How to save money without coupons: Part Two- Produce!

Yesterday I talked about how to save money without coupons when buying meat. Today I’m going to talk about fruits and vegetables!

peppers

There are seldom coupons for fresh fruit or vegetables.

Usually when you find coupons for either, they are lower in value or you must purchase another item (like cereal, croutons, something not super healthy or inexpensive).

Here are some ways you can incorporate fruits and vegetables into your grocery budget and diet without breaking the bank!

My number one money saving tip when it comes to produce is: Eat fruit and vegetables when they are in season. Food in season is cheaper because there is a surplus of it. 

Living in So. Cal, I’m kind of spoiled in that we can grow and eat most fruits and veggies year round. But if you live some place where it snows or has cold winters, eat produce when it’s readily available.

If you aren’t sure when certain fruits and veggies are in season, check out the Produce for Better Health Foundation website here. They have lists based on season.

Tip Number Two: If you gotta eat fruit out of season (sometimes in December, you just gotta have strawberries), buy frozen fruit. Frozen berries are so juicy and flavorful. Frozen fruit is the fruit that is too ripe to sell in stores fresh, so it’s cut up and flash frozen. It contains all of the nutrients that are found in fresh fruit.

Tip Number  Three: If you grow your own fruits, veggies or herbs: Freeze, dry, or can/preserve whatever you won’t eat right away. That way you’ll have some when the weather turns.

I love to make jam and pickles. It’s really easy and you don’t need any special equipment. We don’t grow enough tomatoes to can our own, so I pick up fruits and veggies when they are really cheap and in peak season and make jam or pickles then. And you can definitely can more than just Cucumbers!

If it is something that interests you, here are a few books that I like:

If you want to get the canning gadgets that make canning a little easier, here is the kit that I bought years ago: Back to Basics 286 5-Piece Home Canning Kit I love the funnel!

Tip Number  Four: When fruit or veggies are on sale, stock up. That may sound weird, but most produce can be frozen. With the exception of raw potatoes and lettuce I think you can clean, chop, and store pretty much any fruit or veggie in the freezer. Speaking of frozen….

Fresh produce is always the best, but a close second is frozen. Occasionally frozen veggies are on sale. If they are types/varieties you like, stock up!

Canned fruit/veggies are my last resort. Why? Because, for the most part, they are canned in syrup or juice (fruit) or salt-laden water (veggies) and they are usually cooked and some of the nutrients leech out into the liquid they are cooked/canned in, and most of the time that liquid is discarded.

HOWEVER- I love salt-free canned tomatoes in recipes for all kinds of stuff, and Lil’ Man loves him some salt-free canned green beans.  Sometimes you can find low/no salt added canned vegetables.

I have found that when I calculate price per unit (more info here), blueberries and some other fruit is cheaper at Costco! So don’t overlook your large club stores.

Tip Number Five: Check outyour local 99 Cent Store (like 99 Cents Only), produce stands, and the markdown section of your supermarket. All three usually have inexpensive produce that is good quality. It may not be the prettiest produce, but that’s ok!

How do you save money on your produce?

How to save money without coupons: Part One- Meat!

I know, it seems impossible that I  would tell you not to use coupons. But, let’s face it, sometimes you need to buy stuff that there are no coupons for. What’s a shopper to do? You’re not going to stop eating something just because there aren’t any coupons… That’s CRAZY!

dscn10311I’m going to specifically discuss shopping for meat, because there are seldom coupons for fresh meat.

The easiest way to save money on meat is not to buy it. However, most Americans eat meat. So, here are my recommendations for you:

Ask the butcher/meat cutter at your local grocery store when the meat is marked down each day. Some stores do it each morning, so do it at night. The meat that is marked down isn’t going bad that day, it just needs to be pulled and either cooked and eaten within the next few days or frozen. Most meat can be frozen for up to six months.

If you like to buy your meat in bulk or in large super store sized containers, once you get your big hunk o’ meat home, separate it into portions and freeze it. That way when it’s time to cook, you aren’t faced with 4-7 lbs of solid meat.  That can be a little daunting, and leads to waste. When we buy ground beef in large packages, I portion it out into 1/2-3/4lb. packages and freeze it. It’s much easier to handle the smaller portions.

We buy chicken from Zaycon Fresh– You get a 40 lb box. It’s easy to separate 40 lbs of fresh chicken into freezer bags and tuck them into the freezer. I usually do 1-2 lb packages. Sometimes I even get fancy and season the chicken as I prep it in bags! Zaycon Fresh has really great fresh boneless, skinless chicken breasts for less than the grocery store prices. And I feel great feeding it to my family because it comes to me fresh, not frozen and plumped up with salt water.

I know that the pre-cooked meat that is already cut up looks so good and you think, “Oh, it’ll save me so much time!!”, but the truth is, it costs about 2-3 times the amount that the exact same weight of uncooked meat costs. Make your own! I make shredded chicken in the crockpot once every two weeks. It’s great for topping salads, making enchiladas, casseroles, soups, or just eating out of the bag (what? Meat is goooooood).

Learn how I make shredded chicken here. I portion it out and use it in recipes. You can do the same with beef or pork. Season and cook in the crockpot for 6-8 hours on low.

If you want chicken slices, bake your chicken pieces in the oven at 350 for about 20-30 minutes. Cool, remove the skin and bones and discard them. Slice the chicken into pieces, portion out and freeze.

Buy meat when it is cheapest. What do I mean by that? Think about the seasons/holidays in the year and the meals surrounding each.

  • In the summer, barbecuing is very popular, so meat like ribs, ground beef and boneless, skinless chicken is on sale.
  • In the fall, turkey breasts and whole turkeys are on sale.
  • Near Christmas/New Year’s, Prime Rib is cheap.
  • Mid-March, Corned Beef is on sale (usually 60%+ off the regular price).

Because meat can be frozen for upwards of 6 months, buy meat that you like when it’s cheap and you’ll never be without!

Next up, tomorrow, I’ll be writing about how to save money when buying fruit and vegetables!

How do you save money on meat?