One of the questions I’ve been asked is, “isn’t fresh fruit expensive?” My answer? “It depends.”
If you are buying organic raspberries out of season at a grocery store, or the first strawberries of the season at a farmer’s market, then I suppose it would be relatively expensive compared to getting it by other means, such as buying canned or frozen fruit with a coupon. However, there are ways of cutting costs.
- Buy local fruit in season. As I mentioned yesterday, I’m not going to begrudge anybody their bananas or oranges if they don’t live in Florida or California or the tropics. But it really is cheaper to buy from a farmer’s market (and by farmer’s market I mean the ones that are still staffed by farmers selling the things they grow, not the overcommercialized “fake” farmers markets capitalizing on the local food trend.) Also, pay attention to seasonality. The first few weeks of the season, fruit is expensive because everyone has been anxiously awaiting it to come into season. However, the price will drop over the next few weeks, bottoming out towards the end of the season when seconds and those destined for jam are available.
- Foraging: Fruit for free. Sometimes, foraging is in your own backyard. I have a huge mulberry tree, but unfortunately I have never eaten from it because it’s too tall to pick from and the birds seem to eat it before I get a chance. However, if I were thinking ahead, I could get out a ladder and put a net over it to save some of the berries. Since we’ve been letting our back yard get a little bit wild, we had a volunteer raspberry plant spring up and I hope to get some of the berries this year. I’m also hoping to plant some blueberry bushes, strawberry plants, and raspberry vines next year as phase 2 of my master garden plan. You can also ask on Facebook if anyone has fruit trees in their yard that they are not making use of. You’d be surprised–a friend of mine has gotten lots of apples and pears that way from people who don’t really go out there and pick it. If you live in or have access to the countryside, often fruit grows wild. Just be sure to ask the owner, and make sure it hasn’t been sprayed.
- Cut it up yourself. This probably goes without saying, but I admit to occasionally buying fruit that’s already cut up at the grocery store, usually when I’m traveling for work and the other alternative would be a drive thru. I always wince at the price. Really? It doesn’t take that much time, and usually tastes fresher when freshly cut. You can also make some really cute fruit bouquets for showers for a fraction of the cost of ordering them.
- Freeze extras and make substitutions. If you do score a great deal on fruit, or if you choose to go to a U pick, berries are great for freezing. You can make it into jam later if you want, or use as is in baked goods. Don’t feel like you have to use specific fruit called for, either; most berries are interchangeable.
What are your money saving tips when it comes to fruit?