14 Ways to Buy Produce for Less
Keeping Produce Fresh
Most people don't eat enough vegetables. Don't let the high cost of fresh produce be your excuse. With a few tricks, you can feed your family twice as many fresh veggies for the amount you now spend. These are the ways I save money on produce.
Deals at the Farmer's Market
Buying Seconds - Ask the farmer if he has seconds that he is selling at a discount. They may also be called canning or jam quality. These will usually be small, misshapen, or produce that is blemished in some way.
Buying in quantity - You can usually get a better price when you buy produce by the bushel or half-bushel. This is a great strategy when you will be preserving produce. If a half-bushel is too much for you, split it with friends.
End of the day - You can often get better prices the last hour of the market. The farmers would rather sell it than haul it home, so they may mark it down or they may be willing to negotiate the price or give you extra produce.
End of the season - I've noticed produce marked down the last two weeks before the farmers market closes for the season. Farmers want to get rid of their produce while they can. I have even been given pumpkins and peppers for free because I was at the farmer's market at the end of the day on the last day of the market.
I also keep my eye on roadside stands at the end of the season. When they have an abundance of produce, it will often be priced dirt cheap, because they'd rather sell it than have it rot. A friend of mine filled the trunk of his car with squash last year for $5.
Getting to know the farmers - Because I chat with the farmers and get to know them, I've benefited many times. One farmer consistently puts extra produce in my bag (probably because I'm at the market close to closing). Another farmer invited me to her farm to pick free tomatoes because an expected frost would be killing them that night.
Growing your own produce really helps the pocketbook. Since my garden is already established, I spent a total of $15 this year on seeds and plants. The payback, even in my small gardens, is worth a few hundred dollars of produce. Just growing a couple cherry tomato plants on your porch will yield several pints of tomatoes.
Even if you don't garden, you probably have friends that do. Let them know you'd be happy to receive any of their excess garden produce. Many people plant more than they need.
Produce picked by mechanical means in commercial agriculture usually leaves some behind. If you live in an agricultural area, ask farmers if they would let you pick the leftovers. Every year we get to pick cherries for free after a cherry shaker has been through the orchard.
Ever noticed how many people don't pick the fruit on the trees in their yard or business? You would be doing them a favor to ask if you could pick it. It will save them the mess of cleaning it up once the fruit drops.
Freecycle and Craigslist
I once answered a Freecycle post offering their extra garden produce. That gave me the idea to post monthly on Freecycle asking if anyone had excess produce that they wanted to share. Also check the "free" and "farm and garden" sections of Craigslist for fresh produce.
Become aware of the edible wild plants in your area. Each year, I make jam from wild grapes and elderberries. I freeze Autumn Olive berry puree for smoothies. We pick wild blackberries and raspberries.
During the spring and summer, dandelion leaves, violets, and purslane are common in our salads. Not only are these free, but each wild plant I mentioned is very high in nutrients.
Kristel is the blogger at HealthyFrugalista.com. For more details and ideas read her article Guide to Free and Cheap Produce, Part 1 and Part 2. You'll find lots of money-saving ideas at Healthy Frugalista where the mission is to encourage people toward healthier living without breaking the budget.
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