Top 10 Fruits & Veggies to Buy When on a Budget
Keeping to a budget is tough, but eating healthy doesn’t have to be. Plan ahead to make sure you are getting the most for your buck. Buy produce in season. Not only does it taste its best, you also get the best price. If what you want is out of season, buy it frozen or canned. Comparison shop and pick stores and brands that regularly run good deals on produce. Another trick is to buy in bulk if the produce item can be put into a freezer for a future busy night meal. Also, larger bags and cans of fruits and vegetables are usually a better price per ounce. Remember, get creative and plan your meals around produce items that are the best value and never go to the store hungry (you will overspend)! Read more to see what you can buy at the grocery store without breaking the bank.
- Carrots – Whole carrots are less expensive than peeled and cut carrots, and can be stored in the refrigerator for weeks! They are very versatile and can be added to soups, salads, and stews. They are great roasted with other vegetables or on their own as a side dish, or grate them into rice or stir-fry. For a crunchy snack, cut and peel them into sticks or go the route of Bugs Bunny and chomp them whole. It’s so satisfying and kids love it! Carrots are known to promote good vision, especially night vision, as well as containing powerful cancer fighting properties. Keep your fridge stocked with carrots year-round. Their nutrients and shelf life will have your body and your wallet will thanking you!
- Spinach – Fresh Spinach or baby spinach can be purchased pre-washed for added convenience. It is even cheaper if you buy the bundle and soak and clean it yourself. Another affordable way to bring spinach home is to buy it frozen. It tastes great as a stand-alone salad or mixed with other leafy greens. Cooked spinach is tender and flavorful and is excellent sautéed with olive oil, lemon, garlic, and pepper. Try bulking up pasta dishes and omelets for extra nutrition. I enjoy adding baby spinach to smoothies –and you don’t taste it if you just add a handful. While spinach may not make your muscles pop like Popeye, it does contain twice the iron of other greens. It plays a role healthy eyes and protecting against cancer.
- Apples – The peak season for apples is fall, but this hearty popular fruit is available all year long. There are so many varieties of apples to choose from and try. Check with your local grocery stores to see which apple varieties are on sale each week and stock up. Apples can last 4 to 6 weeks in the refrigerator!1 Red delicious, Fuji, Gala, and Granny Smith are popular types and Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, and Braeburn are delicious too. Pick a kind you’ve never tried before; you just might discover a new favorite! An apple a day provides fiber and vitamin C, which is important for keeping cholesterol down and maintaining bowel regularity. They are also a good source of potassium which is an essential electrolyte involved in fluid balance. Apples make a healthy and satisfying snack. One of my favorite ways to eat apples is in quinoa salads.
- Lemon – A handy staple for your kitchen that’s easy on the budget. Lemon juice and zest are great additions to numerous recipes. Add some lemon zest to your favorite healthy homemade smoothies, desserts or breads, squeeze some fresh lemon juice on seafood or meat dishes, or add some to an Asian stir-fry. Don’t forget how refreshing a cold glass of water with lemon is on a busy day! By incorporating lemons you’ll be adding tons of fresh flavor as well as loads of vitamin C to your meals. Additionally, the lemons zest contains phytochemicals that are thought to help protect against cancer. Try adding lemon zest to your smoothies –it’s out of this world!
- Bananas – A great snack food and quality energy source that are great for those on the go since they are individually wrapped by nature. Slice some over your cereal, granola, yogurt, or peanut butter on whole grain bread. Use them in baking for delicious flavor that is hard to beat. Bananas are a great source of potassium, which helps regulate heart function and fluid balance in the body. They are also a great source of vitamin B6, which helps maintain hormonal balance as well as immune function. Bananas are also well known for soothing the stomach and gastrointestinal tract provided by a compound called protease inhibitors which may help produce a thicker protective barrier against acid. These stomach-soothing properties can really help out with side effects of RA medications! Additionally, the fiber helps to reduce cholesterol levels!
- Raisins – A convenient snack that can be easily stored or carried without refrigeration. Pre-packed snack boxes are handy, but purchasing raisins in bulk and then portioning them out yourself, you can make raisins an even bigger money saver. Store them in a sealed container in the fridge for freshness. Sprinkle raisins over hot cereal, yogurt, or add them to green salads. Raisins are great in all types of baked goods like bread, rolls, and muffins. They are also great in non-green salads like quinoa or pasta salad. They make a great sweet movie snack on their own or add them to homemade granola bars or trail mix. Raisins add flavor to many hot meals as well, such as rice pilaf and stuffing for example! Raisins are high in fiber, which promote bowel regularity and antioxidants that help fight off cancer. During the dehydration process of raisins, the sugars are converted to fructans, a type of dietary fiber with many additional health benefits. These act as prebiotics, which help reduce the risk of colon cancer.2
- Kale – A vitamin powerhouse that is delicious steamed, sautéed, and even raw. You can buy kale cleaned, bagged, and ready-to-use, but it’s even more affordable if you buy it by the bunch. Even cheaper, you can grow kale, if your climate allows. Kale will grow well throughout the winter in the ground or in a pot if you’re short on space. For a crispy snack, bake kale in the oven to make kale chips! Use your favorite seasoning blend to sprinkle over baked kale chips for even more flavor. Fresh kale can be used alone or with other leafy greens as a crunchy and flavorful salad. It’s delicious when added to soup, stews, omelets, stir-fries, and even as a pizza topping! Instead of tossing out that unused portion of your bagged kale, freeze it and add it to smoothies! Kale is packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Kale is also a cruciferous vegetable, which contains more phytochemicals with anticancer properties than any other vegetable family!
- Green bell pepper – A great addition to salads, omelets, fajitas and more! Bell peppers are one of the most nutrient dense foods around. Very low calorie yet full of fiber, vitamins, and an array of phytochemicals with amazing antioxidant activity. This amazing vegetable has been shown to reduce cataracts, and help lower the risk of blood clot formation, which reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke. With its versatile flavor, green bell peppers are a useful and inexpensive produce item. Cook them with onions, tomatoes, and olive oil in a fry pan or on the grill. Bake them stuffed with a healthy and hearty brown rice pilaf. Add this hearty veggie to grain or poultry dishes to add great flavor. Raw bell pepper slices are a tasty treat dipped into some hummus or stacked on a colorful veggie sandwich to give it some crunch. If the raw flavor is too strong for you, try broiling them. This brings out the sweetness and they are so good! Kids love them this way too.
- Broccoli or broccolini – Also a cruciferous vegetable like kale, broccoli is one of the most nutrient dense foods. Typically grown in wintertime, this cruciferous vegetable is packed with vitamins K and C, and also provides both minerals and phytochemicals. In addition to its amazing cancer fighting properties, the phytochemicals in broccoli sprouts have also been effective in getting rid of H. pylori (the bacteria responsible for stomach ulcers).3 These tiny trees are delicious raw in salads or dipped in hummus or other dips. Broccoli can be steamed, grilled, or sautéed and can be added to anything from salads, soups, stir-fry, casseroles, pasta sauces, and pizza! Try making broccoli pesto by pureeing steamed broccoli with garlic, olive oil, parmesan, and pine nuts. Serve broccoli pesto with pasta, on sandwiches, or with chicken. For a sweeter tender taste with the same cancer fighting properties, try broccolini instead of broccoli! It can be prepared in all of the same ways.
- Onions – Add flavor, fiber and potassium to any dish with onions! Cooking onions makes their flavor milder and incorporates their delicious aroma into whatever meat or other vegetables you cook them with. Onions promote intestinal health and contain anti-inflammatory compounds. They have been shown to decrease both blood lipid and glucose levels, which help reduce cardiovascular disease and diabetes. They are also used to treat asthma and have been shown to destroy tumor cells. These are amazing benefits for this budget friendly vegetable, so add them to any dish. Another money saving feature of onions is they can be stored in a cool dry place for up to 6 weeks or up to two weeks when chopped and sealed in an airtight container in your fridge. You can also dice them and freeze them for easy use later on. Each color onion has a slightly different flavor, so give them all a taste to see which ones you like to use in your favorite recipes!
Knowing the abundance of healthy nutrients found in these fruits and vegetables just makes their low prices that much sweeter. A great option to remember when on a budget is to buy fruits and vegetables that are in-season. If you’re not sure what grows when, try visiting your local farmer’s market or looking for local seasonal harvest guides at the library or on the internet before you go shopping. Foods that are in season tend to cost less because they are more abundant and available. The foods on this list are great because they’re all basic fruits and veggies that are easy to find and generally cheap year-round. Try shopping around to see which stores near you sell the best and least expensive options for your produce needs this week.
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- Tips and tricks for preserving apples. U.S. Apple Association. Retrieved on 9/10/14 from http://www.usapple.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=51&Itemid=82
- Carughi, A.. Raisins as source of prebiotic compounds in the diet. The Journal of the Federation of American Society for Experimental Biology. 2009; 23 716-719.
- Galan at el. Oral broccoli sprouts for the treatment of Helicobacter pylori infection: a preliminary report.Dig Dis Sci. 2004 Aug;49(7-8):1088-90.