Fitting Fruits and Vegetables into Any Budget

By Beth Scholer, CC, CDM, CFP

Fill Up on Fruit and Vegetables

We often hear how important it is to eat enough fruits and vegetables. They provide many health benefits, are loaded with fiber, vitamins and minerals and help us feel full. They can also reduce the risk of other diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer and manage weight. Remember one half of your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables.

Don’t Drain the Budget

Fruits and vegetables can be very expensive, but they don’t have to be. Below are a few tips on fitting plenty of produce into any budget.

  • Chose fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season for the best price. If you aren’t sure, ask in the produce department. Farmers markets can be a great place to buy fresh produce as well.
  • Onions, carrots, potatoes, greens (kale, chard, and collard greens), apples and bananas are usually available year round at reasonable prices.
    • Store onions and potatoes in a cool dark location for the longest shelf life.
  • Buy only the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables that can be used before they lose their eating quality. Select apples or oranges by the piece or a half bunch of bananas.
  • Buy fruits and vegetables in their simplest form; skip the pre-cut or ready-to-eat packages to save money. Wash and cut up for quick snacks or dinner additions.
  • Larger packages of some fresh produce may be less expensive. This only saves money if it can all be used.
    • Onions and potatoes can be frozen (cook potatoes first) to prevent waste.
    • Overripe bananas can be frozen and added to muffins or smoothies
    • Apples past their prime are great for baking.

Fresh, Frozen or Canned?

All are good options for getting the goodness of produce. Fresh fruits and vegetables have the most nutrition when they are in season and picked locally-getting them to your plate even faster. They can fully ripen on the plant and will have the best flavor and nutrient content when just picked. Canned and frozen fruit and vegetables are processed at their peak ripeness which preserves the flavor and nutrition. Spoilage isn’t a concern, so more cost effective forms of transportation can be used to keep the prices reasonable-year round.

  • Stock up on canned or frozen fruit when it is on sale; make sure to use them in a reasonable amount of time.
  • Frozen vegetables and fruits contain the same nutrition as fresh; purchase without added salt or sugar. Try cooking frozen vegetables in the microwave or adding to soups or stews for an easy-and healthy meal.
  • Try growing your own fresh herbs and vegetables. Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and herbs grow well in pots; just put them in a sunny location and water regularly.

Don’t Forget the Beans!

Beans, dried peas and lentils also offer the same nutrition as vegetables but with the added bonus of protein. Beans, such as kidney, white or garbanzos are low cost and have a long shelf life. Most grocery stores offer canned or dried options and they can be easily incorporated into salads, soups, dips or snacks. Choose the reduced sodium varieties when using canned or cook from scratch.

Don’t let a tight food budget be an excuse for missing out on the nutrition and flavor of fruits and vegetables. Add them to the meal plan and enjoy!

Chef Beth Scholer is certified by the American Culinary Federation and Association of Nutrition and Foodservice Professionals. She is a food scientist, culinary instructor, author and founder of Caregivers Kitchen. She can be reached at


U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. Focus on Fruits. CNPP. June 2011. Web 11 June 2013.

Scholer ,B. (2015) Culinary Skills for Caregivers. Lakewood, CA: Avid Readers Publishing Group