Save on Buying Produce at the Grocery Store

Guide to Save on Groceries       Save on Buying Produce at the Grocery Store

Fresh produce is an essential part of adding nutrients and delicious flavors to so many meals – unfortunately it’s also one of the major contributors to household food waste. According to the USDA Economic Research Service, 31% of the total food supply in the US winds up uneaten.

Our first tip when it comes to saving money on fruits and vegetables is to only buy what you plan to eat.

By the time you buy fresh produce, it’s already been out of the ground, plucked off the vine, or picked from the tree for some time. When you buy from a farmer’s market, much of that produce was likely picked very close to the day of sale. For grocery produce, more days (if not weeks) enter the mix, with much of the produce actually picked early to ripen while in transit. The moment a fruit or vegetable is picked, decomposition starts, so it’s important to use produce as quickly as possible once ripe.

Buy In Season

Thanks to international imports, most produce is available year-round – but when you buy in season, you’ll enjoy peak freshness and lower prices. For North American produce, the US Department of Agriculture provides this handy season-by-season guide to what’s fresh in what season.

All Storage Matters

Once you buy fresh produce, storage matters to keep everything fresh for as long as possible. Michelle Babb, registered dietician, founder of Eat Play Be, and author of many top-selling anti-inflammatory cookbooks (including the new Mastering Mindful Eating), has great storage tips:
  1. Use a salad spinner to dry lettuce then wrap it in paper towels and store in the crisper (no bag necessary).
  2. Store carrots and celery in an airtight container full of water.
  3. Store fresh herbs in a small vase or glass that is half full of water – like a little bouquet!
  4. Slice wet vegetables (cucumbers, tomatoes) as needed instead of chopping in advance.
  5. Use Debbie Meyer Green Bags to extend the life of your produce by 2-3 days. They can be rinsed and reused multiple times.
  6. Invest in glass storage containers and get rid of the plastic for continued storage possibilities.
For more ideas, the New York Times provides a handy guide to the specific storage needs of each type of produce, including:
  • Produce that needs to breathe – or offgas ethylene.
  • Produce that needs cool, dark places.
  • What to leave in plastic bags or containers, and what to leave out.
  • What to rinse when you get home with fresh produce (to avoid fruit flies).
  • What to keep in a dry storage space.
Also, plan on freezing or jarring what you can’t use immediately. If you can hit the market or your grocery store several times per week, you can buy in smaller quantities. If that’s not a possibility, plan on eating fresh produce closer to the day of sale, and frozen produce later in the week. For quick ripe-to-rot items like peaches, bananas, and avocado, you can buy a mix of ripeness to get through the week – instead of buying one bunch of bananas (all at the same ripeness stage), consider buying one ripe half bunch and one green half bunch.

Don’t Forget to Look for Deals

While Ibotta offers are very popular on consumer packaged goods, you can also find a surprising amount of fresh produce deals from participating retailers on the Ibotta app.