Saving money on produce

Fruit on display at La Boqueria market in Barc...

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I often share ideas with friends for how to save money when buying natural and organic foods. But I hadn’t taken the time to type up my ideas. Thankfully, my friends at Sunflower Farmers Market and Whole Foods Market have done it for me!

One of my personal shopping goals is to always “shop the sales”, especially when it comes to produce.  We try to eat as much organic produce as we can afford, and I check the Dirty Dozen / Clean 15 list for guidance when the budget is an issue. We buy some staples (e.g., spinach, carrots, kale, bananas) whether they’re on sale or not. Most other produce I usually only buy if it’s on sale. I do this for two reasons – one is obviously to save money, and that’s my main reason. The other is that I have a theory (unresearched, very unscientific theory) that the produce that goes on sale is usually the produce that is in season. And therefore the store is getting a good price on it.

I know stores sometimes do loss-leaders, but not all of their produce sales can be loss-leaders, can they? Anyway, assuming the store is getting a good price on the item, then it must be because there’s a larger supply than usual of the item, right? Why would that be? Probably because it’s in season semi-close-by (lower transportation costs) as opposed to being forced to grow in artificial conditions (“hot house not-quite-tomatoes”, anyone?) or being shipped in from South America. Shouldn’t I be living in South America if I’m eating what’s in season in South America? (Does this mean I’m perfect and only eat local produce? No, I still eat bananas from Ecuador and coconuts from Thailand. Sorry locavore purists.)

I recently discovered that Sunflower Farmers Market has had has* a list of what is in season this month on their website. Cool! And guess what? A lot of things on that list are on sale right now. Hmm. 🙂 

The other thing that “shopping the sales” does for us is ensure variety. If I didn’t shop this way, it would be too easy for me to fall into a routine and only eat the same produce over and over again. I know there is recent research that suggests that eating the same few things all the time boosts weight-loss, but in general I want to eat a variety of plants so that I’m getting a variety of nutrients. By only/mostly buying what’s on sale, I force myself to consider other fruits and vegetables and (hopefully) eat with the seasons.

Shopping at the Farmer’s Market is great for this too. You know the produce is in season because you’re talking to the farmer that recently picked it – sometimes that morning!

What do you think? Do you think stores usually put produce on sale because it’s in season? How do you save money on fresh produce?

*Update: I started this blog post at the end of April when Sunflower Farmers Market did have a list of what’s in season on their website. They launched a new website at the beginning of May and now I can’t find the list! If / when I find it, I’ll update this post.

*Update: Sunflower Farmers Market does still have the list of what’s in season on their website. It’s on the Fruits and Vegetables department page. Yay!

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