IMG_7623We’ve all experienced dismay when we walk into the produce section of our favourite grocery store and see persistently high prices on our favourite fruits and vegetables.  We may even consider skipping buying tomatoes for tossed salad or foregoing cauliflower for Sunday’s family dinner.  It’s true, the price of fresh fruits and vegetables has skyrocketed. According to the Food Institute at the University of Guelph, the cost of fruits and veggies increased by about 10% in 2015, and prices in 2016 are estimated to increase by an additional 5%! This adds about an extra $300.00 to most families’ annual grocery bill.

Try these easy tips to stretch your food dollar:

Select seasonal, local, or Canadian choices

Even though it is April, we can still buy locally grown carrots, potatoes, squash, onions, parsnips, rutabaga, beets, and apples. Because these options are local or Canadian grown, there is a big savings right off the top. We are not paying for shipping from the USA and prices are not being impacted by our weaker Canadian dollar. Right now you can get new potatoes, hot house lettuce greens, and peppers. Hot house options help keep the prices on these items affordable.

Enjoy root vegetables

Make the most of local root vegetables by adding them to soups and stews. They are economical and versatile.  Just think of all the different ways you can prepare potatoes, for example: mashed, baked, boiled, oven roasted, hash browns, scalloped, or made into cream of potato soup. Consider making a medley of roast beets, carrots, rutabaga, and squash.   Simply cube and roast with your favourite dried herbs, ground pepper, and a drizzle of oil.



Consider frozen vegetables and fruits

IMG_1436With frozen, there is no waste, washing, or peeling, and you can portion out only the quantity you need. Frozen berries are excellent for smoothies, baking, topping yogurt and ice cream. Frozen peas, beans, and corn are all great vegetable choices. These vegetables have been blanched and only need a quick heating through before serving. Frozen vegetables are great for a quick stir-fry or steamed as a side to complete any meal.

Buy vegetables that have a longer shelf life and store them properly

Apples will keep longer in the fridge – this will stop them from becoming soft and mealy. If you have softer apples, make them into crisps, apple sauce, or add them to oatmeal. Consider buying apples in a cello bag as a cost saver, but only buy as large of a quantity as you can use to prevent waste.

Keep potatoes and onions in a dark, cool place to prevent them from sprouting. Purchase potatoes in a larger quantity if you use them frequently. (The 10 pound bag is always less expensive than the 5 pound bag).

Buy what is on sale

Check your local weekly flyers online, and look for coupons. Plan meals around the more affordable, on sale options.

Purchase only the amount you need of certain vegetables for ingredients for recipes, to be sure you do not waste.

Reinvent meals using leftovers. For example, make steamed vegetables one night for supper to go along with roast chicken;  the next day make the leftover vegetables into a cream of vegetable soup.

Take on a new family project this spring – grow a garden and preserve for later!

IMG_0704Take advantage of your yard or balcony and grow a vegetable garden.  If you usually grow flowers, consider growing vegetables this year instead! If you do not have yard space, look for a neighbourhood community garden plot. This is also a great way to spend time together as a family. It is not too soon to make a list of your favourite vegetables you want to plant later this spring.  Also consider options that are ideal for preserving during the fall harvest.  I freeze grated and coined carrots to add to soups, stews, spaghetti sauces, and stir fries. I process enough tomatoes sauce and  salsa to last the entire winter season. Nothing tastes better than fresh garden produce and preserving for the colder months is a great way to bring the taste of fresh summer produce to your family’s meals  year round.