Save money and pile on the produce with these tips

Green liv­ing: The Shop­Rite Health and Well­ness Team of­fers tips to eat healthy while sav­ing money. For ex­ample, if your ve­get­ables are about to ex­pire, use them in soup. PHOTO: METRO IM­AGES

When it comes to food shop­ping for fresh pro­duce, we’re all on the hunt for ways to stretch our budget while filling our carts. Luck­ily, smart shop­pers know that with a little plan­ning, sav­ing money while pil­ing on the pro­duce is easi­er than ever. Be­low, we, the Shop­Rite Health and Well­ness Team, have gathered some of the most pop­u­lar ways to save big while shop­ping in the pro­duce aisle.

• Find out what’s on sale – and don’t be afraid to ex­per­i­ment with new ve­get­ables or fruits.

The av­er­age pro­duce aisle at the su­per­mar­ket con­tains thou­sands of items, and, let’s face it, very few of us can pos­it­ively identi­fy each item we see neatly stocked up in a bin. Our sug­ges­tion? In­stead of shy­ing away from the un­fa­mil­i­ar (es­pe­cially if it’s on sale), why not take ad­vant­age of the glob­al bounty that’s avail­able in your loc­al pro­duce aisle, and ex­per­i­ment with ways to in­cor­por­ate these exot­ic or un­usu­al ve­g­gies and fruits in­to the “every­day” meals you and your fam­ily en­joy.

• Buy now, freeze later.

Smart con­sumers take ad­vant­age of pro­duce-aisle sales, and then edu­cate them­selves on the best ways to freeze their gro­cery good­ies. For in­stance, corn is best frozen after be­ing shucked, while to­ma­toes do bet­ter if you freeze them whole.

• You “Can-Can” do it – stock up on canned foods.

Twice a year, Shop­rite of­fers its famed “Can-Can” sale, when all sorts of canned (and even some frozen) items are marked down faster than a run­away cart in a park­ing lot. Our ad­vice? When a “Can-Can” sale is on, make room in your pantry and stock up on as many fruits and ve­get­ables as pos­sible. But even if there isn’t a sale go­ing on, canned foods are still a great value. Best of all, these days, thanks to new tech­no­lo­gies in can­ning and freez­ing, most di­eti­tians agree that there’s prac­tic­ally no nu­tri­tion­al dif­fer­ence between fresh or canned items. So go on, get your “Can-Can” on.

• Ve­get­ables about to ex­pire? Don’t just toss them – toss them in­to a soup pot.

There’s noth­ing bet­ter in the winter then a hot, steam­ing bowl of soup… pretty much any kind of soup. And luck­ily, pretty much every ve­get­able does well dunked in a pot of boil­ing wa­ter or stock and simmered with spices and oth­er ve­get­ables to cre­ate a great soup or base for cook­ing.

• Fruits about to ex­pire? Hello, blender.

Who doesn’t love a just-made chilled smooth­ie? Be­sides be­ing a healthy way to add pro­tein or dairy to your day, smooth­ies are a great way to take fruits or ve­get­ables that might not have much more shelf-life left in them, and put them to good use. Fruits such as ba­na­nas, ber­ries or apples, or greens like kale or spin­ach, are per­fect choices to drop in your blender or juicing ma­chine and en­joy on the run.

• Re­think your stalks, stems and ends.

Be­fore you throw away the parts of your ve­get­ables you might not nor­mally cook with, con­sider us­ing them in an­oth­er way. For ex­ample, if you can sal­vage potato or car­rot peel­ings, and/or the dark green parts of leeks – hey, leeks are pricey - why waste them? Whatever ve­get­ables you en­joy, chances are the parts you usu­ally “throw away” can be saved and frozen, and when you have enough — they can be thrown in­to a pot to cre­ate a de­li­cious ve­get­able stock.

• Store your stash in the right spot.

Re­fri­ger­a­tion is a won­der­ful thing – but not every pro­duce pur­chase needs to be stored in your fridge. In fact, some pro­duce picks don’t need to chill out at all. Ba­na­nas, gar­lic and onions do best out of the fridge, and some ve­g­gies, like avo­ca­dos, will con­tin­ue to ripen if left out on the counter in a closed bag. Best ad­vice for the ve­g­gies you do store in the fridge — keep them un­washed and in their ori­gin­al pack­aging to make them last as long as pos­sible.

• Make a gro­cery list – and stick to it.

We’ve all heard the warn­ings about go­ing to the gro­cery store hungry. But even if you’re not hungry when you ar­rive, you might find your stom­ach starts growl­ing as soon as your cart moves down the aisle. The solu­tion? Well, there isn’t one. However, you can make sure your pur­chases don’t go to waste by mak­ing a meal plan and a gro­cery list be­fore you head out. When you plot out your pur­chases and plan for a week (or even a few days worth) of meals in ad­vance, you’ll have less waste and save more money in the long run. Here’s a hint: Check out “My Shop­Rite” at Shop­ to sign up for an on­line gro­cery list you can fill in dur­ing the week as you run out of in­gredi­ents. You can ac­cess it on your smart­phone as you shop, and you’ll have all your must-have items at the touch of a but­ton.

For more in­form­a­tion on ways to save money on bet­ter-for-you foods while shop­ping, vis­it the of­fice of your loc­al Shop­Rite di­eti­tian or vis­it Shop­ ••

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