Sunday, November 13, 2016

Make the Most of Your Food Budget: Smart Produce Shopping Tips

I have to admit it: I'm a grocery shopping junkie. I LOVE to grocery shop. Part of it is probably related to the fact that I love to cook, so it's kind-of like shopping for shoes, for me.

Yes, I'm serious. Some people treat themselves with shoes. I treat myself with food. 

SO. Where am I going with this? Well, because I spend so much time at the grocery store—AND, yes, because I am rather detail-oriented—I notice little things at the grocery...things that save me money. 

Like, produce pricing. If you have never noticed, the pricing format for fruits and veggies is not all the same, and there are ways that the grocery store prices and displays produce that could be having you spend more money on those veggies than you need to. 

So. I thought I'd pass along two tips that you can keep your eye out for when you do your next grocery shop, and maybe you'll save some money. Let's take a look:
Tip #1 - Some items are sold as "each" and some by pound. If your item is labeled as "each," buy the biggest beauty you can find. If it is sold by the pound, feel free to buy the smallest quantity you need, even if that means taking a bundle apart.
See how the fennel bulbs below are sold as $2.49/each? When I see that, I dig through the batch and choose the biggest bulb I can find.

Smart Grocery Shopping: Tips for Produce Purchases

But some items are sold by pound. Check out the broccoli rabe below:

Produce priced as "by pound"

So why do I care? Well, a lot of times these items are pre-bundled with rubber bands or twisty ties, giving the impression that you need to buy the whole bundle. But the item is being sold "by the pound," which means I can portion out and purchase only the amount that I want and need, not what is being presented as a set portion. 

Shopping with this in mind can save you money and keep you from wasting a lot of produce. That honking bunch of asparagus that ends up turning to stinky mush in your fridge? Yeah. That's what I mean. 

So, here's what you do when you are shopping for that asparagus for dinner: remove the bottom rubber band from the asparagus bundle, count out 6 spears per person (for the typical serving size) and slide them out of the bunch, then replace the bottom rubber band and toss your loose asparagus in a produce bag. You will most likely find that you didn't need nearly what was in that bunch.

Let's take a look at the next tip.
Tip #2 - Similar items can be sold in different ways: bulk, pre-packaged, organic, etc. Pay attention to the pricing. Things may not be as cheap as they seem.
We go through a lot of lemons in our house. For years, I bought lemons from the bulk bin. Note the price: it's per lemon. They are large, but they also tend to be firmer, which usually means less juice.

Produce priced as "each"

One day I happened to take a closer look at the pre-packaged lemons that I always walked past. 

Smart Grocery Shopping: Tips for Produce Purchases

What are your first thoughts? $3.99 for a bag vs. $.69 each? Hmmm... 

I'm a believer in "Don't-spend-money-to-save-money." But lemons? I go through them pretty quickly. And with closer inspection of the lemons in the bag, I found them smaller but much more plump and juicy. AND, there were TEN in a bag!

Do the math! That's $6.90 if I bought that many individually over time, but only $4.00 if I bought a bag! 

Don't get me wrong. I still check the price of the bulk lemons sold individually, just in case they are on sale. But nine times out of ten, buying the bagged lemons (or even organic once in awhile!) is much cheaper than buying them individually.

I do periodically have to remind myself: if I'm not going to actually use all those lemons (or whatever fruit/veggie I'm contemplating buying) before they go bad, it's not going to be saving me money if I'm throwing a bunch of moldy, blue lemons away. I should just buy the smaller portion instead. You just have to know your own menu and eating/cooking habits and make your own judgement from there as to how you should most wisely be purchasing your produce (which can be different from shop to shop). 

So. I hope you find these two tips useful. If you have any questions about anything, give me a shout in the comments and I'll see if I can help!

Here's to smart shopping and healthy eating!

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