For a long time, I heard that eating a lot of fruits and vegetables can be costly. However, over time I’ve realized that there are a few ways in which eating a lot of veggies and fruits actually can save you money, or at least help you reach financial goals elsewhere. Here are my tried and true strategies:
- Buy definite-use veggies fresh, and aspirational-veggies frozen: If you know you are making a soup tonight and you are currently at the store, get those fresh veggies! Some veggies, like onions and potatoes, are fresh for so long that you can pretty much always afford to get them fresh. However, if you aren’t sure exactly when something will be used, getting a chopped up frozen version does two good things: it ensures you never have to scrimp on veggies just because nothing is available without a trip to the store, and you even get a little time discount because someone else chopped it up for you. I pretty much always keep frozen spinach and kale because they blend magically into smoothies.
- Buy and freeze cheap summer veggies, preferably from farmer’s markets and local community gardens: If you see supporting local business and promoting good food systems as part of your goals, any money you spend at a farmer’s market or local community garden is basically double-dipping: you get benefits in your stomach AND in your heart. I extend this because I can often get very inexpensive tomatoes, squash, and herbs in mid-summer that I can then process and freeze for the winter. Sure, frozen may not taste quite as good as fresh, but I see keeping a freezer running as more environmentally friendly than heating a whole greenhouse enough to grow winter tomatoes.
- Fill the freezer and fridge so full of fruits and veggies that processed foods get crowded out: People who see unit prices of fruits and veggies as high are comparing to the idea of buying no veggies and fruits, but that is a misleading comparison; you have to compare instead to how you would eat without them. Processed foods, while sometimes deceptively cheap, aren’t always cheaper per serving and may not make you feel as healthy and energetic as fruits and veggies do. Obviously you need more in your fridge than just fruits and veggies, but filling up your plates with these will actually be offsetting expenditures on other, still-costly foods.
What do you do to make sure you don’t break the bank while trying to eat healthy?