Ideas for Stretching your fruit and vegetable budget
* Calculate an appropriate Healthy Food Budget for your family, based on USDA’s Low- Cost Food Plan. This easy-to-use calculator, offered by Iowa State University Extension, helps to create a budget for what is a reasonable amount to spend to feed your family healthy meals. (www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsavings/fooddollar/).
* Cook enough for several meals and freeze leftovers. Place enough food for 1-2 meals in each container.
* Create a meal plan for the week that uses similar fruits and vegetables, prepared in different ways. Make the most out of the produce that you buy.
* Buy fruits and vegetables in season at farmers’ markets or at your local grocery store. Grow your own vegetables. Invest a little in seeds, and get a lot of vegetables in return. Try indoor pots or greenhouse growing for the cooler months. Visit www.cdc.gov/Features/GrowingVegetables/ for more information.
* Mix it yourself. 100% juice from frozen concentrate is often less expensive per serving than pre-bottled juice.
* Be creative! To get the most out of your purchase, enjoy your fruits and vegetables in different ways. For example, you can use fruits for dessert. Try baking apples or poaching pears with some cinnamon. Visit http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/dnparecipe/RecipeSearch.aspx .
* Homemade soup is a healthy and tasty way to use vegetables. Make a big batch and freeze leftovers in small lunch-size containers.
* Look for sales and deals on fruits & vegetables at the grocery store or through coupons.
* Cut your fruits and vegetables at home. Pre-cut produce can cost much more than whole fruits and vegetables.
* Don’t shop hungry. Eat a healthy snack, such as an apple, before going to the grocery store so that you stick to your budget and avoid spending money set aside for fruit and vegetables on less healthy temptations.
* Canned fruits and vegetables will last a long time and can be a healthy addition to a variety of meals. Choose canned vegetables that have no added salt and fruit that is canned in 100% fruit juice.
* Frozen fruit and vegetables store well in the freezer until you’re ready to add them to a meal.
* Dried fruit lasts for a long time, but can be expensive. Buy in bulk with friends and share the cost.
* Store-brands can be a great budget choice for many forms of fruits and vegetables.
* Keep it simple. Buy dried beans, peas, and lentils in their raw or uncooked form instead of the processed and packaged versions which cost more.
* Avoid buying single servings. Purchasing many small packages of produce is often more expensive than buying in larger amounts.
* To make many fresh fruits and vegetables last longer, store them in the refrigerator or freezer soon after getting home from your shopping trip. Many cookbooks offer specific freezing instructions. Don’t wash produce until right before you eat it or cook it.
* Get creative with your leftover fruits and vegetables. Make salsa from your tomatoes and smoothies from your fruits! Visit www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov to learn how.
* Buy frozen fruits and vegetables in large bags to stretch your budget (e.g., green beans and blueberries). Avoid those with added sugar, salt, or sauce.