Getting your fruits and veggies doesn’t have to break bank

We have all heard people say eating healthy is expensive. Many families today are attempting to stick to strict budgets; consequently, nutrient-packed foods like fruits and vegetables are being bought in a restricted fashion.

Knowing your options for purchasing fruits and vegetables is important. Meeting your fruit and vegetable needs doesn’t have to break the bank.

Let’s start at your local farmer’s markets. They are a wonderful source to locate seasonal produce.

“Seasonal” refers to the time of year that the fruit or vegetable is at its peak, in terms of harvest or flavor. Choosing to buy fruits and vegetables that are “in season” almost always guarantees a consumer that the produce will be full of flavor and cost-competitive if not less expensive.

Did you know there are winter markets, not just summer markets? You should also pay attention to how long your fruits and vegetables will last in your household. If your schedule and budget allows, you should buy fresh produce in small amounts, more frequently. This will eliminate wasting food and money due to throwing away rotted food.

Now let’s move along to the produce section at the grocery store; more fresh produce, just waiting to be chosen for your weekly meals and snacks.

Here you will have the opportunity to purchase fruits and vegetables in their simplest form. The raw form isn’t always as convenient as the pre-cut, pre-washed, or the more-processed options; however, fruits and vegetables in their basic form often cost less and are more nutritious.

A little extra preparation time in the kitchen is worth the savings and increased nutritional value your family will be benefiting from.

Next, taking a stroll down the freezer aisle might be another way for you to incorporate fruits and vegetables in a cost-effective manner.

Buying frozen fruits and vegetables on sale in large quantities can last you much longer and can be used in different ways such as adding vegetables to casseroles, soups, or crockpot meals and using frozen fruits for snacks or smoothies.

Be sure you reseal your bag properly when you’re done. Frozen fruits and vegetables can prove almost as nutritious as fresh produce; when done properly, freezing can preserve the largest quantity of nutrients.

Of course, canned fruits and vegetables are often an economical pantry staple. Just be sure when you are purchasing canned fruits and vegetables that you read the labels. Fruit should be canned in 100 percent fruit juice and vegetables should be labeled with “low sodium” or “no salt added” to ensure you are selecting the healthiest option.

With spring approaching, consider planting your own garden. Having your own garden in the yard in raised beds or creating a container garden can be a fun and healthy opportunity to have fresh fruits and vegetables on hand.

Having your own garden can also provide you with exercise and bonding time with family and friends. Growing fruits and vegetables can be taught to children as a sustainable practice that will bring your family many health and economic benefits. You also have the option of freezing or otherwise preserving your freshly harvested goods to use at a later time.

Understanding your options, planning your meals ahead and preparing a grocery list can help you budget the correct amount of money for the fruits and vegetables your body needs.

Eating the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables promotes good health and can reduce your risk of certain diseases. Don’t allow your budget to steer you away from the healthful and flavorful benefits of buying fruits and vegetables for your family.

Megan Addison is the health and human sciences educator for Purdue Extension in Hancock County. She is a lifelong county resident.