Tips for Buying Fruits and Vegetables on a Budget

“How can I eat healthy on a budget?” “How can I afford to buy fresh fruits and vegetables for my family?” These are questions that I hear all the time as a dietitian. Eating healthy while also trying to stay on a budget is a challenge for lots of families, but there are many ways to keep your nutrition and finances in balance.

Buying Fruits and Vegetables in Season
One of the keys to eating a healthy and balanced diet is to include plenty of fruits and vegetables every day. Fresh fruits and vegetables can sometimes be costly, however, choosing to buy fresh fruits and vegetables in season can help save money.

Buying in season means buying food that is currently being grown and harvested close to home. When fresh produce is in season, it’s generally cheaper than when it’s not in season. The best part is that fruits and vegetables in season often taste the best, too! Click here for a great seasonal produce guide to help you get started buying in season.

Another way to make sure you’re shopping in season is to visit a local farmers market. Click here to find a farmers market near you.

Choosing Canned and Frozen Fruits and Vegetables
But what about when your favorite vegetable isn’t in season or the cost of fresh strawberries skyrockets? That’s when we can turn to canned and frozen fruits and vegetables!

Choosing canned and frozen can help us to get plenty of servings of fruits and vegetables throughout the day without stressing our food budget. Both canned and frozen fruits and vegetables are also packed at their peak freshness, so they provide us with lots of healthy nutrients. There are, however, a few things to keep in mind to make nutritious choices while shopping in the canned and frozen sections.

Here are some tips:

  • Opt for no salt added.
    When searching for canned vegetables, make sure to find cans that list “no salt added” right on the front of the can. Regular canned vegetables have added salt, or sodium, which is one nutrient that most of us should limit in our diets. A ½ cup serving of regular canned green beans can have up to 400mg sodium, whereas a ½ cup of the no salt added green beans only contains around 15mg of sodium! If you’re unable to find the “no salt added” cans, rinse off the vegetables before eating to get rid of some of the extra sodium.
  • Limit the sugar.
    Canned fruit often has added sugar, which is another nutrient that we should limit in our diets. Look for canned fruit packed in juice, which is a healthy option. If you’re unable to find fruit packed in juice, make sure to rinse off fruit canned in syrup before eating to get rid of some of the extra sugar. A ½ cup of canned fruit in heavy syrup can have an additional 2 to 3 teaspoons of sugar when compared to a ½ cup of canned fruit in juice!
  • Pick the plain version.
    When searching for frozen fruits and vegetables, the best option is to look for plain varieties. Limit frozen fruit with added sugar or syrup, and avoid frozen vegetables with an added sauce or dressing included. For a little added flavor, sprinkle herbs, spices, lemon juice, or even a little low-fat cheese on your vegetables at home instead.

Whether you choose fresh, frozen or canned, remember to aim for half of your plate filled with fruits and vegetables. For more information about how to fill your plate the healthy way, check out this article.

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Chloe Plummer, MS, RD, LD, is a clinical dietitian with ProMedica Advocacy and Community Health, and her main passion is promoting childhood and adolescent health and wellness. She has a bachelor of science degree in Health and Sport Studies from Miami University and a master of science degree in Clinical Nutrition from Rush University. Her column, Nutrition at the Table, appears on HealthConnect each month.