Monday, September 19, 2016

My Most Frugal Shopping Trip Ever

Today my fridge looked scarily empty. As someone who tries to stick to a paleo diet as closely as possible, my diet is very produce heavy. My kids also prefer to snack on produce, ideally fruit. Having a mostly empty fridge is stressful for me because then I don't really have anything to eat or anything easy and healthy to give my kids when they tell me they're hungry.
But I was tired today and going to the city to the market to buy my cheap produce sounded too exhausting. The thought crossed my mind that maybe I should just go to the corner store and buy produce there, or at least to the nearby supermarket instead of traveling to the city. But that thought was fleeting as I'm still trying to really lower my grocery monthly total and know that produce is exponentially cheaper in the market and I'd be paying a high price for that convenience. I decided it wasn't worth it.
So instead, when my husband came home from work, I went into the city to go produce shopping at the market, exhaustion and all. I feel my efforts really were rewarded, because I don't think I ever got more produce for less money without foraging.

Just some of what I brought home today

On  my way home, pushing my heavy shopping wagon, filled to the brim with produce, knowing that it was certainly enough to fill my fridge, I reminded myself that this is why I did it, why it was worth the exhaustion. Because that produce they weighed so many pounds that I had to strain to push it all, cost only $14.14!!!
When I get that much produce for twice that, I'm amazed by that low cost, so you can imagine how exciting this was...

Like last time I came to the market, I came on Sunday close to closing time, which may be the best time to get great deals. Also last time and also this time I found produce for 13 cents a pound, the difference being that this time, nearly everything I bought was that price. So many stalls were offering things for 13 cents a pound.

I bought 17 lbs of beets for 13 cents a pound, for a total of $2.20. Perfect quality, the only thing slightly wrong with them is they are smaller beets, but I don't consider that a problem in the slightest.

From one stall I got a combined total of 11.7 lbs of eggplant and cucumbers (all that they had left) at the same price for $1.51.

I saw a stall selling tomatoes for 26 cents a pound and considered buying there, but decided to see if maybe I could get a better price so I left them.

Another stall was huge amounts of perfect condition cukes for 13 cents a pound, so I bought 22 lbs for $2.86. The stall owner was amazed at how many I was buying and asked who it was for. I told him it was just for my family. I know it is a lot but I've learned that cucumbers are more versatile than I once thought, and my kids love them (they've been asking me to make my chilled cucumber soup, and they love cucumber spears) and I can make them as a cooked veggie as well so why not take advantage of the super low price?

I found a stall selling everything for 13 cents a pound, eggplant, cucumbers, potatoes, and onions, but since I already had all of them but the onions, that is all I bought- 8.8 lbs for $1.14, and they are perfect quality.

Then it was time to look for fruit, as my kids devour fruit like crazy.
I found apples in one place for 39 cents a pound, so got 5.9 lbs- all they had- for $2.29.
Then I found another place that usually has decent prices but not usually reduced rack stuff, and saw a box of apples to the side. I asked them if, by chance, that was reduced rack stuff, and they said it was- 33 cents a pound- so I bought that, 4.4 lbs for $1.42.

Since I "need" my zucchinis, since they are my favorite vegetable, I was bummed that I wasn't able to find them for decent prices, even reduced rack. Finally I found a place selling it for 39 cents a pound, so I bought all the zucchinis they were selling, 4 lbs for $1.57.

Then, not finding any better price for tomatoes than what I originally had seen, I went back to where the tomatoes were being sold for 26 cents a pound, intending to buy, only to find out that they had reduced the prices further still- tomatoes and peppers were only 13 cents a pound! 8.8 lbs of tomatoes and bell peppers for $1.14.

But that was not all.

I found a huge, insane amount of produce for free, things that were going to be thrown out.
Now, don't get me wrong- there is a reason the produce is being thrown out. Most of the time there is something wrong with it. How wrong is the question, and how much does it matter.

Take the carrots, for example. Most of them have black on it. But, if you wash it off, most of the black comes off, and if you peel it, none of the black is left. The carrots are crispy and tasty and I have no problem peeling the carrots to get rid of the yucky stuff, if it means getting that much carrots free.
I got 3 mangoes as well- one was very soft, and two got banged and have holes in one end. But the rest of the mango is fine.
Apples and pears were a bit banged up, but I don't mind cutting off the icky bits if they are free. And I got a squash that was totally perfect, not even sure why they were throwing it out.
Also got some onion, a few nectarines, and a plum.
Plus 2 brown bananas, going straight for the freezer.
I didn't actually weigh what I got free, but if I had to guesstimate, I'd probably say it was somewhere around 20 lbs or more of produce.

Altogether, I got at least 100 lbs of produce, for only $14.14!!! That works out, on average, to 14 cents a pound for all my produce. (And that is assuming my free produce didn't weigh more than 20 lbs, but it probably did.)
100 lbs of produce. No wonder that cart was really hard to push!
And no wonder my fridge is bursting from the seams.

Now we'll see- how long will these $14.14 worth of produce actually last us? My guess is more than a week, with eating a very produce heavy diet.

I really am amazed and grateful for all I got so cheaply.

What is the lowest you've ever paid per pound for produce? Have you gotten any great deals lately?
How many pounds of produce do you generally buy at a time? How long does it last you?
If you could get free produce, but it would mean needing to peel or cut off icky bits, would you take it? Or do you think it's not worth it, even if it's free?


  1. Since your family enjoys produce so much, it would be so nice if you could garden and raise It yourself.

  2. Wow! I am super jealous of those prices!! I can't grown my own that cheaply! Good going!!!

  3. Fantastic! I just don't know how you manage to schlep it all.

  4. Yes, definitely the sclepping part. I could, I guess spend and hour and a half each way on the bus (and add $5 travel expenses to the price of the trip) but I can't figure out how I'd get the loaded cart onto a local bus and then into the bottom of an intercity bus without hurting myself or ruining the produce from it banging around the moving bus. Open to suggestions, if anyone has any.

  5. I would DEFINITELY have taken home the barely damaged produce..... although I agree with the other posters that we can't imagine how you managed to transport it all! My neighbors tease me that I shop most every day... I just can't carry giant shoppings, so I bring home a few carrots or two apples.... they laugh, I enjoy!

  6. Not worth it to me. I don't want ugly fruit. It would make me feel sad. I'd much rather drive my car to a nice supermarket, buy some lovely produce, and drive it home in my air-conditioned car. I'm sure I will be raked over the coals for daring to think this way, but I'm just giving you an honest answer to your question.

    1. No, not raked over the coals at all. Everyone has different priorities, and if those are things that are important to you and you have the money to pay for them, then kudos for you for spending on things that are important to you. I spend on things that other people think are a waste of money because it is important to me (paleo diet, non refined sweeteners, gluten free foods, etc...) and to be able to afford that I am happy with spending less on ugly fruits and vegetables like this. Everyone needs to make their own calculations, and yes, mental health plays a big part as well. Good for you!

    2. Its not worth making yourself miserable just to "be more frugal". You have to figure out what is important to you and prioritize those first, and then cut back on the things that don't matter as much or at all to you.

  7. The best deal I have gotten was a few years ago..a local farm invited people to pick the potatoes and carrots remaining in the fields. My sister and I picked at least 50lbs of red potatoes each -we shared them with our family and friends. We also picked a good amount of carrots. It was great because are children got to see where vegetables really come from... not a grocery store.
    I buy reduced bell peppers often since we really like peppers and eggs. We eat a fair amount of produce...mostly fruit. I also buy frozen vegetables for the convenience

  8. I am so envious of your prices! Even the dollar stores in my area do not sell their produce that cheap (or in such nice condition). I am a bit paranoid about eating any food with a spot of mold, even if I cut it off, because I once watched a documentary where the expert said mold goes beyond the parts of the produce that are visible and can make you sick. Bruises though, I have no problem!

  9. Wow, that is awesome!!! I don't think I've ever bought produce that cheap.


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