Grocery Produce – Money Saving Tips

Grocery Produce Savings Tips & Ideas!

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This Grocery Produce Savings Page contains money tips for saving on fruits and vegetables at the grocery store or in your town!

Tips on this page include: How to fix droopy carrots, Freezing Grapes, Preserving Strawberries, 3 Tips for Buying Produce Cheaper, Storing Celery, How to Cut up a Pineapple and much more.


How to Save Money on Lettuce

The other day, we were buying some produce and Steve decided to compare leaf lettuce ($.89 per head) versus iceberg / head lettuce ($.99 per head). Lettuce prices fluctuate widely depending on the time of year. We’ve seen prices as high as $2 per head and as low as $.50 per head. And there are many varieties of lettuce: Iceberg, Romain, Boston, Bibb, Butterhead, Red Leaf, Green Leaf, and they all vary in price also. We usually look for the greenest and least expensive lettuce, but there is one more factor to consider . . . the weight of each head.

Leaf Lettuce Weight and CostA Head of Leaf Lettuce on an aluminum produce scale.

Steve weighed several heads of leaf lettuce and discovered that the average weight was 16.75 ounces per head (just a touch over one pound each). At 89¢ per head, the actual cost per pound was $.848.

Head Lettuce Weight and CostA head of iceberg lettuce wrapped in plastic, sitting on an aluminum produce scale.

He was amazed at the difference when he weighed the round heads of iceberg lettuce. Each head weighed nearly two pounds, but only cost 11 percent more.

The average weight was 30.75 ounces. At 99¢ per head, the actual cost per pound was only 51.5¢. Pound for pound, iceberg head lettuce is a whopping 60% less than the cost of leaf lettuce.

 

The Choice: Our decision on that day was to buy a few heads of the more expensive and nutritionally superior leaf lettuce and supplement with a couple heads of the less expensive iceberg. 

Learn more about how we buy lettuce and watch a video here

– Steve Economides – Scottsdale, AZ


 

How to Rejuvenate Droopy Carrots

Do your carrots ever get limp and droopy? We’ve got a simple fix to restore them to their crisp and crunchy state. Watch this video and learn.

In this video, Steve demonstrates the simple method to restore crispness to droopy carrots.

 

Two hands holding a limp carrot.


Freezing Grapes

Frozen red grapes in a bowl.

After I buy grapes I stem, wash, dry, and then freeze them. Frozen grapes make a refreshing, healthy summer snack, and they last much longer this way. Another benefit: Our eight-month-old loves to chew on them in his baby safe feeder. They are great for relieving the pain of teething.   Erin K. – West Salem, IL


Using Free Lemons for Lemonade

We live in the citrus belt of the Southwest. Lemons are easy to come by. Many friends have citrus trees and can’t use all their fruit, I accept whatever is offered. I make lemonade and serve it at parties. The fresh stuff tastes better and is much less expensive than soda.
Kathy W. – Scottsdale, AZ


Best Way to Preserve and Freeze Strawberries

We love strawberries—especially when we buy them on sale. But we hate seeing our savings turn into a science experiment. We’ve gotten into the habit of eating fresh strawberries for a day or two, then slicing and freezing the rest. We can then enjoy strawberries, bought on sale, for months to come. 

We slice the strawberries in half or quarters and lay them out on a cookie sheet. 

Strawberries cut in quarters and laid out on a cookie sheet to be frozen.

Strawberries cut in quarters and laid out on a cookie sheet to be frozen.

We put the cookie sheet in the freezer overnight. In the morning we scoop up the strawberries and put them in a zippered bag. 

Cut up strawberries being put into a zippered ziplock bag.

Cut up frozen strawberries placed into a zippered plastic bag ready to be stored in the freezer.

Frozen strawberries cost between $3 and $4 per pound. Ours cost at least 50% of that price and sometimes even less! Saving your strawberries this way is a really sweet deal!


3 ways to Save Money on Fruits and Veggies

3 Ways to buy produce cheaper.

If you’re looking for smart ways to buy produce for less, check out these three tips from Steve & Annette. You could save between 50 and 90 percent on your fruits and veggies!

Eating healthy means buying lots of fruits and veggies. Watch as Steve & Annette reveal 3 secrets for slashing the cost of produce at the grocery store. These tips are from their book, “Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half with America’s Cheapest Family.”


Grocery Produce Savings for Vegetables

I’ve found that cutting up veggies, like carrots, celery or cauliflower and then putting them in storage bags along with a moist (not dripping) paper towel helps the veggies not to get dried out. Another benefit is that they last longer too.   L.M. – Liverpool, NY


Fresh Celery Gets Foiled

Stalks of celery wrapped in aluminum foil.

Here is a tip that really works! After bringing home celery from the store, take it out of the plastic and wrap it tightly in aluminum foil. Store it in your refrigerator veggie bin and it will last for weeks.   Julie Hayman – Chandler, AZ


Veggies for Soups or Stews

I keep a plastic container in my freezer and after a meal, if there are only few veggies left I place them in the container. When I make a soup or stew I just dump the container contents in my pot and have a great variety of veggies. Roberta Stetson – Bay City, Michigan


Cool as a . . . Banana?

A peeled, over ripe banana on a wooden cutting board.

I have heard many people say they freeze bananas for future use in banana bread, etc., but I was never sure how to prepare the bananas for freezing. One woman told me she just puts the whole banana (peel and all) in the freezer and then thaws it later when ready to use. I am one who doesn’t want to wait for the thaw. Therefore, we just peel the bananas, wrap each in plastic wrap, and then put them in a freezer bag for easy storage. Frozen bananas that have been prepared this way are easy to mash for banana bread, make the perfect frozen ingredient for a smoothie in the blender, or are in great as frozen popsicles in the summer. To serve this cold treat without a stick, just peel back the plastic and wrap a folded paper towel around the “handle” part. Cut in half, these banana popsicles were some of our children’s favorite teething coolers.  Ruth I. – Scottsdale, AZ 


Cooperative Veggies

My sister-in-law belongs to a produce co-op. With a group of friends, they take turns going to a produce warehouse (that sells to restaurants and grocery stores). One person goes once every 2 weeks and spends approximately $20 per person, collected beforehand. They purchase produce by the case (so it is a good idea for the group to be 6 or 12 people because cases of produce are usually divisible by 6 or 12). The produce warehouse offers wholesale prices so it is divided up and delivered to the other members of the co-op. They get tons of healthy fresh fruits and vegetables for a fraction of what they cost at the grocery store. Eating healthy is a great long-term money saver, too. Rebecca Klingbeil – Chesterton, IN 


Gardening Made Simple

We’ve been successfully using a modified version of Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening concept for years. His concept is to plant 12-inch squares of the items you want to grow rather than long rows. We like planting in squares because it affords us the ability to cover the squares with a wire cloth cage to keep birds from eating the tender shoots as they come up. Birds are the worst predator to our gardens.

Square Foot Gardening LogoMel’s method makes gardening for beginners much easier.
Visit the official site of Square Foot Gardening and Mel Bartholomew. It has photos, teaching videos and directions to create your own small or large garden. It even includes tips on how to make “Mel’s Mix” a simple soil mixture that will make almost anything grow.

Start small and expand as your gardening expertise improves. You’ll be eating healthy, organic veggies before you know it.   Steve & Annette – Scottsdale, AZ


Potato Produce Savings

You can process your big bag of potatoes at home! Peel, cut and parboil and store in quart size zip lock bags for making mashed potatoes in easy serve portions (microwave). Freeze the bags for storage. After defrosting, I empty the large diced potatoes into a microwaveable safe casserole dish, add milk and butter and microwave for a few minutes. They come out really well for mashed potatoes. Also, I defrost a bag and use it as hash browns.
Sonja Merian – Cottonwood, CA.


A reader asked this question, “Why do you as America’s Cheapest Family, store your potatoes in a cardboard box?”

We do this because if you leave potatoes in the bag that you get them in, they will give off moisture and start rotting. This will spread to all the potatoes in the bag. So putting your potatoes in a cardboard box with newspapers or packing paper between the layers, will extend the shelf life of your potatoes tremendously. Especially since those papers absorb the moisture, and block the deterioration process. Annette Economides – Scottsdale, AZ
For our favorite potato peeler see this link here  Amazon Best Selling Potato Peeler.


How To Cut Up and Freeze A Pineapple

How to cut up and freeze a pineapple - the easy way.

We love to buy fresh pineapple and include it in a number of different things we eat. Pineapple is included in our Shank Ham and Pineapple recipe and also in our Magic Disappearing Fruit Salad.

One important thing about buying a fresh pineapple is to cut it up and use it before it starts to ferment. To avoid having pineapple go bad, we freeze it and store it in a zippered bag.

Watch this video to see how Steve cuts up a pineapple and freezes it for use later.


Cleaning Veggies with Exfoliating Gloves?

Gloved hands scrubbing a potato.

I have tried a variety of vegetable brushes for cleaning produce but never felt like I was getting it cleaned thoroughly or fast enough.

So I purchased a pair of nylon exfoliating gloves from the beauty section at a drugstore. I slip the gloves on and wash all the produce by rubbing my hands over it. I wash it in a pan of water or under the faucet. The gloves are very effective especially for large items like potatoes, celery, and cucumbers. When I’m done, I drape them on my dish rack to dry.
Layla Haug – Wilmington, DE 


Keeping Salad Fresh

salad greens

When you make a salad, store it in a glass bowl or 9 x 13 pan.  The cold glass keeps your salad crisp and lasts 3 times longer.  Cover tightly. Jennifer – New Freedom, PA


No More Cans of Chicken Stock

chicken stock box

I use stock in all sorts of recipes but have found the price going up steadily over the past few years. So I switched to making vegetable stock at home. At first, I just used a carrot, a couple stalks of celery and an onion, then I realized how much I was throwing into the compost pile that was usable from my daily cooking. I started saving my carrot peelings, outer layers of onions, tops and bottoms of celery and other various vegetable “cut-offs” in a re-sealable container. Once I accumulate enough to make a batch of stock (several handfuls worth), I roast the vegetables in the oven for about 30 minutes, add some bulk dried herbs and a few quarts of water and bring to a boil. After the stock boils and looks about the color of weak tea, I add some salt to taste. “Rinsings” from canned tomatoes add some wonderful flavor to stock as well. I use the stock in homemade soups or any other recipes that call for cooking liquid. Freeze the finished stock in re-sealable containers, allowing a little headroom for expansion.
Jill Whitney – Salem, OR


Processing Pumpkins with Their Skin

I got a free pumpkin this year and it is in the freezer – except for what I have eaten. It is delicious with nothing added as I try to avoid too many sugared products. After washing thoroughly and removing the seeds and strings, I cut the pumpkin into three-inch pieces. I fit the whole pumpkin into my tall stock pot, added a little water and cooked until it was tender. Then I processed in my food processor, skins and all. It took a little longer than usual because of the skins but I ended with great pumpkin ready for the freezer. It had a much better flavor than pumpkin I had cooked previously. I wondered if it could have been that this time, I left the skin on. It made it much simpler as well. I think I had retained more nutritional value as with many vegetables more vitamins are just under the skin. (Strictly my idea, valid or not?) There was certainly no waste except the stem portions. Next year, I plan to get 3 or 4.
 Marcia Rehm – Peoria, AZ


Cooking Question About Pumpkins

Question: I have a cooking pumpkin question. When you get your free pumpkins after Halloween to make your holiday bread, do you get the left over “jack-o-lantern” ones rather than the recommended “pie pumpkins”?

Also, a few more specifics:

  • Do you cook your pumpkins in the oven or in the microwave?
  • Is any size pumpkins or smaller ones easier to bake?
  • Do you get ones that are in any particular shape (older softer ones, extra firm ones, etc) or do they all cook up the same way?

Thanks in advance for the information.

Answer: We use whatever pumpkins are available to us, just about any variety can work once the “meat” is pureed and drained. We always cook ours in the oven as it serves the dual purpose of heating the house and cooking the pumpkin. Once again it doesn’t matter the size or kind of pumpkin. We’ve even used the gourd and Cinderella pumpkins as well. We puree the pumpkin in the food processer, drain it and store it in quart sized zippered bags in the freezer.

 

Green Tomato Pie – Say What?

Last night we had our first freeze. That means it’s time for one of my produce favorites. Green Tomatoes! I use them like apples to make green tomato pie or green tomato crisp. Just follow your favorite apple pie/crisp recipe, adding 1 tsp. baking soda to the spices that you put on the apples before baking. If you didn’t know it was tomatoes rather than apples, you would never guess! Amy Davis – Lincoln, NE


Making Use of the Produce that grows in Your Area

We live in the citrus belt of the Southwest. Lemons are easy to come by. Many friends have citrus trees and can’t use all their fruit, I accept whatever is offered. I make lemonade and serve it at parties. The fresh stuff tastes better and is much less expensive than soda.
Kathy W. – Scottsdale, AZ


Saving Money on Produce from the Grocery Store

Prices are going up in every department of the grocery store. While saving with coupons and planning are excellent ways to cut your grocery bill, getting more for the money you do spend is always fun. So, how would you like to get 15 to 51 percent more for your grocery-produce dollar? We’ve got a couple of strategies that will do just that.

The Advantage of Buying Pre-packaged Produce  

You’ve seen beautifully stacked displays of highly polished apples, large yellow onions and huge potatoes, right? Have you ever compared the prices of those loose produce items to the price of the same item — pre-bagged? Here are a few recent examples:

Obviously these prices are from one select week at a local grocer, but the savings you’ll find should be consistent with ours. Bulk-bagged produce will be less expensive. How about that—a savings of up to 50 percent for just purchasing something already in a bag! We always carefully check the bag for bruised or damaged items. The two possible downsides to buying the bulk-bagged items are that the fruits or vegetables are usually a little smaller than the pricier individual items and you may end up buying more than you can use. If you have a larger family, waste is probably not an issue. If your family is smaller, then consider splitting a larger, less expensive bag with a friend or relative.

Weigh Produce Bags Sold by the Unit

Once you’ve checked out the pre-bagged produce, take it one step further. The individual fruit is usually charged by the pound. The pre-bagged produce is charged by the unit. By law, the pre-bagged unit must contain at least the advertised weight. To avoid problems, most producers will err on the side of putting a few ounces more in the bag. One of the best examples is carrots. We go through between 5 and 10 pounds of carrots each month.

This week we could have purchased 5 pounds of loose carrots for $3.45 ($.69 per pound). Or we could purchase four, one-pound bags for 69 cents each. Why only four bags? Because the bags we selected contained 20 ounces of carrots, not just 16 ounces. We got our five pounds of carrots in four bags and spent only $2.76 — a 20-percent savings! This same type of savings can be realized with any produce item that comes prepackaged and is sold by the unit rather than by the pound. To prove this, we weighed more than 290 pounds of produce to check our theory.

Our best deal on carrots was to buy the one-pound bag and get 20 percent more in it. This also happened to saved us 20 percent in cost.

As you can see, the percentage of excess weight goes down as the size of the bag goes up. Our best excess on a 5-pound bag of carrots was 4 additional ounces — the same as the excess on the one-pound bag. But percentage wise, it is only 5 percent more compared to 20 percent extra in the one-pound bag.

The biggest savings on potatoes was with the 10-pound bag. We netted a 54-percent savings in price compared to the loose ones, while bagged onions netted us a savings of 20 percent, and bagged apples only 15 percent. Of course, your numbers will vary depending upon which season of the year it is, on the sale prices in your area and the weight difference in your bulk-bagged produce.

Alternative Sources of Buying Produce 

In our area, we have a specialty store, Sprouts, which mainly sells produce. Because of their market focus, we often find their prices to be much lower than standard grocery store prices. Some Dollar Stores are now carrying produce and selling it for discounted prices. Other options include farmers markets and private fruit-and-vegetable stands. Check for alternative options in your area, too. You’ve got to know your prices and not assume that you’re getting a bargain just because it’s a discount store.

Grow your own Produce

The last option is to grow your own produce. Of course you’ll need to calculate how much your water and fertilizer cost, but you’ll be getting “farm fresh,” tasty and healthy homegrown veggies. Start simple, with zucchini or other squashes, and as you find success, move up to tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes and spinach. Once you’re successful at those, the sky’s the limit.

Storing Your Produce 

If you have a smaller family or live alone, buying a bulk bag of produce can present some problems. You’ve got to know how long items will store: Apples and oranges will easily last one month. Carrots can grow sprouts after a few weeks, but if you wash and trim them, they’re just fine. Potatoes can be stored in a cool dark box with straw or some other soft bedding (we use shredded paper) for a month. We store lettuce in a zippered bag with a paper towel in it. The paper towel absorbs moisture and keeps the lettuce fresh longer — up to 3 weeks — if we change the towel a couple of times.

Is it worth all of this calculating and weighing? Over time the savings will add up, but if you don’t have the time to weigh the produce, simply buying the bulk-bagged items will yield savings that can easily put 11 to 50 percent back into your pocket without ever clipping a coupon. We aren’t comparing apples and oranges, but we are sure that if you weigh your produce, you’ll find savings similar to what we found. Are you ready to put your produce on the scale?


For more great grocery saving tips, visit our meat page.

For more grocery savings, check out our grocery book, grocery audio seminar, or grocery digital DVD.

Colorful produce on a table, including apples, tomatoes, eggplant and bok chow.

If you have a favorite way to save on produce at the grocery store, please mention it in the comment section below.

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