How to save money on fresh produce

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) – The price per pound of vegetables has skyrocketed like everything else in American stores. People don’t have to change their eating habits or stay away from healthy foods, but they do need to shop smart and plan ahead.

There are tips and tricks people can try at home to make sure their family eats the best and feels the best.

Fruits and vegetables can and should be part of that plan. Fruits and vegetables on the menu may seem like a luxury to many families. In the end, it is not the taste, but the cost that often limits consumption.

“You have to have fruits and vegetables,” said Cindi Sullivan, a gardening expert for four decades and CEO of Trees Louisville. “You just have to look for the best buys.”

Sullivan emphasized that a game plan at the grocery store is just as important as a game plan for a big event.

“Sticking to a list is a great idea,” Sullivan said. “Look for the items on sale. Know when your local grocery store is running specials so you can take advantage of them.”

Take a minute to check the grocery store flyer to see what fruits and vegetables are on sale. If scheduling allows, hit the grocery store midweek and then the farmers market on Saturday.

Towards the end of the day at the farmers market, many vendors are able to sell what is left over at a discount rather than having to pack it up.

“Buy in season,” Sullivan said.

Seasonal produce is fresher, tastes better, and is cheaper. Out of season, people will pay premiums to import from elsewhere by plane, train, or truck.

Buy in bulk when it makes sense.

“You can really save a lot,” Sullivan said.

If the family size is small, people can buy in bulk with their neighbors to get that great price without wasting food.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, the average American family of four throws away $1,500 worth of food a year.

Storage is key.

“Let’s talk about that for a second,” Sullivan said. “So, like when you buy in bulk, buy a bag of chips, a big bag, and store them properly, they can last for months.”

Know how to store what has been bought. Not everything should be thrown in the fridge and some things can be frozen.

Despite what some people think, do not wash the product before storing it. It adds excess moisture, which can speed up decomposition.

Instead, wash it before you eat it and not before you put it away. Also, try to stay away from anything pre-cut or pre-packaged.

“Put value on your own time,” Sullivan said. “Take it home. Cut it yourself. You’ll save a lot of money.”

Do not immediately throw vegetables or fruits after preparation. Most overripe fruits can be used in quick bread recipes. Slightly ripe summer squash can be added to meat to make meatballs and burgers.

Jaqueline Walters of the Bullitt County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences shared information about fruits and vegetables that emit ethylene.

Ethylene is a gaseous hormone that causes ripening.

Some fruits and vegetables should not be stored side by side due to the ethylene they give off. This bit of chemistry can help store fruits and vegetables properly.

As ethylene-producing fruits and vegetables ripen, they give off more ethylene gas. That’s one reason an overripe apple can cause other apples in a bag to “spoil.”

The other thing to remember is not to store ethylene-producing products in tightly sealed containers, because it traps the ethylene gas and causes them to ripen and spoil more quickly.

Here is a list of common fruits that produce ethylene. All of these can be stored together:

  • apples
  • apricots
  • avocados
  • ripe bananas
  • Cantaloupe
  • honeydew
  • Kiwi
  • mangoes
  • nectarines
  • papayas
  • passion fruit
  • peaches
  • pears
  • persimmons
  • bananas
  • plums
  • Tomatoes

Never store the above items with these ethylene-sensitive fruits and vegetables:

  • green bananas
  • green beans
  • belgian endive
  • broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • cabbage
  • carrots
  • cauliflower
  • chard
  • cucumbers
  • eggplant
  • green leafy vegetables
  • okra
  • parsley
  • green peas
  • Peppers
  • spinach
  • pumpkin
  • sweet potatoes
  • watercress
  • watermelon

Below are a number of websites that offer more information on getting the best buys when it comes to fruits and vegetables and the best way to keep them fresh for as long as possible.

The United States Department of Agriculture has a season guide for vegetables.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture has shared information that can help low-income Kentuckians increase their purchasing power.

Farmers’ Markets Senior Nutrition Program

“Plate-it Up” offers healthy recipe ideas for families on your website.

WAVE: NBC affiliate from Louisville and southern Indiana.  Follow us on Twitter and Instagram...
WAVE: NBC affiliate from Louisville and southern Indiana. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @wave3news.(WAVE)

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