Use these tools to reduce the cost of buying produce

14 Ways to Buy Produce for Less

by Shaunna Privratsky


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You are on a mission to get your family to eat healthier. You go to the store to stock up on fruits and vegetables, only to be halted by the high prices. Stick to your produce plan by learning the tricks of purchasing the right way.

I spoke with Craig Crosby of Sunmart Foods in North Dakota. He said that there are many ways to save, including watching for promotions like buy one, get one free or getting free items with another purchase. Typically, items go on sale when they are most available, which leads me to the first and probably the most important tip on buying produce.

  1. Shop in season. There is a reason corn and cucumbers are practically given away in August and September, namely supply and demand. Likewise, you'll pay a small fortune for watermelon in winter.

  2. Check bulk buys against single or unit prices. Sometimes bigger isn't always better.

  3. Only buy what you will use. Even if bags of carrots are on sale for 19 cents, buying too many leads to wasting what you can't eat.

  4. Plan your meals around what is on sale. When corn on the cob is 10/$1, plan on having it several times for a barbecue cookout, a picnic, or an old-fashioned Sunday dinner.

  5. You can also stock up when a terrific bargain shows up. Freeze or can the extras to cash in on the savings for months.

  6. Go in with a friend for bulk purchases, like a case of peaches or a 20-pound bag of potatoes.

  7. Ask about slightly damaged fruits or vegetables. Your friendly produce manager can extend discounts or let you know when things will go on sale. Crosby mentioned that the store will often run in-store specials that don't appear in the weekly ads, so always check the produce section.

  8. Weigh prepackaged bags to make sure they are not "light." Sometimes, you can even score an extra apple or two in a heavier three-pound or five-pound bag.

  9. Check if your store has a return policy. Sunmart offers double your money back for inferior produce. Generally, you have to bring back the offending item and your receipt.

  10. Visit your local farmer's market. The produce is grown locally and quite reasonably priced. Many growers certify that they grow "naked" produce, which means with no commercial fertilizers or pesticides.

  11. Grow your own! Even if you weren't born with a green thumb, almost everyone can grow at least some of your family's favorites, like tomatoes, potatoes, onions, carrots, peas, cucumbers, pumpkins or watermelon.

  12. If you don't have room for a garden, set up some pots on your patio, balcony, or even in a sunny windowsill. Nothing beats that homegrown taste or the satisfaction of harvesting the fruits of your labor.

  13. Another alternative is community gardening. Check with your local Chamber of Commerce or ask at the Farmer's Market. Often you can grow a row or two for free, or pay a small fee for a larger plot.

  14. Finally, if none of these options work, keep your friendly neighbors in mind. Admire their bountiful garden, and they just might come knocking with a bag full of cucumbers or fresh-picked green beans.

Banish the myth that eating healthier is more costly. By utilizing these tips on buying produce, you can buy your fruits and veggies and eat it, too. Now, does anyone want some cucumbers? Anyone?


Shaunna Privratsky is an expert in personal finance. Between writing, reading and gardening, she is always on the lookout for bargains. Please sign up for the free newsletters at The Discount Diva. You can also visit Shaunna on Google+.

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