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Produce is NOT expensive! Check this out...

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Old 03-30-2004, 03:32 PM   #1
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Default Fresh Veggies & Fruits: Too expensive?

Ahhh...spring is here, which means that the produce section has a fresh new appeal! Strawberries, fresh young greens and other yummy stuff is in abundance.

But...how often do you hear this:

"It's too expensive to eat healthy" or

"Fast Food is SOOO much cheaper than fruits and vegetables".

Many of us here at 3FC are on tight budgets, especially those of us with hungry young mouths to feed so I figured this would be a good time to offer some thoughts, based on what we have here in the Bay Area. (Yes, I realize that here in California we are blessed with a plethora of healthy whole natural foods...)

What I enjoy doing when I have time is going to my local farmer's market. Here in my neck of the woods, we have the California Federation of Certified Farmer's Markets which has an online listing of markets in my area.

http://www.cafarmersmarkets.com/

I feel good about supporting local farmers, the cost is generally the same or LOWER than the supermarkets (last summer I got 8 ears of sweet white corn, picked just that morning, for $1.00!) and they're ORGANIC for the most part. It's also a nice outing - a cool morning with my little market bag, going around and enjoying the sounds, aromas and tastes of a farmer's market is quite invigorating and relaxing all at once. The advantage of a Farmerís Market is that you can select exactly what you want, out of the locally-grown, in-season produce, and because you are buying directly from the farmer, you can ask questions about how the food is grown!

Okay - if you want to get even MORE hands-on - why not grow your own? What? You say you *want* to but you live in a dinky apartment with no yard...hmmm. Have you checked with your town or city to see if there is a community garden in your area? You might be pleasantly surprised - around here, many city park & rec departments have set aside space for these community gardens. Cities in my area with these gardens include San Carlos, San Mateo, Palo Alto, San Jose and Berkeley. If your town doesn't have a community garden program set up, then it's time to step up to the plate and ask. As my dad (an old N. Carolina farm boy) would say, there's nothing like digging in the earth and growing your own food...and getting your kids involved - when I was growing up, my sisters and I helped plant the vegetable garden in our backyard every year and would watch with excitement as the little plants sprouted and grew. Vegetables that we normally wouldn't eat became totally edible once we 'grew them ourselves'. I well remember pulling radishes out of the ground, washing them off with the garden hose, and eating them right there - because *I* planted them and took care of them myself.

Community Sponsored Agriculture - dunno if you've ever heard of this, but the concept is positively growing in our area! Here's how it works: You become a member of a CSA organization. For a nominal cost (usually $12-14 a week) each week you go to your selected pickup point and get a weekly order of seasonal organic produce (enough to feed 2-4 people). A wonderful concept since you are supporting LOCAL farmers and the vegetables are positively fresh...here are some Bay Area links to give you a general idea.

http://www.fullbellyfarm.com/index.html

http://www.farmfreshtoyou.com/

Okay...then there's 'the rest of us' who shop at our local Safeway or Albertson's. The key words to saving money are "Buy in bulk" and "buy in season". Generally, veggies and fruits IN SEASON are MUCH less expensive than buying, say, peaches in December.

For example - here's this week's Produce Specials at Safeway:

Emerald Globe Zucchini Squash - 99 cents/lb.

Cameo Apples - .99/lb

4 pound bag navel oranges - 2 bags for $5 (or 62 cents a pound!)

Texas Ruby Grapefruit - 2 for $1.00

Asparagus - 2 lbs for $5.00

2 lb bag 'baby' carrots - $2.50

D'Anjou Pears - .99/lb

And I bet if you go to the store there's a lot of other sales on produce.

What about frozen or canned veggies and fruits? Well, frozen is great - I buy frozen veggies all the time, especially when they're on sale. Just stay away from the ones that have sauces and such in them - those are calories you DON'T need. Canned veggies - except for tomatoes - is a whole 'nother thing altogether. Most of the nutrients have been 'cooked' out of them, and they generally tend to taste awful anyway, so I stay away from them. Not to mention that they're LOADED with salt!

This was also inspired by a recent Dr. Phil "Weight Loss Challenge" rerun where a guest claimed that it was too expensive to eat healthy. Dr. Phil's nutritionist, J.J. Virgin, accompanied the person to her local grocery and gave her some tips on how to eat healthy.

Quote:
Simple Strategies for Supermarket Success

By JJ Virgin, CNS, CHFI

You may feel that eating healthy is more expensive, but it can be done economically with careful planning and preparation. It is far cheaper in the long run to make the effort now and to take care of your health, rather than having to pay more medical bills and miss time from work and fun later.
  • Bring a list and stick to it! Make a menu plan for the week and consult the store ads and coupon offers to see what is on sale that week so you can incorporate it into your plan.
  • Don't make the grocery store a restaurant ó avoid this by never going shopping while hungry.
  • Navigate the outer aisles of the store first and avoid the aisles that aren't on your list.
  • Never, ever, eat in the store or the car!
  • Beware of the "sample ladies" ó just say no!
  • Skip the specials. It's not a deal if it's not on the list. Conversely, stock up on staples like chicken breast that can be frozen or stored in the pantry and won't tempt you to overindulge.
  • Buy real food and the least prepared foods to save money. Processed and packaged foods are much higher in cost and frequently lower in nutritional value than those that you prepare yourself. Buy bulk sizes of items that you use often and that have a longer shelf life. Here are some examples of ways you can save money:
  • Buy whole broccoli stalks rather than pre-cut broccoli florets to save money and to preserve vitamin content.
  • Marinate chicken breasts with your own healthy homemade marinades rather than buying pre-packed marinated chicken, which is more expensive and usually has added salt and sugar.
  • Make your own healthy salad dressings with your favorite herbs, vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil. Steer clear of store bought dressings, which often contain added salt, sugar and damaged fats.
  • Buy fresh vegetables or plain frozen vegetables rather than the vegetable medleys with sauces.
  • Buy brown rice, whole grains and legumes in bulk bins or large sizes and store in sealed baggies.
  • Buy the 36-count eggs.
Hope this helps out - I don't want you guys to miss out on those fresh veggies and fruits that are coming our way!

(BTW...you 3FCers in other parts of the country - anyone out there do the community garden thing? Farmers Market? Pick Your Own? Let's hear from you!)
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Old 03-30-2004, 04:18 PM   #2
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It can be expensive to buy fresh produce and I hear that excuese a lot too.
I also like to take advantage of local community produce, Or I will play one store against the other and read all the adds and just get the good deals out of each store. also, lots of people just find it to be a huge drag cleaning and cutting up and cooking fresh veggies and act like its too much trouble. And it can be time consuming, but I think if you are really commited and really want to eat better, you will do it. I buy whats in season or what is on sale for the week and just eat tons of it until something new comes in season.
I hate it when Tomatos are $3.00 a pound. So when that is the case, I do get more of the stewed tomatos. I really love artichokes, and one week they were 4 for $1.00 so we ate artichokes for two weeks. I cook them in the pressure cooker.
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Old 03-30-2004, 05:01 PM   #3
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I do buy canned tomatoes often - the S&W Ready-Cut brand in different flavors. Nice to have around to add to homemade soups or sauces!

Frozen veggies as well - I confess to buying the frozen chopped onions. Not because I'm lazy, but because I work full time and have other interests that take up my 'spare time' it's SO convenient to have the ready-chopped onions!

My favorite frozen veggies is a 'mix' called "The Ultimate Stir Fry". There is no sauce in it, but it contains broccoli, carrots, baby corn, water chestnut slices, peppers, mushrooms, onion, and bamboo shoots - the PERFECT mix for a quick stir fry.



This weekend my baby sister and I are planning a trip to the Farmer's Market at the community college - hoping to get some of those fresh strawberries at $6.00 a flat - the ones we can't eat right away I wash, hull, slice in half and freeze in Ziploc bags and containers - sometimes I add a little Splenda to them...Jim LOVES them partially thawed with his Jello FF/SF Tapioca Pudding...
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Old 03-31-2004, 10:24 AM   #4
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Hi, Mrs. Jim. Boy, do I envy you. Eight ears of organic corn for $1!! Besides that, I LOVE shopping at farm stands.

However, I must tell you that you are very fortunate where you live, because I can find no such deals where I live (N.J.). One of the problems is that Iím committed to buying organic, and thatís not only difficult to do here, but when I do find it, itís extremely expensive (try 3.99 for 4 prepackaged apples at ACME). Although I live in a pretty agricultural section of N.J. (yes, those do exist), there are no farm stands that sell organic produce in my area. I inquired about this when I first moved here 2 years ago and was told that itís a long, drawn out process for a farm to be called ďorganicĒ & that the organic farm cannot be w/in a 5-mile radius of a non-organic farm; I guess in a small state like NJ, this is difficult to do.

The only way that I can get access to good, whole, organic foods is to make a 1 hr. 45-minute trek to the nearest Whole Foods & Trader Joeís. Of the two, only Whole Foods has a good variety of organic produce, and believe me, they charge you for it.

I make the above-mentioned trip about once a month & end up spending a bundle. In between these excursions, I pick up organic products piecemeal from ShopRite, ACME, & a local natural food store near where I work (again, theyíre expensive).

So, while I agree that people can find deals on produce & such, if those same people want to buy organic produce, thatís more difficult to come by & itís more expensive. For me, it actually would be cheaper to buy the junk food, but since Iím committed to not doing that, Iíll just have to open my pocketbook a little wider.

You guys in California have it all over on the rest of the country when it comes to inexpensive, organic foods!
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Old 03-31-2004, 11:43 AM   #5
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Hm. I probably shouldn't have sounded like I was stressing ORGANIC quite so much. The important thing, IMO isn't eating 'only' organic foods as much as actually eating fresh (or frozen) veggies and fruits - whether or not they're organic.

Around here, most if not all of the farmer's markets and CSAs are run by organic organizations or mostly made up of organic farmers. When I buy fruits and veggies at Safeway or Smart & Final, I generally look first at COST then at freshness. So for example, you won't see me buying $7.00 a pound cherries when I could wait for them to come in season and be at a more reasonable $1.99 or thereabouts.

Organic produce is GREAT, but freshness (also available in frozen veggies) and value is paramount - at least for this gal anyway
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Old 03-31-2004, 03:04 PM   #6
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Oh, I think Iíll move to CA. Mrs. Jim, you guys are so lucky! I realize Iím creating more restrictions by seeking out organic produce, but thatís really important to me.

However, I definitely agree w/ you that for those people who buy non-organic produce, it is affordable. There are great deals on produce out there if you know where to look. My co-worker told me she stopped by a produce stand on her way to work the other day & bought 10 tangerines for $1.50. Thatís cheaper than a bag of potato chips!
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Old 04-02-2006, 09:37 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vmelo
There are great deals on produce out there if you know where to look. My co-worker told me she stopped by a produce stand on her way to work the other day & bought 10 tangerines for $1.50. Thatís cheaper than a bag of potato chips!
Amen!
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Old 04-02-2006, 11:51 PM   #8
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I am a big farmer's market fan, I found mine here and they have markets listed in every state!

http://www.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/map.htm

Happy Eating!
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Old 04-03-2006, 12:05 AM   #9
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Thanks, April.

I thought my area only had one farmer's market... Thanks to you I have found another.
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Old 04-03-2006, 05:59 AM   #10
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The next time you buy canned peach or pear halves, count them. A coupla dollars is darned expensive for three pears! if you actually get six halves!
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Old 04-03-2006, 09:09 AM   #11
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If you're only buying and cooking for one, fresh produce can seem really pricy. Unless you can make a trip to the store every two or three days (and eat the same thing three days in a row!), you're going to waste money because it's going to go bad. That's the same reason why I hate that (at least at my grocery store) I can only buy eggs by the dozen. I don't use a dozen eggs before they go bad! For a single person, bulk buying is not really an option! Of course, that's not really an on-topic rant. But, I found a vaccuum sealer at Big Lot's for $20 yesterday, so I'm hoping that I'll be able to put it to use in helping save some money from the food bill.
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Old 04-03-2006, 04:33 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by bluedevil
If you're only buying and cooking for one, fresh produce can seem really pricy. Unless you can make a trip to the store every two or three days (and eat the same thing three days in a row!), you're going to waste money because it's going to go bad.
Ah. I hadn't thought of buying for one... I hope your vaccuum lock works out..

Then again.. sometimes you could do what I do when I visit the farmers market. Sometimes the produce and price is so good I can't pass up buying a lot of something. There is no way for example that my family could possible eat a whole case of say tomatoes so as soon as we get home we divide a little out and send it to some neighbors or bring to a friend. At first it was very one sided but now several of my neighbors are doing the same thing. It is nice to get a surprise bag every now and then and not even have to take the trip.
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Old 04-03-2006, 05:15 PM   #13
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I absolutely love the farmer’s markets! There’s quite a few all around LA, but there’s one just a few blocks from my office in Koreatown on Fridays and then sometimes I’ll hit the one in downtown Santa Monica on Sunday. The Koreatown one is generally cheaper, but the Santa Monica one has a more exotic selection and more organic options. I can get red, yellow and orange bell peppers for only $0.75 and avocados for $0.75 to $1 when they’re in season. I also enjoy all the sampling, most of the vendors are eager to let you have a taste of whatever they’re selling
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Old 04-03-2006, 11:54 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluedevil
If you're only buying and cooking for one, fresh produce can seem really pricy. Unless you can make a trip to the store every two or three days (and eat the same thing three days in a row!), you're going to waste money because it's going to go bad.
Exactly! I DO buy fresh produce but it is hard as I have to be very careful or it goes bad. Buying in bulk is just not practical. It IS worth it! But it is NOT cheap when you are buying for one person.
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Old 04-04-2006, 06:32 AM   #15
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produce can be expensive, even in ca, if you just buy at the big supermarkets. i haven't been to any farmer's markets, but for those of you that live in fairly large towns, try checking "ethnic" markets for cheap produce. the local arab market a couple of blocks from me always has produce 1/3 the price that ralphs sells it, and the korean markets are pretty cheap too. the great thing about the korean market is that they also have exotic friuts and veggies that are really great in various dishes (not just korean). i especially love korean pears (but those are the most expensive fruit you can get there of course.. but top quality). i also highly recommend the soybean sprouts.. they still have the bean on them, and way more flavor than the alfalfa sprouts that are common in typical grocery stores.
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