's world. After all, don't cans contain a lot of water? When is canned a better buy than frozen?
  • 48 cents for Walmart's can / 15.5 oz = .03 per ounce (including a small amount of liquid)
  • 84 cents for Great Value frozen bag/ 16 oz = .05 per ounce

The results are deceiving. The canned corn is cheaper per ounce, but it's not the better buy:

Though each net weight is ~ 1 pound, the frozen package contains twice the food volume. Two cans of corn would cost 96-cents, or 12-cents more than the frozen bag.

The key is to consider one bag as TWO cans' worth. A good rule of thumb: cans 42-cents and under are cheaper than frozen, at least using the Walmart standard of pricing. This USDA article explains the quality and grading of both products.

There are benefits to buying both: taste, nutrition, and shelf stability. Do you buy canned or frozen, and where do you find your lowest prices?

Click here to return to the complete 1950s budget cooking experiment!


LynnMarie said...

Many years ago (35) cans had some sort of coating on them so that they didn't rust from the inside out with all the liquid. That coating could come off and enter the food and in turn enter us. Our son was senative to that coating and reacted as if he was hyper active. The docotor told us then to use fresh or frozen always. Well, now 35 years later I buy fresh or forzen when ever I can. I do have some can veggies, but not much as I just don't trust whatever that coating is. Our son was very ill for a long time and it was a lesson that was learned with many prayes and tears. I buy fresh or frozen!

Anonymous said...

I buy frozen 99% of the time. I like that I can control the amount of salt or other seasonings. I like that I can make as much as I need...if I need 2 servings I do not need to open a large can...I think the frozen taste better.
I buy frozen for our 'normal' use and keep a few cans on hand for camping etc.

I buy canned tomatoes. That is about the only thing I buy canned all the time...for cooking.

I buy some canned beef broth. I never have any beef broth in the freezer. I use it for stew etc.

Christie@tisbutaseason said...

I always buy When I started my journey into frugality I bought cans, but in the last year or so I have switched to all frozen. Not to mention, my family enjoys the flavor, consistency, etc of the frozen or fresh. Canned seems....well, um, canned. :-)

Anonymous said...

We like the tiny english canned peas and not the frozen, unless theyre used in salad or such.

I also buy the canned french cut green beans.

You also lose a lot of money with frozen if your refrigerator breaks, like yours did, while a pantry of canned food keeps indefinitely.

Anonymous said...

Surely the nutrition cant be the same! I think frozen is the next best thing to farm fresh and in many ways superior to regular grocery store fresh produce.

At least it has been processed at peak freshness, not packed in a crate and trucked all over the country for weeks only to be artificially ripened.

We buy canned: tomatoes, beans, mushrooms, hominy, and turnip greens.

Anonymous said...

Quality matters too. I really like Aldi's canned corn. To our family, it tastes better than most we've tried and at .39 cents it's a great deal. I once bought Wal-Mart's frozen bagged corn and decided to never buy it again. It was quite tough and was very bland.

Queen of Carrots said...

Aldi's frozen produce is surprisingly good. I have not actually tried the canned for things like peas, corn, green beans. (We do eat canned mushrooms and tomatoes.) I don't think I could eat canned peas though. Ewww.

~katie~ said...

Funny you asked this question as I just posted today on a potential safety hazard with *canned* goods! I had no idea of this issue with "bisphenol A" being leached from the lining of the cans but I have found it all over the net with warnings! I just posted a post today on the issue! From what I gather, fresh/frozen may be more expensive in dollars but much more beneficial to our health! Feel free to check out my post or do a google search on "bishpenol A" and specifically with tin cans. (I believer your first commenter on this post was speaking of this same thing.)


Anonymous said...

Well, I'm glad to know that frozen is cheaper unless you get the cans on sale or use coupons.

It's easier, anyway!


Madame Coin said...

I buy frozen for everyday consumption, and use canned only to rotate for food storage purposes (I try to have a three month's supply of food on hand at all times).

The cheapest around here on sale is 59 cents/16 oz. every so often at Associated Foods stores (they carry Western Family products as their private label). Canned on sale is 3/$1.

And I thought the Bisphenol A problem wasn't a problem with canned veggies, but with things like meats, prepared noodles, etc.

bonnie: said...

Ugh! Canned veggies are so soggy! We always heat our frozen up on the skillet, which leaves them nice and al dente, so if you boil or microwave I guess the sogginess isn't a factor. I'm quite snobbish when it comes to canned veggies, I guess.

Anonymous said...

I either buy frozen, or pick fresh and then freeze. I will buy canned vegs when I get them for cents on the dollar, but I think frozen are so much better tasting. And canned vegs lose so many nutrients through the boiling process.

I definitely prefer frozen.

BTW, the porkchops looked great!

Anonymous said...

Good information! I've been dealing with this issue myself so this is good to know.

Momma Val said...

Canned vegetables are just way too salty. Plus the whole toxic can lining thing. Thumbs down. Health comes before thrift . . . . . absolutely!

Cindee said...

I've been told that frozen veggies retain much more nutrition and are picked and frozen at the "right time". That said, I really prefer canned corn as the frozen always seems too tough for me unless I'm using it in a corn chowder.

I agree with momma val, health trumps thrift.

Marsha said...

My number one preference is home-canned or home-frozen with produce I've either grown or bought from local sources. When that ideal isn't available, I'll take frozen before commercially canned. I do keep a few cans on hand for emergencies but there's no price cheap enough to make them an every day thing at my house.

rural momma said...

I buy frozen most of the time. First, I think it more nutritional then canned. I'm not positive about that, but I figure things are probably frozen right away and therefore are fresher. :0)

Anonymous said...

I buy mostly frozen but I do prefer the taste of canned corn and green beans, the frozen variety seems tough to me. I usually buy frozen veg at WalMart...Aldi's frozen veg are good, but the selection is so limited (for ex., I use a lot of frozen spinach, and for some strange reason Aldi does not carry this).

Also use canned tomato products.

Tamara said...

I almost always buy frozen or fresh. I do buy canned diced tomatoes, canned beans and black-eyed peas instead of dried (because they're quick and I'm lazy), and occasionally canned corn (for soups). However, I generally prefer the taste and texture of the frozen over the fresh. Also, I find frozen veggies to be more flexible in terms of how they can be used. When fresh produce is on sale, I often purchase it to freeze.

Michelle said...

I buy frozen or fresh with the exception of canned tomatoes, tomato sauce and mushrooms. I like Save A Lot or Aldi's frozen veggies.


TJ said...

Like most of your readers, we buy frozen veggies. Tomatos are pretty much the only thing we buy canned. I occasionally buy refried beans, and kidney beans, but find crockpotting them to cook is just as easy for me (even as a mom that works full-time outside of the home). The quality of canned food is so poor, and there is always a preservative even if it's just salt.

Sara said...

I buy frozen except for corn. I buy DelMonte canned corn, which I think is far superior to any generic or other brand. I just wait for it to go on sale, use a coupon, and stock up! Other vegetables I always buy frozen, just personal preference - they just taste better than canned, and seem much more fresh. There are usually a lot of sales on "premium" vegetables these days, and coupons available, so it's reasonable to get high quality for a lower price. (I don't shop at Walmart so I'm referring to sales at local grocery chains.)

Anonymous said...

My vote is frozen as well. I've never liked canned corn and most other canned veggies just taste off. I do use canned tomatoes and occasionally creamed corn or green beans. We do buy canned fruit (peaches, fruit cocktail, oranges) as well - frozen fruit always seems to be ridiculously priced!

Keppy Boone said...

I buy both, depends on who's going to eat it and/or how I'm going to use it...

I prefer the taste of canned green beans and corn, but my dh likes frozen everything. (Or home canned)

We never eat canned peas, though, they are gross.

I consider the taste and nutrition far more than cost when it comes to veggies. I buy my Veggies at a local market or Trader Joes.

Anonymous said...

We buy frozen peas and keep frozen spinach for adding to dishes to boost the veggie content. The only canned veg we buy are chopped tomatoes for adding to pasta sauces(although I am tending to buy passata more now) and sweetcorn canned without sugar or salt, which we add to hotcakes or pasta.

Me said...

I'm definitely a "quality over price" girl as it seems many of your readers are.
You can't beat home grown and canned or frozen veggies but I do buy Muir Glen canned tomatoes and Cascadian Farm frozen veggies. Both brands get an A+ for flavor. New studies also show that not only are organic veggies healthier in that they don't contain pesticides, but they also have more nutritional value.

Anonymous said...

I like canned french style green beans for green bean casserole and canned white shoepeg corn for corn salad. Otherwise, I buy frozen corn, peas, and green beans--I think they taste better!

Anonymous said...

I agree with the commenters who prefer quality over thrift, and health over thrift in the matter of fruits and vegetables.
This is one area where my husband and I do not think money is the bottom line. Nor do we buy expensive produce: we buy on sale or what is in season. Our main vegetables right now are brussel sprouts, broccoli, dark greens (grown locally in a greenhouse), potatoes, and onions.

We eat fresh food in season and occasionally frozen peas or green beans. I freeze and can some stuff in the summer. I will buy some canned tomatoes and sometimes frozen spinach. But when the home frozen corn is all gone, we go without - the rest of it is fish bait to my family!

There's an interesting cookbook called Simply in Season that has taught me how to eat what's local and available (usually also the cheapest!).

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but perhaps I don't understand the discussion.

Why is everyone saying they prefer quality over thrift?

Didn't Meredith just illustrate that the frozen vegetables offer more value for your dollar, in addition to more quality?

It's not an either/or situation, here, unless you're talking about 4/$1 canned goods with coupons.


Sue said...

I too prefer frozen with the exception of tomatoes. I prefer less salt than most canned veggies contain and find the texture of frozen much closer to fresh. As far as the Bisphonal A, I have been told that it is not something to be concerned about ( but each of us can decide what we choose to do for our own family.

Anonymous said...

Looking in my pantry---

whole green beans
baby peas (4 color only.dont like)
diced onion
sugar snap peas
diced butternut squash
Berries: Blue, straw (i know, not a veg)


french-style green beans
corn (frozen is tough)
mushroom (4 stew only)
artichoke hearts
olives: black,green,kalamata
tomato: dice, sauce, paste, salsa
beans: black, pinto, canellini, chickpea
fruit: peaches, pineapple, pear

No price comparisons

deb meyers

Anonymous said...


frozen cauliflower, for mock mashed potatoes. Fresh obviously beats for flavor but it is expensive.


Amy said...

I pretty much only buy frozen veggies, the only exception being crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes in the can.

I grew up on canned veggies and now they taste disguisting to me. The color just looks off and the flavor doesn't taste fresh at all.

Frozen is better for you nutrtionally and I am thankful to see it is actually a better deal too :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you! I have always wondered but always ASSUMED that cans were cheaper! I will definitely remember the rule from now on!

mama k said...

Frozen retains more vitamins and nutrients so I always go for fresh or froze. :) You can get frozen veggies really cheap on sale too.

I do buy canned tomatoes and beans.

Anonymous said...

Like some of the other folks, I buy a mix of frozen and canned. Always frozen peas, though!

Around here, beets, mushrooms, and tomatoes only come canned. And, I prefer the texture of canned/jarred artichoke hearts over the frozen ones. But, pretty much everything else I buy frozen.

Even though it is not the cheapest, I like the Fresh Frozen brand of frozen stuff. It's in clear bags. Walmart and other stores carry it. It's frozen about an hour from my house, so local to me, and it is really good and homemade tasting. Worth any extra cost.

The Proverbs Wife said...

We have recently made the switch from canned to frozen for the very same facts that you stated.

Frozen tatse better (to us anyway) and we get mor food for the money.

Thank you for visiting and commenting on my "WFMW" post for recycled p-nut butter jars.

BlondeMomBlog (Jamie) said...

Frozen, but for soups I use canned.

Personally I am looking forward to this summer when we can drive up to hubby's grandmother's farm in Cheatham county and pick some fresh veggies!!!! I dream of those tomatoes! ;)

Daiquiri said...

Hey, thanks for the price breakdown! I've been buying frozen for the past 6 months or so, and we are all hooked on it. My 6 year old actually said "yum" about his PEAS the other day. Hubby's eyes about popped out of his head! I'd like to think that I'm reasonably frugal...but this was one issue I wasn't ready to be frugal about. I was going to buy frozen even if it was more expensive...maybe that's why I never did the calculations myself! I'm glad you did though...I'm even more glad that it came out in favor of frozen!

Jan/ said...

Since we live in our RV, freezer space is more limited than pantry space, so we tend to buy mostly canned stuff when it is on sale, or fresh which we intend to use in the next few days. Our little freezer space is reserved for good buys on meat, which on our low carb diet is the centerpiece of most meals.

Sarah E. said...

I love Great Value frozen corn. For some reason it taste better and more like homegrown to me than the Kroger frozen corn.

Anonymous said...

Frozen most of the time here too -- I get the huge bags at Sam's Club and pull out what I need. It has worked out well for us. I do have fresh carrots, celery and potatoes always on hand.

We do have some canned on hand (green beans for green bean casserole, canned tomato pieces, beans, peas (I'm the only one who eats them), mushrooms), but for most veggies, frozen.

I do like that it is as close to fresh as you can get, and I either steam (green beans, normandy blends) or microwave (corn) them.

Beck said...

I pretty much just buy frozen vegetables, although we always do have canned peas on hand, in case I want to make creamed peas. Isn't that a vintage delicacy?

TheNormalMiddle said...

Our rule of thumb here is buy always FRESH when you can (in season, other wise it is too expensive).

Then our next bet is frozen b/c it seems to retain more flavor & vitamins when it is flash frozen.

Canned is our last resort. It is cheaper sometimes to do the canned thing, but as with anything, you usually get what you pay for. However, I am not a food snob enough not to keep my pantry stocked with good canned veggies to use in a pinch or on a bad budget week.

Anonymous said...

I buy fresh in season or frozen. I find canned veggies have more salt than I want and have limits how much I can vary their use in my cooking. I can some of my garden vegetables like green beans and tomatoes in glass canning jars. This is very cost effective and again allows me to control both the salt and the quality of my product.

Carrien Blue said...

Sorry, I NEVER buy canned vegetables, except corn. I find that canning does terrible things to the taste and texture of vegetables. CAn't stand 'em. Peas aren't meant to taste like mush and citric acid.

PLus, what's the point of eating a vegetable if all of the nutrients in it are dead, killed off by the canning process. OF course it lasts longer on the shelf. dead foods don't rot, only live healthy foods do.

Carrien Blue said...

Ooops, I get tomato sauce in a can too.