Budget Produce Tips
Do your own prep work.
“People pay more for prewashed greens and mini peeled carrots,” says Jim Iovine, owner of Iovine's Produce at Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market. The additional processing―rinsing leafy greens to remove dirt or whittling regular carrots down to “baby” size―adds to the items’ expense. You can also save by skipping precut vegetables and chopping your own.
Choose items with the lowest costs per serving.
The USDA tracks average costs of fresh, frozen, and canned produce. Melons, peaches, bananas, and papayas are among the least expensive fresh fruits per serving. Fresh vegetables with a low cost per serving include potatoes, radishes, Romaine lettuce, mustard greens, and broccoli.
Consider joining a CSA.
CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) members buy a share feeding about four and averaging $500 in a farm's produce for the season (usually 22 weeks). According to Erin Barnett, director of Local Harvest, “CSAs are not always cheaper on every item, but for what you're getting, you're paying much less than in the grocery store. Shelf life is longer and yields higher.” Plus, your food dollars stay in your community. Food co-ops usually sell reasonably priced locally grown produce. To find a CSA near you, go to localharvest.org.
Shop the source (or close to it).
Buy in-season produce at farmers’ markets, but, watch those prices, because specialty vegetables, heirloom tomatoes, asparagus, and berries can be expensive. Search for one of 4,685 farmers’ markets in the US using the USDA's Farmers' Market Search.
Or, buy at farmstands, but check origins because many also sell commercial produce.