Shopping for Produce On A Budget

It is no secret that fruits and vegetables provide the vitamins, minerals, and fiber that other food groups do not. However, many people do not regularly incorporate fruits and vegetables into their diets. One of the most common barriers that people report when it comes to consuming fruits and vegetables is the cost. Here are a few tips to make the most of your money when buying produce.

Buy In-Season Produce

Produce is going to be more expensive when it is not in season, as it is not as abundant and there will be fewer sales.

Spring Produce: apricots, avocados, collard greens, kiwi, mushrooms, peas, pineapple, radishes, spinach, strawberries, turnips

Summer Produce: apricots, beets, bell peppers, berries, cherries, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, mangoes, melons, okra, peaches, plums, summer squash, tomatoes, zucchini

Fall Produce: beets, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collard greens, cranberries, grapes, green beans, mangoes, mushrooms, pears, peas, pineapples, potatoes, pumpkin, radishes, raspberries, rutabagas, spinach, sweet potatoes, turnips, winter squash, yams

Winter Produce: beets, Brussels sprouts, grapefruit, leeks, oranges, parsnips, pears, pineapples, potatoes, pumpkin, rutabagas, sweet potatoes, Swiss chard, winter squash, yams

In Season Year-Round (Generally): apples, avocados, bananas, cabbage, carrots, celery, kale, kiwi, lemons, limes, onions

*More information available on USDA SNAP-Ed Connection

Buy Frozen, Canned, and Dried Fruit and Vegetables

Buying fresh produce is not the only way to incorporate these foods into your diet. Frozen, canned, and dried produce can be more cost-effective, especially if the produce you want is not in season. These items can often save preparation time as well since they may come pre-portioned.

However, if you are going to buy these items, be sure to know what is in them, as canned items may have very large amounts of sodium. Sodium is essential for neuromuscular function, but excess may worsen high blood pressure or other cardiovascular issues. If you struggle with high blood pressure of cardiovascular issues, look for lower sodium options (<140 mg/serving) if opting for canned items. Draining and rinsing canned items may also help reduce the sodium content. Fruit cups and dried fruit may contain added sugar as well. While this sugar is not harmful, it may increase the number of carbohydrates per serving. This means that one serving may be more than one carbohydrate exchange, so portions will have to be adjusted accordingly.

Organic: Worth the Price?

You may have heard the terms “organic” and “pesticides” before when referring to produce. They are common topics in the world of nutrition, but many people do not fully understand these terms. Organic items tend to be more expensive, but are they actually more beneficial than non-organic (also called conventional) fruits and vegetable?

In short, there is no evidence to support that organic foods are safer or more nutritious than conventional foods. Organic foods still contain pesticides, and the term “organic” is not regulated by the FDA. They are called "organic" because they contain natural as opposed to synthetic pesticides, which the general public associates with safety. However, this is not accurate, as natural does not necessarily mean the product is safe, and synthetic does not necessarily mean the product is unsafe. As for actual pesticide residue, it is present at such a small dose, as it is measured in parts per billion. For example, according to the Safe Fruits and Veggies Pesticide Residue Calculator, even if an apple had the highest recorded level of pesticide residue, the average man would be able to consume 1,190 servings of apples without any effects from the residue!

Does this mean you cannot buy organic? Of course not! If it brings you peace of mind to shop in the organic section, there is nothing wrong with that. However, if you are shopping on a budget, rest assured that conventional is just as safe and just as nutrient-packed as organic food.

For more information on pesticide residue, or to use the pesticide residue calculator for different produce, visit

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