How to fight rising produce prices

According to this source, the huge storms in the south over Super Bowl weekend are expected to cause produce prices to soar in the coming weeks.  I was interested to hear this news, but I wasn’t terribly alarmed.  The shopping rule that saves me money every week on groceries will help me out here too.

My rule is simple:  don’t buy the expensive stuff.

I know — on one hand it sounds too easy, and on the other as prices go up, also impossible, right?  You’ve got to have veggies, after all– and what if everything gets expensive?

But here’s the thing.  Some veggies are always priced more reasonably than others.  The video that I linked above mentioned peppers, lettuce, and asparagus as particularly hard hit by the snowstorms.  None of those items are staples in my family’s diet anyway.  Yes, sometimes I buy peppers when they’re on sale, and occasionally I buy lettuce.  But they’re not in my weekly rotation because I can usually find cheaper produce.

I have a very short list of produce that I serve routinely:  potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, apples, oranges, bananas, spinach, and cabbage.  They are affordable most of the time, they’re versatile and healthy, and most of them will last for at least a week in the fridge or pantry, which means fewer trips to the store.

If ALL produce prices go up, of course we’ll feel the hit.  But even then some options will be cheaper.  I may need to look closer at the freezer case, at canned goods, or at the farmer’s market.  I’ll stock up when I see good deals. This summer I’ll also keep an eye out for over-producing apricot trees– often tree owners are glad to have folks come pick their excess. Some folks have found such trees by inquiring on Craigslist.

 I’m like anyone– occasionally I’ll splurge on some gorgeous strawberries or a not-quite-in-season watermelon.   But in general I’ll just keep methodically choosing the cheapest options, thus keeping produce relatively affordable for my family.

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{ 21 Comments }

  1. I love peppers, so I buy them when they are at their cheapest and freeze them – strips for fajitas, diced for soups and casseroles, larger chunks for roasting with potatoes – yum!!

  2. Great tips! I do like to buy alot of frozen veggies such as broccoli and stir fry veggies, they go on sale for a dollar a bag often and are very good. I just got your cookbook and have already made the apricot pork chops, baked brown rice, and used some of the leftover rice to make fried rice, which my kiddos including the one year old gobbled up. I love how the recipes have ingredients that are easy to find and affordable but still are special meals. Thanks for doing all the hard work of writing the books to help us moms, we appreciate it!

  3. Great post! I went looking for green bell peppers this week.$1.50 for 1, and NOT organic either. Well, I went to the freezer case and found a whole 16oz bag of red, yellow and green diced ones for 88¢. Definitely pays to look around!

  4. I spend so much time in the produce department because I am always making laps to find the best prices. We have our staple vegetables, much like yours: cabbage, onion, carrots, potatoes, and such. Our fruits are where we are constantly switching things up. We always shop for the produce that is currently in-season, which makes it almost always the cheapest. Occasionally we find great deals on off-season produce too! The in-season/off-season effect also works in the frozen department. When frozen blueberries are on sale, we stock up! Thanks for the tips Mary!

  5. I was coming over to say the same thing commenter Katherine said. Buying frozen is a good way to supplement!

  6. I love all of the tips you give about shopping and saving money!

  7. Great tip, Mary. We stick to the basics, too. We also have had fun growing so many good staple veggies (cabbage, broccoli, and onions right now) that it really helps me feel free to splurge every once in a while on something that we can’t grow.

  8. I think the only people hit by high prices are those that stick to a ridged list. I typically only buy what’s on sale at rock bottom prices… It’s all about choices… and what you’re willing to spend. Although I was able to score some free asparagus this week 🙂

  9. Gardening has been my very best way to save. You can grow all the pricey veggies for less then you pay for the cheap and frozen ones. On top of that they are organic, super fresh and I can pick the variety that has the most taste and health benifits. Well worth the time it takes.

    • We do lots of gardening too. Home-canned tomatoes are a staple at our house. I probably save $30 a month just in tomatoes– we go through about 5 quarts a week.

      • And it doubles as school when I get the kids involved!=)

        I hope to do that well on the tomatoes this year. The last two have not been so great. Greens though… we always have that coming out our ears!

  10. Cabbage is such a lifesaver! So many delicious possibilities!! And, though I’m not usually a fan of frozen or canned veggies or fruit, I will say that our COSTCO sells some awesome organic peas and green beans in the freezer section. I buy one bag of each every month or two, and they’re always there to be heated and pepped up at the last minute. The peas are great on their own. I love to sautee the green beans with a little butter and maybe some slivered almonds or toss them with a mustard vinaigrette. Yum.

  11. I am definitely going to give canning a try this summer, we are going to plant a garden and hopefully it will do well. I used to only use cabbage for slaw and that was it, I assumed my kids would not eat it but I was wrong, they do not mind it at all which shocked me in a good way! Plus we have some friends with green thumbs who always give us alot of veggies which is such a blessing for our family.

  12. I’m with you all the way. And I plan to have even more veggies in my garden this summer. After the annual expense of planting a garden ( which I consider a hobby), everything is free. Good price.

  13. I am still doing ok with the produce that is in our weekly list as well, but usually I am buying alot of asparagus in the spring and this year I am not buying, not only is it more expensive, it looks pathetic! We are preparing to transfer to Japan, and from what I hear from friends currently stationed there, I should expect to pay more than double for my produce. Now that worries me!

  14. Lori palmer says:

    With this years tax return I decided to splurge and purchase an Excaliber Food dehydrator. Overtime this will be a lifesaver w/ the rising food prices and the room it takes up is very minimal, and the dried food is very light weight. Dehydrated food if packaged properly can last 20+ years and still retain all the nutrients due to the very low drying time. Reconsituting the veggies/fruits takes little time an effort. When I see great sales on produce instead of freezing it or caning it I will dehydrate instead. Mostly, I will be thrilled to not have to spend so many hot summer days canning only to have many nutrients lost in the process, though who can beat canned homemade spaghetti sauce.

  15. I know you garden and I am located in close proximity to you. I was wondering if you had ever looked at a book called “Four Season Harvest” by Eliot Coleman.

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