#1 Buy in-season produce
Fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains are all cheaper when purchased in season. Most people don't consider the expense of shipping produce from one country to another when they shop for groceries, they just complain about the price. Depending on what you're buying and where you buy it, you could save as much as 70% by buying local, in-season produce, as compared with the same items out-of-season. Even produce that cannot be grown in your country will be less expensive in-season.
Some foods, like apples, will be considered in-season year round. But apples will be noticeably cheaper in late Summer through early Autumn. One of my favorites fruits, butternut squash, is also cheaper August through October. Broccoli and cauliflower, two of my vegetable staples, are cheaper Autumn through early Spring. This is my experience, as a consumer in the Midwestern United States. Your experience in a different part of the country may vary.
#2 Buy in bulk
This is the easiest way to save money on groceries. Why? Because grocers and other food merchants are far more willing to lower the price per pound than per ounce. Buying in bulk allows you to negotiate much better prices for goods.
Best foods to buy in bulk
Staples – these are the fruits and vegetables you eat most often
- ALL grains – especially whole grains, which are more expensive despite receiving far less processing
- Dry beans
- Nuts and seeds – these are always far less expensive when purchased in bulk
Whole foods that store well – nuts and seeds are also on this list, but so are …
Whole foods that freeze well
- berries – all kinds
- corn on the cob
- herbs, make sure they are completely dry
- peppers – chili, jalapeno and bell
Canned goods – both fruits and vegetables; particularly, those items you're more likely to use in cooked dishes. However, I recommend avoiding most bean brands, as canned beans are generally very high in sodium.
Of course, there are many other whole foods that store long and freeze well, but these are some of the best known. For foods that don't store well, freezing is a great alternative. And while some foods withstand freezing better than others, freezing prepared entrees and meals can make freezing a much more desirable process for those food.
#3 Shop farmer's markets
Despite recent claims to the contrary, farmer's markets are not as expensive as the typical grocery store. Also, it is much easier to get a good deal, because the food is being sold by the grower directly to you. And, with no middlemen fees bumping up the price, you'll getter a much better deal from the grower when you buy in bulk.
If you don't know of any farmer's markets in your immediate area visit LocalHarvest.org. Local Harvest has compiled an extensive list of well-known farmer’s markets all over the United States, for your convenience. Just put your city and state or area code in the search box to find a farmer's market nearest you.
#4 Join a food co-op
Food co-ops are another great way to save on produce. A food co-op (aka food cooperative) is a food distribution outlet organized as a cooperative. Co-op members decide what the farmers will grow and how it will be distributed among its members. This is a great arrangement for the co-op members, of course, as they will get the foods they want and save a lot of money by buying in super bulk and dividing the cost among their members. But this arrangement is also beneficial to farmers. The farmers will get paid upfront, allowing them to buy seeds and equipment before they even deliver the produce. And they won't waste time growing food that won't be sold and may end up being thrown away.
The only downside to this arrangement is that food co-op members must pay for their food upfront. Food co-ops also charge a membership fee. The amount of the fee varies from one co-op to another, so, it's important that one does their due diligence and gets all of the facts about a particular co-op before joining.
One quick easy way to find a food co-op near you is to Google “food co-op + [your city and state]”. There's also CoopDirectory.org; they list co-ops in nearly every state, and they do a pretty good job of keeping their information updated, letting users know which have shutdown and when.
#5 Grow your own produce
Growing your own fruits and vegetables is the oldest and most effective means of saving money on produce. The cost of seeds and fertilizer are minimal and your time and the sweat equity invested will reap you whatever you have sown.
Unfortunately, not everyone has a yard in which to grow food. Also, in some parts of the country, growing food on one's own property is illegal. (I know, unbelievable isn't it?) But if you have the space and legal means to grow your own food, you definitely should. You may be amazed at how much food you can produce in a small yard.
Even if you live in an apartment you may still be able to grow your own food. Apartment complexes across the country are organizing community gardens on their properties and even on the roofs! And this isn't just happening in big cities. Landlords across the country have discovered that community gardens are an easy way to help their tenets save money on groceries, while fostering a sense of community and friendship among tenants, which helps them retain their best tenants long-term and improves quality of life for all who reside on their properties.
Other apartment dwellers are growing food in pots inside their apartments. It's called container gardening and there are several websites and blogs devoted to teaching those with limited space how to get the most out of their container gardens. However, before you start on such a project, it would be wise to check with your landlord to make sure you're not violating the terms of your lease. Failing to do so could get you evicted.
Regardless of where you live and how many mouths your budget must feed, most of these tips are doable. While not everyone is in a position to grow their own food, most parts of the country have farmer's markets and co-ops, and you can buy in bulk anywhere. Even your friendly neighborhood grocery store will be willing to cut a deal with someone willing to take pounds of food off their hands at once.
Keep in mind, many grocers throw away tons of produce every year because it wasn't sold fast enough and began to rot. There's also “imperfect produce”, that's considered unsellable, despite being perfectly fit to eat, but not considered attractive enough to sell. You could be the solution to a huge problem that is food waste in America, while saving hundreds of dollars every year. And that roadblock to adopting a healthier diet and lifestyle will be eliminated.
A guest blog post by holistic writer Andrea Lewis. Consult with your doctor before making any medical or health decisions.
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