One of the joys of summer is the abundance of beautiful fresh fruits and vegetables in your grocery store produce aisle. These frugal produce shopping tips can be used year round, to cut the cost of your groceries and maximize your budget. Keep these tips in mind when you go to the grocery store or better yet, your local farmers market.
1. When buying a head of iceberg lettuce, it is usually priced per head, and not by weight. To get the most bang for your buck, feel for the heaviest and most densely packed head of lettuce and weigh a couple on the produce scale. You will be surprised how a head of lettuce can vary so much in weight. Choosing a heavier head of lettuce you pay the same price and it could yield up to 2 or 3 salads more than one of the looser lighter packed heads.
2. Keep your celery fresh longer. As soon as you return from the grocery store remove the fresh celery from the plastic bag it came in and wrap it tightly in aluminum foil and keep it in your vegetable crisper drawer. You celery will last 3 weeks longer if you keep rewrapping it tightly this way.
3. Don’t let ripe bananas go to waste. You can peel, chop and freeze those bananas in plastic food storage bags to be used later on in smoothies you easily can make in the blender by just adding cold juice. The same holds true for strawberries, raspberries and peaches.
4. If you love avocado and can only eat half at a time, you can refrigerate the unused half with the pit still in it, by wrapping the avocado tightly in food plastic wrap and refrigerating. This is different than using a food bag, which has extra air and creates faster browning. The tightly fitted plastic wrap will let the avocado last another 2 days and you will have prevented waste.
5. When bell peppers, such as green, orange, yellow and red peppers are priced by the pound, choose peppers based on the lightest weight. The lighest weight peppers will have far less seeds. There is no point paying for seeds you will not be eating. Hold the pepper in your hand and give it a little shake. You will see the huge difference in price between 2 equally sized peppers if you weigh them on the produce scale. The pepper with the most seeds can cost up to 50% more than the more hollow pepper.
6. Don’t regard apples as just a fruit to be eaten whole. Buying apples in bulk is cost efficient and they last a long time. Apples can be used in many recipes from baked goods to cold salads. Many recipe web sites are searchable by ingredients and you can search for recipes that specifically call for apple and you will get a multitude of ideas.
7. Fresh green beans taste delicious cooked in bouillon and a sprinkling of ground black pepper and garlic powder. The leftover green beans can be frozen for future use in soups or casseroles.
8. Sometimes you find a great deal on cucumbers. To make the cucumber last longer, you can take one and peel, slice and marinate in Italian dressing. It makes a perfect cold salad that lasts for days in the refrigerator.
9. If you buy large bags of carrots, you can use them up quickly by not only eating raw in salads, but grating them to make carrot raisin salad, or cooking them in bouillon for flavorful fresh carrots as a side dish. Additionally carrots cook nicely in stir fry and in home made soups. Never again let your carrots get soggy or wilted when there are so many uses for them!
10. Consider investing in a food dehydrator. The money you’ll save on seasonal specials can be enjoyed year round.
11. Before making your next shopping tip, take an inventory of your fresh produce. See what fruits and vegetables you have left and make a point of using them first, so they don’t go to waste.
12. Keep carrots and radishes fresher and make them last longer by removing them from the original bags they came in and placing them in a looser plastic bag with holes in it. You can use a plastic mesh bag or poke your own holes in a plastic bag. Then place the carrots and radishes in the crisper drawer.
13. Kiwi that is very firm can be kept in the refrigerator for literally months. If you want the kiwi to ripen fast then remove from the refrigerator and let ripen at room temperature. So if you see a great kiwi deal, go ahead and load up, they can last up to 6 months refrigerated if you choose the firmest ones.
14. The best way to store fresh mushrooms is to keep them unwashed and in a brown paper bag or plastic container. So if you buy fresh mushrooms in a cellophane wrapped container, remove them and store them in another container in the refrigerator.
15. Avoid buying soft or wrinkled squash, zucchini, and eggplant. The firmer the vegetable, the longer it will last in your refrigerator.
16. Cauliflower will last longer if you choose one that is firm and has no space between the floret heads. The leaves should be fresh and green. It doesn’t matter whether you choose a large head or a smaller head, the quality will be the same, however avoid buying Cauliflower that has small dark brown spots. It is a sign of spoilage and will not last long.
17. Look for loss leader specials. Often times grocery stores will have a buy one get one free special on a bag of potatoes or carrots, etc. Produce that keeps longer is worth stocking up on because you are saving real dollars by not having to buy it the next shopping trip.
18. Avoid cucumbers that are either soft, or yellowish or wrinkled on the ends. A good quality cucumber has an even dark-green color, and is firm and relatively thin. A good cucumber can be either long or short, but big fat cucumbers tend to be full of larger and lots of seeds and can taste bitter. As a result, it is actually better to choose slender cucumbers insteadof larger ones. A bitter cucumber is likely to be a wasted cucumber so the better deal is to buy the cucumber your family wants to eat.
19. Fresh corn is wonderful and even more wonderful on sale. To avoid getting bad or spoiled ears of corn, take the time to peel the corn husks while you are standing in the grocery store. Good quality fresh corn has full, evenly formed kernels and the earsare filled with straight rows of kernels. The coloring of the kernels should be bright and shiny. Avoid corn that looks slimy or discolored or has rows of kernels that are irregular shaped or ears that have gaps with no kernels. To test fresh corn, poke one of the kernels with your fingernail and if juice shoots out, then you have a fresh ear of corn. Fresh raw corn can also be eaten raw because of its sweet taste.
20. Fresh broccoli is not only enjoyed raw in salads and vegetable appetizers, but many people love it cooked or steamed. Don’t waste the broccoli stalk though because the stalk can also be cooked along with the rest of the broccoli. If you cut the stalks into thin slices they are perfectly sized for adding to stir fry.