A lot of people think they need expensive, highly perishable fruits and vegetables to get good nutrition. Our ancestors got by without fruit flown in from the Southern Hemisphere and without freezers. Here are some things you can do:
Can fruits and vegetables. Either those you've grown or those in season. Cooked canned tomatoes (whether homemade or store-bought) have more available anti-oxidants and vitamins than fresh. Check the label; you can find canned tomatoes without added sodium, and not just in "specialty" brands. Other vegetables in cans are not so great, but you don't need them. See below.
Buy affordable frozen veggies. Frozen vegetables often have more nutrition than fresh, especially out of season. Don't look down on these. They are picked and flash-frozen at the peak of ripeness, as opposed to "fresh," which are picked "green" and ripened in dark refrigerated trucks, through the application of chemicals.
Turnips are a good source of vitamin C, A and others, including fiber. They last a long time in the fridge or cold storage. They are cheap to buy (I'm thinking of the big, yellow rutabagas). They are great in stews, soups, or mashed as a side. Turnips are much less expensive per serving than delicate greens or tender fruits out of season.
Buy or grow peas in the summer and then spread on cookie sheets and freeze. Bag them for use in the winter. Do the same thing with green beans, but trim and blanch (cook for one minute in boiling water) first.
Carrots are cheap and a good source of vitamin A.
Cabbage is a good source of vitamins A, B, E, and fiber. Cabbage is cheap and also lasts a long time. I've kept cabbages for weeks, where a romaine lettuce lasts maybe a week and "baby greens" last two days at the most. Just peel off the outer leaves and discard. It's great in coleslaw, cooked, in soup, and in cabbage rolls. Try red cabbage, too.
Save all your cooking water from these vegetables for addition to soups. Or you can just drink it as "pot-likker" like in Gramma's day.
Substitute home-popped popcorn for bagged snacks. A two-pound bag of popping corn costs about the same as a big bag of chips, but you can get about sixteen bags' worth of popped corn out of your two-pound bag. Plus, you control the additives, salt, oil, etc.
A lot of attention has been given to berries as a source of antioxidants. Grow or buy berries in season and freeze as for peas. Use in smoothies all year and in cakes, pies, and jam. Last summer, the grocery store was giving away two-pound boxes of blueberries with any order over $100. Having no shame, I stood beside the checkout and asked people with big grocery orders whether they would carry blueberries through for me if they weren't doing it themselves. Five people did, so I was able to freeze ten pounds of blueberries.
These changes should enable you to spend that little extra on the whole-grain breads and pastas.
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