Cooking for the Family With Fresh Produce Without Breaking the Bank

Cooking for the family with fresh produce

We often view unhealthy processed food as cheap. We see healthy, fresh food as expensive. As a result, the cost of a whole food, plant-based diet might seem prohibitive.

But there’s no reason to break the bank with plant-based choices. It can be just as cheap, if not cheaper, than eating pre-packaged foods. Here’s how.

Stick to Seasonal and Like Local!

One of the biggest pricing factors for produce is supply and demand. The supply of fresh produce goes up when it’s in season. When there is abundant supply, food tends to be cheaper.

Choosing locally grown produce can also help with cost savings. Without all the extra costs for transport and storage, you can get better deals.

The best way to shop both seasonally and locally is to find a nearby farmer’s market and buy your produce there.

The only downside here is you might need to shift your eating habits to match the seasons. Which can be tough if you’re used to eating imported fruits or vegetables all year long. It might mean limited options in the middle of winter, but it’s a much cheaper way to eat.

Become a Savvy Bargain Hunter

Most supermarkets have a rack for marked down produce that may be somewhat past its prime, but still fine to eat. Over-ripe, a little spotted or wilted fruits and vegetables can be a great way to buy at a lower cost. Be prepared to use them up quickly though!

Another way to find low prices on “ugly” fruits and vegetables is with a service like Oddbox. They offer subscription boxes of wonky fruit and veg that would otherwise go to waste. This comes straight to your door and can be 30% cheaper than supermarket produce.

Size Matters

Buying in bulk is the smarter way to shop, as the total cost goes down when volumes go up. This isn’t only true for big bottles of shampoo, you can save money on fresh whole foods this way too.

Dried goods like nuts, beans, flour, dried fruit and herbs can all be bought in bulk. Bulk packs are usually found in member-only shops such as Costco. But packaging-free shops where you fill up your own containers to the amount you need are starting to pop up. The costs are almost always cheaper than buying conventionally packaged products.

For fresh produce, the prices are usually set by weight so you don’t necessarily save if you buy more. At least not immediately anyway. The trick is to wait until the prices are good, either because it’s been marked down or its at the peak of its season. And then buy loads of it!

Of course, you should have a plan to do something with this produce or you’re going to end up with a load of food waste. But with a little planning and preparation, you can use any number of preservation methods (like freezing, drying or fermentation) to save your bargains to eat later.

Make Like a Farmer and Grow Your Own

You don’t have to have a green thumb, or acres of land to grow a little of your own fresh food. Even a single plant can give you enough of a harvest to help out with your food needs.

One tomato plant can produce more than 4.5kg of fruit in a single season, and you can grow tomatoes in a pot on a patio. Other high yield, easy-to-grow crops include green beans, peas, courgettes, chard, berries, onions and kale. These are also nutritious, easy to cook foods that are perfect for a whole-food family.

No space at all? You can still grow a windowsill herb garden to freshen up your cooking.

Pare Down Waste

Not all savings come from the price tag, it can also mean wasting less once you’ve made your purchases.

Are you using all the edible bits? For example, beets are more than just the root. The greens are wonderful steamed or in a salad. The tougher stems of broccoli are still edible, just cook them a little longer. Use everything you have on hand before buying more, so nothing is left to spoil.

In fact, you can help end food waste on a larger scale with apps like Too Good to Go and Karma. They help you connect with local shops or restaurants that are about to throw out food. Whether it’s a batch of ugly fruit, unsold sandwiches or order errors, you can buy food at a fraction of the price. OLIO allows you to connect with neighbours who might have a glut of homegrown lettuce or too much casserole that they want to share for free.

You save money, and prevent good food from going to waste. A perfect win-win.

Channel Your Inner TV Chef and Do More Cooking

Don’t worry if you’re not an experienced cook. With a little time, patience and willingness to learn, you can start whipping up all sorts of delicious meals without paying high prices for processed or pre-made food. Invest in a few inspiring cookbooks and see how you get on.

Non-dairy milk can be expensive. But you can make a healthy batch of oat or cashew milk for a lot less with a blender and a muslin bag. Why buy veggie burgers when you can create black bean or lentil patties for pennies?

Get Creative and Experiment on the Family

Don’t pass up a great bargain just because you’ve found a fruit or vegetable that isn’t usually on the menu. If you’re feeling creative, try taking advantage of deals and then figuring out how to use the produce. Not only does this approach mean more frequent savings, you create a lot of variety by trying new foods. Turn it into a fun experiment for the whole family to enjoy!

This is also another fantastic way to avoid waste. When you have leftovers or smaller quantities of produce sitting around, create new dishes to use everything up before it spoils.

Take control of your food budget and fill up your basket with healthy, fresh produce by shopping smart. With a little practice, a few new skills and a trained eye, you’ll be a savvy whole-food shopper in no time!