By: Paige Whitmire, RD, LDN

This week’s post begins our four-part series “Eating Healthy on a Budget.”  Look for upcoming posts highlighting money saving tips for produce, grains, proteins, and dairy products.

The FDA recommends that half our plate be fruits and/or vegetables at every meal.  To meet this recommendation, we need to fill our shopping carts with produce…and do so without breaking the bank!

Let’s bust some myths about produce.

Myth: Organic is healthier than non-organic.

Organic foods are grown and processed according to a strict set of guidelines that prohibit the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides on the foods. However, there is no difference in the nutrient content of organic versus non-organic produce.

Price Check! Although both have the same nutritional benefits, one head of organic broccoli can cost as much as $3.69, while one head of non-organic broccoli can cost as little as $1.09.

Myth: Frozen and canned produce is bad for you.

Frozen foods typically cost less, are more convenient, and have the same nutrient content as fresh foods. In-season produce is flash frozen at peak harvest, conserving its nutrients. Oftentimes, frozen, out-of-season produce is higher quality and more nutritious than the fresh produce found on the shelves.

Price Check! A 1 pound bag of frozen, sliced peppers can cost as little as $1.50, while 1 pound of fresh peppers can cost $6.00 or more.

Canned foods also contain the same nutrients as fresh foods.  However, they can be higher in sodium and added sugars. Buy “low sodium” or “no salt added” canned products and rinse them to remove 40% or more of the sodium. Additionally, choose fruits canned in 100% fruit juice to avoid added sugars.

Price Check! One 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes can cost as little as $0.69, while 14.5 ounces of fresh, diced tomatoes can cost $3.00 or more.

Myth: Fresh produce is expensive.

  • Buy produce in season because it is generally priced to sell quickly. Save even more by shopping at local farmers’ markets. Prices are typically lower because you don’t have to pay for the transportation of the food to a store.
  • Buy whole produce. Pre-cut fruits and vegetables may save you time, but you are paying for the convenience.

Price Check! Pre-cut watermelon costs as much as $5.19 per pound, while one whole watermelon costs as little as $0.30 per pound.

  • Buy high-nutrient, low-cost foods. Examples are potatoes, leafy greens, frozen fruits and vegetables, and green or yellow squash.

Price Check! A 5 pound bag of potatoes can cost as little as $3.69.  That’s just $0.37 per potato!

  • Store brands equal savings. You get the same or similar product for a cheaper price.

Price Check! A 14.5 ounce can of Del Monte® mixed vegetables costs $1.09, while a store brand can cost as little as $0.49.

Remember that eating plenty of produce can fit any budget.  Use these money saving tips to fill your shopping cart and your plate with fruits and veggies!

All of the information in this article is based on research performed by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.