Nessa is a full time wife and mother of two. She loves down home cooking and strives to fill her kitchen with tasty, yet frugal dishes. Read more from Nessa by subscribing to her RSS feed or catch up with her on Twitter @Nessa_TX.
Frugal Cooking with Fresh Produce
Sometimes it is hard to eat as many fruit and vegetables as we should when shopping on a budget. With coupons you can often find great deals on frozen and canned items, but fresh produce often comes with a higher price tag. As a result, many folks just do without unless they find a fantastic sale.
I always watch sales ads to see what the best produce bargain is weekly. If the price is really great, I buy. But, sometimes the sales are not really good deals. On these weeks, I wait to buy my produce. The local grocery store’s sales run from Wednesday to Tuesday. Monday and Tuesday evenings are when I shop for produce. By that time they are already getting rid of the older produce from the sales ad and you can find it for a bargain.
For example, recently zucchini and eggplant were both on sale, but the price was not that great. I stopped in the store on Monday night and bought whole bags of both, each bag weighing about 5 pounds each. I paid $1 a bag. You never know what you will find, but there is most always some of whatever has been on sale and bananas. The key to buying like this is figuring out when they discount produce at your local store. My produce manager gladly told me when the best time to shop is, so you might just ask your store.
I realize that this discounted produce is discounted because it isn’t wonderfully fresh, but it is still good. I bring it all home, cut it into the size chunks or slices I want, and freeze it. These frozen vegetable chunks are a great addition to sauces, soups, and casseroles. Even if you just add some of your frozen veggie stockpile to a jar of store bought spaghetti sauce you are adding nutrition as well as stretching your meal a bit. I often use more vegetables and less meat in pastas and casseroles, making them not only more healthy but more budget friendly as well.
One of our favorite meals is this yummy baked ziti with the addition of a clam shell package of baby spinach mixed in right after I drain the pasta. Yes, I even freeze spinach and it works great! I do advise against freezing cabbage and lettuce, as they do not freeze well. Everything else from tomatoes to celery has frozen beautifully.
As for fruits, many of them can be frozen and used in cooking as well. I have used frozen bananas, berries, peaches, and even citrus fruits in everything from cakes to muffins. I’ve also found that frozen grapes and bananas make wonderful after school treats for the children.
This is how I get the extra vitamins and nutrients from fresh produce into our weekly meal plans without breaking the bank. It is very simple and easy on the budget. You just need to find out when produce gets marked down at your local supermarket. I hope you are able to find some of these great deals. Once you have your produce, don’t be afraid to experiment in the kitchen! Coming up with different food combinations is lots of fun!
Read some of Nessa’s other cooking articles in her column In the Kitchen with Nessa. Next, read Nessa’s new frugal recipe: Fruit or Veggie Muffins. Make sure you subscribe to our free updates so you don’t miss any of her great kitchen how to articles!
Find more cooking articles at Kitchen Tip Tuesday and Homemaker Mondays.