Nutrition Corner: Buying fruits and vegetables on a budget

April 7th, 2016 1:09 pm

So often we may look at buying vegetables and fruits for our families to eat but they may seem to be too expensive. Often I hear that my food bill would go sky high if I bought all the vegetables and fruits that my family and I should eat in a day.

According to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a person on a 2,000-calorie diet needs 2 cups of fruit every day and 2.5 cups of vegetables per day or 17.5 cups over the course of one week.

USDA further breaks down vegetables into specific groups, which include dark green vegetables (1.5 cups), red and orange vegetables (5.5 cups), beans and peas (1.5 cups), starchy vegetables (5 cups), and other vegetables (4 cups). Fresh, canned, frozen, dried, and 100-percent juice counts equally toward recommended intakes, although the majority of the recommendations should come from whole fruits.

To help, here are some hints to add more vegetables and fruits to your cart without breaking your budget:

• Buy in season. Although most fresh fruits and vegetables are available year-round, some are less expensive when they are in season. Also keep in mind that all forms of fruits and vegetables are nutritious, so canned and frozen forms are OK, too. Right now broccoli, mango, mushrooms, strawberries, asparagus and spinach are in season. Look for these on sale.

• Buy more. When there are specials on fruits and vegetables, buy extra. But don’t buy it if you won’t use it or you’ll just be tossing the money in the garbage. Canned foods will last much longer than fresh and can be just as healthy. Rinse off the vegetables to reduce the sodium. Rinse the fruit to reduce the sugar.

• Don’t shop when you’re hungry. You may be tempted to buy things that are not on your list. An impulse purchase of a bag of cookies, on sale, can cost you $2.50 or more — the same or more than a pound of bananas or broccoli.

• Make a list, and stick to it to avoid unecessary spending. Include fruits and vegetables as half of the plate. Plan to prepare vegetables once and then use leftovers later in the week. For instance, serve broccoli, then use leftovers in an egg wrap later in the week. Or purchase cabbage, steam quarters for dinner and then use leftovers in soup later in the week.

• Include frozen, canned and dried forms of fruits and vegetables on your list. They are all nutritious and handy for quick-fix meals.

• Keep it simple, meaning buy vegetables and fruits in their simplest form. Pre-cut, pre-washed and processed are convenient, but often cost much more.

Spring Vegetable Sauté

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 cup sweet onion (sliced)

1 garlic clove (finely chopped)

3 new potatoes (tiny, quartered)

3/4 cup carrot (sliced)

3/4 cup asparagus pieces

3/4 cup sugars snap peas, or green beans

1/2 cup radishes (quartered)

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon dill (dried)

Heat the oil in a skillet. Cook the onion 2 minutes, add the garlic and cook another minute. Stir in the potatoes and carrots. Cover, turn the heat to low, and cook until almost tender, about 4 minutes. If the vegetables start to brown, add a Tablespoon or two of water. Now add the asparagus, peas, radishes, pepper, and dill. Cook, stirring often, until just tender — about 4 minutes more. Serve immediately.


Nutrition Corner Mary R. Ehret Corner Mary R. Ehret

Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford Counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at