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When money is tight, it’s time to reevaluate our buying decisions. We’ve talked about evaluating whether a purchase is a need or a want. Now, let’s look at an area of our purchasing that could help us pocket some more of that hard earned money: produce. The fruits and vegetables we buy are important for our health, but we need to buy them wisely.
One of the biggest reasons that produce can be a problem is the fact that we usually buy it and never get around to using it before it rots. We see all the colorful fruits and vegetables in the store, have a noble thought about eating healthier, and buy six different veggies that look nice. But, the ugly truth is that we have no idea how to cook with them, or even if we would like them if we did cook them. This leads to money spent, and wasted when we don’t actually use those fruits and vegetables. The grocery store knows we have this tendency, which is why the produce section is right in the front of the store and all the colors are on display.
In order to combat this problem, you need to look at your produce consumption realistically. Do you even like brussel sprouts? I know that my family enjoys them, so it is safe to buy them. But I don’t buy green peppers, because nobody likes them. Only buy what your family will eat, and only buy reasonable quantities. Ideally, when you pick up that bunch of asparagus at the store, you will make a note in your planner that it will go with Tuesday’s dinner. Have a plan, and only buy what you need.
The Torah Family Living planner is designed for moms who want to not only manage their household well, but make their spiritual growth part of everyday life.
Buy shelf stable produce
Not all produce is created equal when it comes to how long it will last. Whenever possible, stick with fruits and vegetables that can be stored for a longer period of time. The following items tend to store better.
- squash and zucchini
Consider frozen veggies
Some vegetables freeze well and enable you to keep it on hand to add to meals without worrying about how long it will keep. This works great for adding a bit of nutrition to pasta dishes, soup, and casseroles. For example, I keep a big bag of frozen broccoli on hand. I use broccoli frequently but have lost fresh heads that turned yellow and developed mold because I didn’t use them quite fast enough. Losing produce equals wasted money, so it makes more financial sense to buy frozen. Other produce that is great to keep frozen include:
- diced peppers (dice and freeze them yourself when they are on sale)
- stir fry blend
Use your scraps
We peel our carrots. We cut down to the celery root. We remove the onion skins and root. Usually these scraps would find their way into the garbage, or perhaps a compost pile. Let me suggest that you add one simple step and compound how much benefit you get from the produce you buy.
Save your peels and roots in a bag in the freezer. When your bag is full, dump it into your crockpot, add water to the top, and turn it on. You will end up with a delicious veggie broth that can be used for soup, rice, gravy, and more. I let mine cook on low for a couple days, then immediately use it in a dish so I don’t go to all that effort and waste it by putting it in a jar at the back of the fridge.
Ripe equals sweet
This last tip refers specifically to fruit. When the bananas turn brown, it’s time to make banana bread. When the apples have been there awhile, put them in a smoothie. Fruits that are too ripe for fresh eating are excellent in recipes.
I made two larger kitchen appliance purchases that I have never regretted. They have enabled me to make the most of my food purchases. The first one is my Vitamix blender. It makes great smoothies. The second is my Bosch Universal mixer. I don’t even have to mash my bananas when I make bread! I have very few extra kitchen appliances, but these two have both served me well.
How do you make the most of your produce purchases? Which vegetables work well for you? Which ones tend to go bad before you use them? Share in the comments below!