By: Paige Whitmire, RD, LDN

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

The FDA recommends 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 prohibiting synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. 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. Often times, frozen out of season produce is higher quality and more nutritious.

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

Canned foods also contain the same nutrients as fresh foods.  The difference is 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. Choose fruits canned in 100% fruit juice to avoid added sugars.

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

Myth: Fresh produce is expensive.

  • Buy produce in season…it is generally priced to sell quickly. Save more by shopping at local farmers’ markets. Prices are typically lower because you don’t have to pay to transport 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/lb, while one whole watermelon costs as little as $0.30/lb.
  • Buy high-nutrient, low-cost foods. Examples are potatoes, leafy greens, frozen fruits and vegetables as well as green and yellow squash.
    • Price Check! A 5 lb 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 14.5oz can of Del Monte® mixed vegetables costs $1.09 while a store brand could cost as low as $0.49.

Use these money saving tips next time you shop!

Read tomorrow’s RD Kitchen post highlighting beets.  You can buy them in their natural form, pre-sliced in a jar or can, and made into beet noodles.  Look for a demonstration video later in the week to learn how to peel beets!


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