What about fruits and veggies? (answering questions)

I got a big ol’ comment written on the previous post in response to some questions and realized maybe it warranted a post of its own.

First of all absolutely, yes, I’m planning to post some of the recipes not in my book as I mention them. Although the majority of my favorites are in Family Feasts, I keep thinking of stuff I wish I’d put in it! I’m hoping to get the Almond Oat Bread up by the end of the weekend– it is soooooo yummy!

Second, I just wanted to mention that although we do have 10 kids, a couple weeks ago when our second daughter went off to college, so now we’re only feeding 8 kids- 10 people total. (Our oldest daughter got married on Valentine’s Day.)

I was asked if I thought it was possible to live on $75 a week without gardening. If I was trying to do it on a regular basis for a family my size, I know I’d feel pinched. (Remember, I usually spend $200 a week for my crew of 10.) If I was only feeding 4 or 5 people, I’m quite sure I could still afford fruit and veggies.

I do save money by gardening, but there are other ways to save. The most affordable vegetables year round are cabbage, carrots (NOT baby carrots), onions, and potatoes, all of which are insanely versatile. When it comes to fruit, apples, oranges, and bananas tend to be most reasonable. Keep an eye out for things that are in season. I have a whole chart in my book, telling what to buy in which month, but around this time of year in my area, there are good deals on watermelon, cantaloupe, peaches, and grapes. You still have to price-check, though, since prices vary wildly by store. Save exotic and unusual fruit for special treats– they are expensive!

During harvest season, people sometimes have over-abundance. People have left extra produce on the back table at our church every Sunday for the last month. Don’t be shy- say yes if someone offers you something! You can always freeze a few tomatoes, or grate zucchini and freeze it to use later.

If you want fruit, keep an eye out for neglected apricot trees in your neighborhood. Apricot trees tend to be prolific and often overwhelm their owners. Heaps of fruit can often be had simply for the asking, especially if you offer to clean up fallen fruit too. Or put an ad on Craigslist asking if anyone has excess fruit. You could even offer to trade fruit for a few jars of jam. This year I was offered apricots and plums by a friend whose family couldn’t keep up with their trees. We made sure to leave their yard nicer than we found it.

OK, I’ve used my computer time for the moment. I’m off to can tomatoes!


  1. Those are some great ideas! As someone who lives in a third story condo and has no hope of a garden for several years yet (basically, until we have too many kids to fit in our place!), I really appreciate your creative ideas. I never thought of Craigslisting for fruit!

    One question: Do you ever worry if, sticking largely to cabbage, carrots, potatoes, onions, bananas, oranges, and apples your kids are not getting enough variety of vitamins and minerals in their diets? This is something I always worry about and try to get (at least) some leafy green vegetables in every day (which means grocery shopping at least once a week) because these are high in many nutrients that we don’t often get in other veggies or fruits (such as calcium and folic acid). Especially when I’m pregnant or nursing (which is most of the time), I know these nutrients are vital for me, too. Any more creative notions up your sleeve?

  2. Bethany, do you have a balcony or a large sunny window? It’s amazing what you can do with a little container garden. 🙂

  3. Cabbage is very nutrient-dense, much more so than iceberg lettuce, which is basically a nutritional zero, despite its nice crunch. I didn’t mention it before but in the winter I usually have bagged spinach and fresh broccoli on hand. You can get broccoli florets in big bags quite reasonably at Costco, and probably at Sam’s Club too. Frozen peas are also affordable.

  4. I was just wondering about freezing zucchini. Do you just grate it and put it in ziplocs? How well/long does it keep?

  5. Sarah, we’ve tried this. Unfortunately, our balconies are north facing and we live in the Seattle area (land of the hidden sun) 😉 I guess I’ll just have to budget a bit more than the average family for my produce for the time being. But, that’s still okay with our income; God always provides.

  6. Thanks for that, as i am one that does not have grown fruit around readily available, I do have to rely on shops. Yes it does kick quite a chunk into the bill but some how we manage.
    We are slowly getting our veg patch sorted and did grow a few toms last year, maybe I will get the husband to put in more toms this year.

  7. Also don’t forget your local gardenings who may set up their own little farm stand at the end of their drives. You can get some great buys there as well as watch signs for farm eggs.

  8. Also don’t forget your local gardenings who may set up their own little farm stand at the end of their drives. You can get some great buys there as well as watch signs for farm eggs.

  9. I’m going to second the local gardeners. I don’t have the time to garden, though I usually grow lettuce, tomatoes and peppers in pots. These last us through the late summer. Otherwise I buy at the local farmer’s market and blanch and freeze and make pickles and tomatoe sauce. A bushel of tomatoes at our local market is about $10 at our local market, though I usually do smaller batches – 5 lbs of carrots for $3 and blanching 4 lbs when I get home, etc. Prices at our local market are very reasonable (3-5lbs of a single veggie for $2-3). I bought a ton of blueberries when they were 99c/pint and strawberries when they were 99c/lb at the grocery store too. Froze those for later too.

    We spend $25/wk for our family of 4 – stocking up on meat in the winter for the whole year when it’s on good sales around Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter and then on veggies /fruit in the summer. That $25 includes 2 gallons of milk a week, 2 gallons of apple juice, 1 doz eggs and basic baking stuff as well as anything else we need.

    You can have healthy veggie/fruit filled meals – you just have to plan ahead and keep your eyes open. 2 years ago we were spending $250/wk on groceries & diapers. If you told me I woudl be spending $25, I would have said “No way!” . No diapers now though, that probably wouldn’t fit in the $25! 🙂

    Love your frugal Septembers, Mary. Can’t join you this year (having company 3x and surgery this month so I don’t think it’s the time) but I’m planning on doing a pantry-type challenge myself later this year (November maybe, since we not hosting thanksgiving!).


  10. Your remark about a different kind of fruit reminded me of a time when I was doing home daycare, with my Oldest son being elementary school age, then Middle son and 1 other child as preschoolers, and Youngest son and 1 other child as toddlers at home.

    We have a friend who is a doctor, and salesmen were always giving his office freebie items.
    One of these was a box of plastic tweezers. Doc said there was no reason to use them in the office, and so brought them for me and my kids to play with.

    A cherished memory is watching the younguns using those little blue tweezers to pick apart pomegranates.
    Sure they were an impulse item when I put 3 in the cart. I grew up in Ohio, I didn’t know anything about red balls of fruit.

    I cannot remember how much I paid, but the red messy faces and fingers and how good the taste sure makes for a good family story all these years later.

  11. Oh and if you aren’t squeamish… check out the markdowns on fruits and veggies in your regular store (if they have this). I have bought onions for .10 a pound and then brought them home and dehydrated them to make minced dried onions.

    I’ve bought peppers, fruits, and more like this. We either eat them up pretty quick (in a day or two) or I freeze or dehydrate them.

    I will even check the mark downs on meat and dairy products. I can always freeze the meat as well as milk and cheese.

  12. Made the easy pizza rolls today from your book – what a great recipe, easy and the kids loved them! A great snack or lunch, and even quick dinner with a salad/soup – a keeper for sure