It’s a secret truth that grocery shopping is the most underrated skill of smart cooking and budgeting. The decline of the loonie combined with bad weather in Mexico and California mean food prices are on rise — by $345 a year, according to an estimate by the University of Guelph’s Food Institute. So, it makes even more sense now to shop mindfully, particularly when it comes to produce. Here are my tricks to saving.
1. Plan your meals.
It’s like taping off edges before painting a room: annoying, time-consuming and definitely not fun, but it makes the rest of the task infinitely easier. Plan three meals a day, and make all the fruit and vegetables on that list either long-lasting over-winterers (more on this below) or frozen. Remember that meal repetition and smart leftovers are fine, and relieve some of the daily pressure!
2. Check the fridge, freezer and pantry.
Is there a bag of carrots, an onion and half a head of cabbage in the crisper? Guess what? These hardy veggies are still good, even weeks later. Build them into your meal plan for the week. And if you come across cans of tomatoes, a bag of lentils, or frozen chicken breasts, eat them! What are you waiting for? Add them to the weekly plan.
3. Shop smarter
It’s January: Ignore fresh berries and peaches, asparagus and green beans. You want produce that is less expensive and long-lasting. Look for sturdy vegetables that can be stored in cool places for long periods (“over-winterers”) such as cabbage, carrots, squash, rutabaga, onions, bagged beets. Buy in bulk at a lower price — they’ll last in your fridge or cold room. Need recipe ideas? We’ve got you covered.
For fruit, choose bags of oranges, grapefruit and apples. They’re in season and last for weeks when stored loosely in plastic in the crisper. Buy a bag of discounted overripe bananas to peel, cut up and freeze for smoothies.
4. Never ignore the freezer aisles
Fruit and veggies are packed and frozen at peak freshness near the place where they’re grown. Some things don’t freeze well (melon, carrots, peppers, broccoli) so choose sure-fire winners like berries, peas, corn and spinach.
5. Eat at home and eat less
This is a tough one, but I’m convinced it’s the only lasting solution to the planet’s ongoing environmental, human health and economic worries. If you try to shave three to five bites off of every meal, you’ll save money, time, calories and resources. It isn’t sexy, but it works.