Tips to save money on groceries – Vegetables

How to eat well on a budgetWe eat a LOT of vegetables. Some we get from our farm share, some we get from local grocery stores, some I pull from the freezer that I have purchased in bulk in peak season and some are pickled or canned.

Where I get my vegetables

Buy Local
Did you know just how important it is for your food to be grown locally? I’m not just talking about the environmental impact of shipping truckloads of produce from far, far away. (I saw produce from Israel the other day?!?!)  I am talking about the actual nutritional value of your food.  In order to arrive at our markets without spoiling the fruit and vegetables had to be picked way before they were ready.   They didn’t get the full benefit of ripening on the vine, or tree or in the ground etc. So it is picked before it’s had the chance to get all the vitamins and minerals that nature intended for it from the soil.  The unripe produce is refrigerated and sits on a truck until it arrives at the store.  There the unripe fruit and veggies are then “gassed” with ethylene gas to kick start the ripening phase again so it looks ripe and pretty for you to purchase.  The ethylene gas is concentrated and is used on both regular and organic produce. 

I don’t know about you, but I want my produce to ripen in its own time, still attached to its food source until it has absorbed as much nutrition as it can.  That is how you get nutritionally dense food!

I won’t even get into the guidelines for farming in other countries, but know that there are a lot of blurred lines and a whole lot of spray!

Find a Farm Share
I LOVE my farm share! I am a “depot” for Plan B Organics. This means that once a week a truck comes to my house and drops baskets of produce (and eggs and other local goodies you can add on) on my porch.  I found several other families in my neighbourhood who were also interested so I was able to become a “depot” and the truck drops my basket and several other families’ baskets to my front porch.  The neighbours then pick their baskets from my porch.  Plan B gives you the option for “local” or “local and import” baskets in different sizes depending on your family’s needs.  I get the local bin (obviously) because I want the best nutrition for the price. Shortest distance travelled should mean longest time ripening and absorbing of nutrients.  I also support the hard working farmers in my Southern Ontario community.

There are other companies that do similar produce bins, but Plan B is an actual farm.  They grow a lot of their own stuff.  They have relationships with farmers in their immediate area (Flamborough, Ontario).   I have toured Plan B’s farm more than once. I have gone with my family on their family days and I can whole-heartedly say that when I grow up, I want to be a farmer just like Alvaro, Melanie and Rodrigo at Plan B.  Their passion is infectious and the absolutely love what they do, and I support that kind of farming with my grocery dollars. I also forgot to mention – every Wednesday when I get my bin, I mentally tally up what I would have paid in a grocery store for sometimes lesser quality organic produce.  And every week I have an Ikea “start the car” moment thinking I’ve just gotten such a steal!

Farmers Markets
Summer and Fall are ripe for glorious farmers’ markets!  Time to stock up on the freshest local produce and at the best prices.  In my community I have my favourites.  I love the Watertown Farmers Market, as well as the one in the town of Dundas.  I recommend these ones because they have a large selection of organic farmers.  Check out your local resources for organic and near-organic veggies and fruits.  This website shows all the Farmers Markets in Ontario.    I’m sure your area has on-line resources to this as well.

Farm to Market stores
I also have used “Farmer Jack” to be a liaison to the Mennonites who grow tomatoes and pickling cucumbers (non-organic- but Mennonites use very minimal sprays if any). Farmer Jack is a produce store here in South Burlington that is seriously passionate about local food, and again the prices are bang on.  Throughout the winter they have great prices on fresh herbs.  They also do juicing and make soups and smoothies.  Farmer Jack is a hidden Gem!

Grow your own
You can grow your own veggies! I have mastered herbs (literally you just have to water them).  My green thumb stops there, yet I have not given up. I have a very ambitious garden planned for this year.  Growing your own is so cost effective! Not to mention the freshest ever produce.  It just takes time and skill. Things that I hope to have this summer!

My garden will be I my yard – but in many areas the city has community garden plots available.  Contact your city hall to ask about them.


Sprouts ready to go in the garden

Wholesale Stores like Costco
There are things that we can’t get locally. I buy a few things at Costco like lemons and limes from the US. I juice and freeze the juice in cubes when they go on sale.  Costco also has bags of Canadian frozen fruit and some vegetables when your own frozen veggies are all used up. Just read the label and be sure there are no preservatives in there.  They also have great prices on organic pine nuts, organic olive oil, cold pressed avocado oil, organic coconut oil, organic chia seeds, organic dates, and organic salad mix or spinach.  That’s especially useful when you’re doing a juice cleanse and need lots. I also buy Canadian non organic shallots, and USA Brussels Sprouts.  (I buy Ecos laundry soap there too.)

How to store your veggies and fruit

vacum-pak-395Vacuum Pack and Freeze
Buying in bulk gets the best prices, but to quickly preserve that freshness through the winter I highly recommend buying a food saver, those machines that vacuum-pack and seal stuff.  I got mine at Costco.   It’s a good price and Costco is fantastic for warranty stuff.  I use this machine all the time to freeze my ripe, local produce for the winter. Bags of blueberries or asparagus will last months in your freezer when vacuum sealed this way.


Fresh Peas from the freezer, stored in vacuum packed bag.

Ziplock Bags and Freeze
Then there is the veggie scrap bags, so much talk of the veggie scrap bag.  When I talk about making soup stocks – I use all those veggie scraps that I keep in a ziplock bag in my freezer.  In it you will find all your clean green bin scraps. Peel a carrot – peels into the veggie bag. Core a pepper – core and seeds into the veggie bag.  Peel an onion – veggie bag. You get the picture. When the veggie bag is full, you take it from the freezer and make a stock.  You can add a bag of bones that you have been saving and call it delicious soup stock.  All things that would have gone into the garbage live on in your stock.   Using all these scraps adds wonderful fresh flavor and saves you money!

Canning is a whole other can of worms (Ha ha, see what I did there) and I will be running classes late summer on how to master this lost art.  But this is a very cost effective way to save produce. Making a dozen jars of pickles is much cheaper than buying chemical filled ones. Canning is also a great way to make people feel special around the holidays as I give these as presents.  I have dozens of jars of canned bone broth (or stock) in my basement, and this is super cost effective as they cost literally next to nothing to make.

I can bushels of tomatoes to make my own tomato sauce, ketchup, and tomato paste.  I use my pressure canner and giant cooking pots for this.

I’ll be sure to add my recipes for these in the fall!

Beets, green beans, turnips, pickles, and horse radish, jalapenos are just some of the jars that line my shelves in the basement.  Then there are just as many options for fruit.  One of our favourites are Cherries in Brandy.  A jar of that makes a great Christmas present!

I’ll be sure to add my recipes and directions for this as well in the Fall.

I love my dehydrator!  You can dry your herbs, garlic, onion, cayenne, paprika, chill flakes, turmeric, ginger and make your own organic spices without the crap they put in commercially produced spices. Did you know that lots of spices have silicon in them so they don’t clump? Silicon is not food! Not to mention the radiation used on some imported spices.  You can even make your own greens powders for power smoothies.  I’ll be adding “recipes” for this in the near future.

These are some of my favourite ways of ensuring my family has the best nutrition while staying within my food budget.  Do you have any other methods?  I’d love to hear about them!  I’ll be adding lots of recipes related to this in the near future.  Stay tuned.

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