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How I Slashed My Monthly Vegetable Bill By 53%

vegetable bill

Guest post from Cassie of Vegan Insanity

I’ve been vegan for over a year now. When I first made the switch to a plant-based diet, I spent an enormous amount of money on vegetables. Since I have them with pretty much every meal, I was buying them in abundance, and my bank account was showing that.

I started doing a bit of research and experiments to see if I could save a serious amount of money on my produce – and I did! In fact, last month I gave myself a budget of $30 per week for my produce purchases (at that point I was spending about $60), and came in under budget by $6!

Here’s what I did to save money on vegetables:

1. Check the discount rack.

My local grocery store has a discounted produce rack, and every time I went shopping, I would check it out for veggies that I could use. I often walked away with peppers, eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes (among other things) for 50% off or more!

Some vegetables had to be used right away, some would last a few days, and some of them I would stick in the freezer for later use.

2. Scour the farmer’s markets.

Farmer’s markets were a lifesaver for me last month! I went every weekend, and I always scored a ton of great deals when I was there.

I would usually show up about 30 minutes before closing time, and would ask the vendors for rock-bottom prices on their remaining vegetables. Most of them accepted!

One of the best deals I scored at the farmer’s market was a 10 pound box of bell peppers for just $5! I brought them home, washed them, cut them up, and popped them in the freezer. Now I have months’ worth of peppers in the freezer for soups, chili, and more!

3. Pick your own.

If you don’t have a farmer’s market nearby, check to see if there are any farms in your area, and if they offer “pick your own” vegetables.

Many farms allow you to pick your own potatoes, tomatoes, fruits and more – for a lot less cash than what you’d pay at a grocery store.

Plus, a trip to the farm is a fun family outing!

4. Shop in season.

One of the biggest things I did to lower my costs on veggies was to stop buying things I wanted, and instead only purchased the things that were in season.

When produce is in season, it’s not only much cheaper, but it also tastes way better.

Visit Fruits & Veggies More Matters to learn all about in-season produce and when you buy your favorite vegetables (and fruit).

These are the ways that I was able to cut my bill on veggies by 53%. Since this experiment was so successful, I’ve decided I’m going to continue doing what I’ve been doing.

There are always ways to save on foods that make up a big part of your diet, no matter what they are!

What are some ways that you’ve been able to save money on vegetables?

I’m Cassie – vegan food lover, money-saver, and blogger. I live in Vaughan, Ontario, right near the big city of Toronto, with my husband, our 2 kids, 3 cats, and a dog that thinks he’s a cat, too. I love to cook and share delicious vegan food with everyone I know.

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  • Jessica says:

    The farmer’s markets in Columbus, OH are much pricier than even the most expensive grocery stores. I’ve asked for end of the day discounts and have never had anyone accept. The pick your own places are also much higher than even the specialty grocers. The nearest orchard charges $2.50/# for pick your own apples, and not the fancy honeycrisp. The regulars, like macintosh. On a rare occasion I find something edible on the discount rack. I look each time I visit the store. Most of the time it’s stuff that’s already gone bad and should have been tossed out days ago! Shopping in season is about the only thing that works here to cut produce prices.

    • Yes, it will definitely vary depending on where you live. Some farmer’s markets can certainly be pricier. It’s good that you are checking the discount rack, though! There is often a lot of “bad” stuff, but I can usually find one or two things every time I pass by the rack (to freeze, of course).

    • Danna Lockerby says:

      My experience has been the same with Farmer’s Markets…here in Phoenix and certainly up in Seattle when we were there they were WAY more expensive than the grocery store. I find bountiful baskets food co op very affordable. I’ve tried CSA subscriptions…quite expensive. Here and in Seattle U-pick farms are frankly also more expensive than the grocery store. I’ve heard great things about Market on the Move, but haven’t tried it myself.

  • Sarah C says:

    Cassie, thank you for your fabulous tips. I’ve sure you’ve found a lot of benefit for your and your family by switching to a plant-based diet!

    I read this blog to learn new ways to save money, and I love tips that help me feed my family with more value while nourishing their bodies with real food.

    As a manager of a small farmers’ market, the second tip doesn’t sit exceedingly well with me, however. Yes, you can sure save money by swooping in at the last minute to buy a perishable overage, but what you’re teaching the farmer is to plant fewer peppers next year. The farmers at my market rely on their sales to help offset the costs of their production, as well as supplement their family’s income. Some are there to raise money for their children’s schooling, some to make the ends meet in the depressed economy of our rural area.

    I have gotten screamin’ deals from my local farmers, but the best way, I’ve found, is by cultivating relationships and letting them know that I would be happy to buy their “seconds” (the ugly but very awesome fruit and veggies). There are some people who have been so conditioned to expect perfectly formed (factory) food that they’ll pass by three-legged carrots.

    Also, produce doesn’t follow a once-a-week ripening schedule. Make up some homemade “business cards” (because being a wise home economist is a full-time job that can reap huge dividends) and make your offer in the most winsome way. Being a food producer is HARD WORK, and appreciation of their important part in nourishing your family is sweet music, especially after the mad scramble to get everything ready for the market. 🙂

    Hey, thanks for your post. I hope you continue to find ways to save money while eating your way to health. Fifty three percent is impressive, and wouldn’t be possible without you creatively finding a solution to feeding your family well on a budget! Well done.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words and encouragement! I’m sorry if I offended you with my tip. I didn’t mean any disrespect to farmers whatsoever! Buying the “ugly” produce is a better thing to say, and I should have went with that instead. (Honestly, the ugly stuff tastes the best anyway!)

  • Lana says:

    Aldi and Sam’s save me a ton of money along with shopping the sales. You pick places in our area are tourist traps and produce costs twice as much.

  • Rachel says:

  • Guest says:

    Tip #5 – Grow them!!! Most of us will not be able to grow ALL of our own vegetables but all of us can grow some. I have friends growing veggies and herbs on their apartment patios in some of the largest cities in the US. I’m a fan of raised beds. 🙂

    • Yes! Growing your own is one of the best ways to save on produce. Since I’m in Canada and it’s cold for about 8 months of the year, I can only grow in the summer, but when I do, I save a bundle of money!

      • Agree wholeheartedly on growing as much as you can during your growing season. Start what you can indoors or under cover. We have a garden but this year decided that growing only flowers & shrubs around the house was wasting growing space. Mixing food and herbs right in there has been wonderful.

        Also, many of us have to do what we can to make it in this economy. Buying what is left at the farmer’s market is not a bad choice when struggling to make ends meet- you are raising a family, too! And some of those foods may be thrown away after market, which helps no one.

  • Amie says:

    I think the best tip is to buy in season produce. It’s what we do. I also have price points for the produce I buy. Most things have to be .99/lb or less. By shopping this way, we get more produce for what I was paying previously.

  • Amy Lauren says:

    I live in Charleston, SC, and Farmer’s Markets here are trendy. I like going to them and we do buy things there, but I never go there for bargains- instead I go for splurges. We spend at least $20 there on food truck lunches alone.

    Roadside stands around here are GREAT. I pay a lot less on the produce stand beside the road as opposed to the heavily advertised downtown farmer’s market. I think another factor is that the stands near my home are closer to the farm, so there’s less overhead with farmers transporting the produce to the downtown farmer’s market.

    Also, some local grocery stores carry local produce. Our Harris Teeter store does and has signs saying how many miles it is to the farm where it was grown. I know it’s not the same as buying from the farmer, but it’s a good option for doing all my shopping in one place.

  • Mandi says:

    If you have them in your area, ethnic grocery stores (Asian and Hispanic in our area) can have significantly lower prices on produce. We also have Sprouts which has double ad Wednesdays which can equal pretty good produce prices as well as they tend to be significantly lower than the regular grocery store. Costco is great for organic spinach and organic carrots.

    • Costco has fantastic prices on some produce!

    • Katie Elder says:

      After moving to Austin and previously never hearing of Sprouts, I have decided I will never move far away from one. They have spoiled me and their prices are just unbelievable. I walk away from there every week with bags full of fruits and veggies for under 20 bucks. Most of it is organic too. Crazy. I want to kiss their CEO.

  • Melanie says:

    Cassie-Thank you for your tips. I have recently made use of tip#1 and bought a lot of produce at very discounted prices which I have chopped up and put into the freezer in preparation for Thanksgiving. For instance, last week, I bought four (4) bags of organic yellow squash at 99 cents per bag. There were six squashes in each bag weighing about three (3) lbs (approx. 6 kg). A total of 12 lbs of squash for $3.98. Ideally, I would have bought them in their fresher and prettier condition at $2.49/lb. However, since I am out of work and have fewer funds at my disposal, I opted for the discount route. In this case, I see it as a win-win situation. I have squash to sauté, for soups, for casseroles, etc. that were grown in an environmentally-friendly manner, the store received payment for something that they would have normally thrown away, and there will be less going into the landfill.

    A couple days ago, I had a similar experience with organic apples. I bought two bags. Like the squash, some were blemished and bruised but were still good. I’m thinking apple pie for Thanksgiving and/or applesauce. Yes, the freezer is your friend.

    Yesterday, I got some discounted organic lettuce that was and still is in good condition. That is not going into the freezer.

    As for farmer’s markets, I look for the seconds. For example, soft tomatoes that have to be used immediately can used for soups or sauces often going for at least a dollar or more less per pound than the firsts. Not so attractive-looking produce taste just as good as its prettier counterparts. Thanks Sara for reminding us of the hard work that our farmers endure to provide us with good quality produce and to feed their families.

    I have seen my sister make use of #5 especially in her Chicago apartment. She had mint, beautiful tomatoes and green bell peppers. Fewer items to purchase at the market. #5 is an area of growth for me. We will see what happens.

  • steph says:

    Have you looked into csa’s I live in Nj and pay about a average of 22 a week for veggies and I get a ton.

  • Robyn says:

    Check craigslist or local Facebook pages as well. We have tons of people giving away or selling really cheaply their over abundance of garden/orchard offerings. Last fall we picked up 65 spaghetti squash for free and they lasted us til spring (stored in the garage). We also have apples going for .25/lb at several small orchards. Glean potatoes or corn with farmers permission. Obviously there’s a season, but a lot of rings will last through the winter with proper storage.

  • sasha says:

    I grow pretty much everything i can in the summer time. I have not bought hardly any veggies except for broccoli and cawliflower year round for the last 9 years. I have tried canned veggies from the store that people have given to me because they didn’t want them i didn’t want them to waste them by throwing them away and they would not eat them either. Growing your own and freezing or canning is the best way to save on groceries year round.

  • Kate says:

    Aldi! Our family of 5 has been vegan for 14 years.

  • A says:

    I live in a city, and sadly, things are very different here. There is a grocery store within walking distance, but they do not reduce produce. The quality is often poor, yet the prices are higher in the city. Our farmer’s market is small and offers better quality, but much higher prices than the grocery store. “Pick your own” places require a car to get there, and after driving 45 minutes, prices are actually more expensive. There is no Aldi or Costco nearby either. The CSAs require larger orders, and usually a car to pick up the items. I live in a condo with no outdoor space and do not get enough sun inside to keep a plant alive because of the other buildings around me (so I cannot garden). I save a lot of money by not owning a car, so maybe I have to accept that I live in an area where produce is pricey. But, if anyone has any other ideas for saving on produce in an urban area, I would be grateful.

    • Sarah C says:

      Try splitting a CSA order with a friend or neighbor. Sometimes CSAs will do a drop point nearer to a city if they have interest. Also, you might try Craigslist to do an ISO (in search of) fresh veggies. Nothing may happen, but it never hurts to try. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at what is out there that I didn’t know about.

  • Maryalenr says:

    For those who shop at Aldi, what is the shelf life of the produce you get? When Aldi first opened in our area (years ago), I stopped in and bought a bunch of peaches that started molding the very next day. I was so frustrated, I haven’t been back. However, I keep hearing such good things about the store, I feel like I should give them another try.

  • Kiya says:

    Our city has a gleaning program that I just found this year and love. They post gleaning sites, you sign up for one, and you get to take home some of the pickings for free. 50% goes to shelters and food banks and 50% is for the volunteers. Any fruit that falls on the ground or looks ugly also goes to the volunteers. They do this for farms, orchards, or even people that have fruit trees that they just don’t want to deal with. This helped me get enough apples to make lots of apple butter and apple sauce for gifts and cooking. Next year I am going to start earlier so I can get more types of produce.

  • Nicole says:

    Love these tips! I work at a health food store with lots of local veggies. Buying the discounted ones is a lifesaver! I have been able to try some new-to-me veggies as well since they are readily available. I have also been trying to be more aware of buying in season. Thanks for this post!

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