Even in the healthiest of financial circumstances it can be tricky to work more fruit and vegetables into our diets.
The good news is that if you’re determined to increase your intake of both, it is possible to reduce the costs quite dramatically.
The key here though is planning and flexibility.
If you can plan ahead, you can work better deals into your shopping cart. If you’re flexible, you can take advantage of supermarket deals as and when they become available.
In this article, we’re sharing some of our top tips for trimming the fat from this corner of your shopping trolley.
(If you want to explore my blending and juicing guides, have a look through the archive I’ve put together.)
Buy In-Season Produce
Thanks to a global supply chain, many fruits and vegetables are available all year round.
When an item is in season, however, you’ll find more of them in your local store. Because of this increased supply, prices tend to be cheaper.
As the produce hasn’t been transported as far, you’ll also benefit from food that’s fresher and tastier.
One good tip is to buy more of these items when they’re available at a lower price, and then freeze them so you can enjoy the benefits of lower prices for more of the year.
We’ve got more information on freezing items a little further down the page.
Choose Your Fruit & Veg Carefully
Some fruits and vegetables are hardier than others, and so if you’re buying in bulk it makes sense to focus on items that won’t go off quickly.
Similarly, because fruits like berries turn to waste more quickly, stores are more conservative when it comes to the stock they hold. The end result is, of course, typically higher prices.
Staples like carrots, potatoes and onions have a decent shelf life though, and so are worth focusing on.
When it comes to fruits, oranges and apples are some of the cheapest options – again, for those same shelf-life reasons.
Work Around the Sales
Whenever you’re shopping for food you’ll often see items that are discounted.
You’ll need to be very flexible to make this work, but consider building your meals around whatever items happen to be on sale during your shopping trip.
This is not an easy option, but if you store some favorite recipes on your phone you can tweak your shopping list around the sale items.
When you buy locally, you avoid absorbing the costs behind the global agriculture supply chain.
Buying locally also means that the produce will have been harvested more recently, and will be fresher and tastier.
These items are also more likely to have been organically grown, although check with the vendor if this is particularly important to you.
Finally, by shopping locally you get to support local businesses, which is something we always try to do where we can.
Farmer’s markets are a great option for finding fresh, low-cost goods. You’ll need to plan ahead here, and be flexible when it comes to what you take home.
Research your local listings and make a note of upcoming events in your diary.
Pick Your Own
If you don’t have any farmer’s markets in your area, there may still be farms that you can visit to pick your own fruit and vegetables.
Not only will you get fabulously fresh produce this way, it’s also a great way of teaching your kids about the foundations of the food chain.
It’s well worth keeping an eye on international stores in your local area.
The cuisines of many countries naturally include more fruit and veg, and so you’re more likely to find good deals at these outlets.
Buy Loose, Not Bagged
Sometimes you’ll spot an item that looks like a fantastic deal at first glance, but it’s priced on a per-pound basis.
That means you could end up buying bags of fruit that look like a bargain, but add up to much more by the time you’ve rung them through the till.
By purchasing loose items it’s more likely you’ll only buy what you need, and you won’t spend more money than you have to.
When you’re watching your budget, there’s nothing worse than throwing perfectly good food in the bin.
Consider Frozen, Canned & Dried Produce
You don’t have to buy fresh produce to gain the nutritional benefits of eating more fruit and vegetables.
Dried fruit in particular is a great way of increasing your intake without resorting to unhealthy snacks throughout the day.
Canned goods are also often pre-prepared, in the sense that they’re already peeled and chopped. All you have to worry about is keeping the item in stock, and adding it to a meal whenever you need it.
When you buy frozen fruit and veg, you’re also likely to benefit from cheaper prices if you can buy in bulk. Keep a tidy freezer and use that spare space in a way that’s effective for your budget!
Grow Your Own
This is admittedly easier said than done if you don’t have access to garden space.
If you can carve out an area dedicated to home-grown produce though, then it’s a fantastically rewarding way to save on your vegetable costs.
It goes without saying that you need a great deal of patience for this approach to pay off though.
As harvesting approaches, you’ll need to start planning your meals carefully, so you don’t waste the fruits of your effort!
If you fancy giving it a go and have some space to play with, we’ve got a handy guide that explains how to grow some of the easiest vegetables.
Hopefully these tips have given you the help you need to increase your fruit and vegetable consumption, whatever your budget.
If you’ve any canny tips of your own for saving in the supermarket, we’d love to hear about them in the comments.
Mark’s a lifelong food fanatic and spent ten years working as an entertainment journalist. He now combines his love of food, drink and writing as the founder and editor of Viva Flavor. Read more