I have had to change how I shop for produce quite a few times in the last few years, because we are definitely going through a lot of produce each month, it's the biggest chunk of cash in our food bill, and the cheap places I used to rely on end up not always being so cheap eventually... The place near me that used to have amazing loss leader produce sales- between 7 and 25 cent a pound produce- one day a week, no longer has those sales. Another nearby grocery store used to have decent veggie sales, but they again, no longer sell veggies at such good prices usually. And the reduced rack in one of the local grocery stores rarely ever has fruit or veggies there (other than red peppers or hot peppers, which we tend to not buy) so even that I can't really rely on.
I started going to a local produce sale that happens once a week for 2 hours, where all produce is sold for either 40 or 60 cents a pound, which is terrific, since most produce in the local stores is at least twice that. That is where I do most of my shopping, but sometimes I can't make it to the sale during those few hours a week, and sometimes I run out of produce when there isn't a sale the next day, and we can't just "do without" produce for a few days, but I really hate to pay full price for produce when I am used to getting it much cheaper...
But even that weekly sale isn't always the cheapest for everything- there is never anything cheaper than 40 cents, and I can find cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, etc... on sale for cheaper than that- sometimes even half or a third the price, so even though its cheap, doesn't mean that it's not worth comparison shopping, and/or buying some stuff there and some stuff in other places.
This morning, I looked in the fridge and saw we were completely out of produce. Ok, not exactly- I had one red pepper, one zucchini, two wilted beets, two wilted cucumbers, and a few oranges... but those definitely weren't enough to last us a few days, and I was having a really hard time figuring out what to prepare for my family for meals with such little available to work with.
So today, after dropping the boys at school, I went to the farmer's market, to see what I could get there cheaply, and especially intending to go to the "reduced rack" stall that I wrote about here.
On the way to the store, I spotted a stand selling kohlrabi for 32 cents a pound- which was terrific, since our local produce sale sells them for 60 cents a pound, and I want to use more kohlrabi because it works decently as a potato replacement, especially now that I discovered that potatoes make me more nauseous... For such a good price, I bought 7 3/4 pounds of kohlrabi!
The same stall was selling pineapples cheaply. Well, let me backtrack. In my country, fresh pineapple is a delicacy and hard to find, and super expensive. When I see it being sold fresh here, it's anywhere between $5.70 and $8.50 a pop. As you can imagine, I have bought fresh pineapple fewer than 5 times in the 7.5 years I've lived here for this reason. But today at the farmer's market, I saw them being sold two for $1.40! Super exciting! I bought 6 as a treat for the family... For cheaper than 1 pineapple usually costs!
Then I got to the reduced rack stall. My sister, Violet, who showed me the ropes of how to shop there, told me her trick for getting the most for her money there- but this is something that only works with non picky eaters, who are willing to use what they have, and don't need specifics when it comes to produce... Her trick is to decide how much you want to spend, tell the guy who runs the store, lets call him Jake, that you brought x to spend, and you want him to give you whatever he wants, as long as it reaches x amount of money. The reason this works is because Jake knows what stuff he has more of, what stuff he has less of, what is cheapest per pound, and what he wants to get rid of- doing this will give you a huge amount of produce for as little money as possible.
Today I told Jake that I had $iato spend, and he asked me what I wanted- I told him I wasn't picky- I'd take anything as long as it wasn't peppers (they give me and my husband stomach aches) and I didn't want too many oranges, since I already had some at home.
Jake filled 4 giant bags of produce for me with a bunch of onions, carrots, zucchini, cucumbers, radishes, persimmons, some oranges, lemons, and yellow cherry tomatoes!
33 pounds in total! For a total of $8.50! 25 cents a pound on average for these stuff!
And lastly, just as I was leaving the farmer's market, I saw a whole bunch of cauliflower scraps being thrown out- meaning cauliflower stalks and leaves, which, as I posted before, are edible and delicious. I filled a bag with 4.5 pounds of cauliflower scraps...
This is what I ended up with at home today.
50 pounds of produce, grand total of ~$15, averaging out to 30 cents a pound for produce.
Definitely worth the trip, and saved me a lot of money, because even the cheap produce sale near my house, the cheapest veggies are 40 cents a pound, most closer to 60, and the local grocery stores much more than that....
I think I need to start making trips to the farmer's market more often!
Have you needed to change how you produce shop, because of increasing produce prices? What changes did you make, and did it end up saving you a lot of money? Is it a lot more work? My trips to the farmer's market involve 2 hours of traveling total, vs 30 minutes traveling total to get to closer stores... But it's still worth it for me.