Kids can seriously plow through some produce. I’m not complaining…just phew, it took me a little time to realize and accept this fact. Over the last 10 years of mommyhood I have come to learn a trick or two to keep bellies happy, bodies healthy, and food consumed and not wasted.
With six kids, varying in age from 9 years to 1 year old, we try to keep a pretty well stocked pantry and produce area. After moving into the trailer 6 months ago (see our story here), what once worked for my shopping habits had to be altered once again. Now, however, I feel like I finally have a handle on what works for us that does not require making 85 trips to the store a month. My goal is never to shop more than once a week, and I work to reduce that to even once every two weeks if I can make it happen.
5 Proven Ways to Save Money on Produce
First, I want to make sure we are on the same page. To me, produce is anything that comes out of the ground and grows in a plant. I’ve heard people focus only on fruits, or vegetables, for produce, but I will be talking about the whole shah-bang (yes…shah-bang =0) ).
Now, without further adieu, I give you my 5 Proven Ways to Save Money on Produce.
1. Shop with a Plan
Ever since I stopped working out of the home and focused on my work within the home, I have been learning how to shop for and cook food to make it work for our budget, whatever amount that might have been. I’m not perfect at it, but I can usually keep our costs to where we need them when and if I have made a prior meal plan.
Without a meal plan, I don’t know for what I am purchasing foods, or what produce I will need, which increases the chances of needing to make a whole additional trip (or two…or three) each week to get the necessary ingredients. Not only is this wasteful of time, it is often also wasteful of finances, as it puts you, the consumer, at the mercy of the store prices. A little forethought and planning goes a long way (for my Meal Planning 101, see here).
2. Buy in Season
I know this might seem redundant for anyone who has looked up money-saving methods before, but it really cannot be overstated. A few months ago I went to Costco and saw the HUGE containers of blueberries that they sell. They were being sold for $4.99, which is an amazing price! This last week when I went the same container was nearly $9! This is just one example of what I mean by “buy in season.” Become familiar with when different produce comes out into the stores when and stock up, or simply plan accordingly, to those items. I have been known to buy those huge Costco blueberry containers, bring them home and dump them into gallon size Freezer bags to freeze for enjoyment later on. We like to snack on frozen blueberries when they’re available, so this gives a great, cost-effective way to allow this simple delight. Here’s a resource I’ve found to be helpful in figuring out what produce to expect and plan to utilize when.
3. Know Local Store Prices/Deals
I am not a fan of couponing. I respect those who do it, but with six kids, homeschooling, and my personality, trying to get out to different stores multiple times a week was not a solution I was willing to employ. Instead, I became familiar with the general prices of stores in my area. For years I lived near a Wegman’s and Aldi’s, which were my primary shopping stores, with Costco rounding out high use items (like lettuce). Now, Aldi’s continues to be the main store I search out when we get to a new location. I have not yet found a store that compares in prices and options to Aldi’s, even though they are smaller and more storehouse-like. They have begun to include products that are organic, or gluten-free, which I really appreciate, since it helps to keep my stores to a minimum. Learn what’s around you and take a trip or to in order to really steak out the prices and know what’s going to be best for your family. I know it means planning and preparation, but I hope you are starting to catch on that these are good things!
4. Eat According to Spoilage
I have to say that the single most helpful thing I ever learned was how to eat produce according to its spoilage rates. This was an enormous game changer for me! Before I learned about this method, we would have moldy strawberries, squishy tomatoes, rotten potatoes, etc. But, when I began to study this method more and apply its wisdom, I have learned how to stretch our produce, and our budget, for longer periods of time without either wasting food or dealing with much spoilage. It has been a real blessing for our family! See the full breakdown and spoilage chart here!
5. Be a Wise Consumer
In order for all of these above mentioned tips to work, you will need to consume the foods wisely and “work the plan.” It won’t help anything if you make a meal plan, but eat all the green peppers in one meal that needed to be distributed between three meals. Or, if your kids eat 2-3 apples each a day, but you only planned for 1 each. In my house, I call this “rationing” (my military history precedes me), and the kids know by this point that I mean business about it. If we eat just to eat, or see a pretty apple and aren’t eating it with structure, the whole system falls apart. Some of you may have a more loose personality and totally think this is uber controlling. I encourage you to purchase maybe one or two more items highly enjoyed in the household to loosen your reigns more. If you’ve budgeted in this extra cost, there is no issue here. The goal is to simply practice wisdom, order, and stewardship to our own unique make-ups. Every household is different, so don’t take this as law, but as suggestions, and tweak to your household’s unique needs and personality. All things in balance =0)
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” ~ Galatians 5: 1
You Can Do IT!
Even if you are not the type of person to plan like this, you can still learn how to do it. Growth and maturity include learning how to balance out the weaknesses of our flesh. And, at the core of it all, is our basic life principle that keeps us going: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4: 13). Even if it’s tough at first, persevere and press on. It might take time to work these things out, but diligence surely pays off!
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” ~ Galatians 6:9