Shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables at the grocery store is one of my favorite chores for the entire week, and no, I'm not even kidding! (I like to say it's my equivalent of being a kid in a candy store.) All the bright and pretty colors — so full of nutrition! — are simply irresistible to me. And I actually think it's fun to hunt for all the best prices on fresh, organic, and frozen organic produce. Because, despite what so many people think, you don't have to spend a fortune to eat well.
I know to stay out of fancy stores like Whole Foods and, instead, I shop at everyday supermarkets near me that still offer high-quality organic produce at decent prices. Then I have a three-step plan of attack: I look to see what's on sale, consider only the budget-friendly options that will last a long time in the fridge or on the counter, and I only purchase things I know I will actually eat.
And with that, here are the 10 fruits and vegetables I buy — even when I'm on an extra-tight budget.
1. Citrus (Lemons and Oranges)
Citrus lasts a long time in the fridge; I keep oranges and lemons in my fridge's crisper drawer where they last for at least three weeks to a month. Oranges are one of my go-to favorite snacks and such a great source of vitamin C, while lemons are also full of vitamin C and, in my opinion, one of the best flavoring agents in the kitchen. I use lemons as salad dressing, squeezed on top of fresh berries, and cut into wedges to dunk into my water and tea.
Cucumbers are high in water content and their skins are rich in a mineral known as sulfur, which keeps my skin (somewhat) healthy and glow-y! I try my best to always purchase organic cucumbers and prefer the seedless ones. I'm constantly putting them in salads, munching on them as a snack, or freezing chunks for smoothies.
3 Cucumber Recipes We Love
There's nothing like some grilled zucchini to make me a happy lady! Not only is it affordable, but it's also nutritious. Zucchini is a great source of fiber, potassium, vitamin B6, and vitamin C. Plus, it can be cooked, used in smoothies, eaten raw, or sliced into thin strips to make veggie lasagna. And of course you know about the oh-so-trendy zoodle-ing situation.
You'll never find my kitchen without several bunches of bananas. I love to use super-ripe frozen bananas in smoothies, or chop and blend some into oatmeal for natural sweetness. I also never object to making a fresh loaf of banana bread. Bananas are one of my favorite fruits and they're high in vitamin B6, magnesium, potassium, prebiotic fiber, and easy-to-digest carbohydrates.
Our Favorite Banana Recipes
5. Frozen Berries
If there's one thing I'm totally obsessed with, it's fiber- and antioxidant-rich berries. Wild blueberries! Raspberries! Blackberries! Strawberries! Give me all the berries. Fresh berries are too pricey for my budget and tend to go bad quicker, anyway, so you'll find my freezer fully stocked with frozen berries all year round; they're just as nutritious as fresh and, in my book, taste much better too. I buy all of my frozen berries from Costco and get so many bags at one time the check-out clerk almost always makes a comment.
6. Frozen Asparagus
While I love fresh asparagus, I simply find the frozen kind to be more affordable and easier to keep on hand. Costco, once again, is the place I buy mine from, since I can get a huge four-pound bag for less than $9. Asparagus is one of the highest sources of folate in the veggie kingdom, an important B vitamin for women; it's also high in fiber (four grams per cup!), natural protein, vitamin C, potassium, and vitamin B6.
For the summer: How To Grill Even Better Asparagus
7. Baby Carrots
It's hard not to love a baby carrot when you need a healthy, naturally sweet, crunchy snack. Carrots are high in vitamin C, beta-carotene (that converts to vitamin A), and fiber. Baby carrots not only make a great snack, but can also be used in salads, soups, and even blended into smoothies (can you tell I love smoothies?).
More ideas: 20 Ways to Use Up a Bag of Carrots
Apples, like other fruits, are great sources of vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. Apples also last a long time before going bad. My trick is to keep them in the crisper drawer, though, and never on the counter where they'll turn more quickly. Granny Smith and Fuji varieties are my go-tos when I can't get a hold of my favorite Pink Lady varieties, but you'll never see me turn down a well-priced bunch of organic apples anywhere I shop no matter the variety!
More good apples: 15 of the Best Apples to Eat out of Hand
9. Romaine Lettuce
Despite the national recall on romaine lettuce, this is usually my go-to healthy leafy green. It lasts longer in the fridge than most greens and it's also higher than people think in terms of nutrition. Romaine is a great source of vitamins A and C and it's rich in water content, plus I find the natural sweetness and crunch factor absolutely irresistible in salads. Tip: Keep your greens wrapped in paper towels in the crisper drawer to keep them from going bad too quickly and always purchase the packages of heads — not pre-shredded varieties.
One of our favorite non-salad recipes: How To Make Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Remember how much I love berries? Pineapple is a close second. It's a great source of vitamin C, with more than 100 percent of our daily recommended intake in just one cup. It's perfect at breakfast, as a snack, in salads, and so on! And for less than $2 per pinapple, you'll get around four cups of fruit, which is a quarter the price you'll pay for the pre-cut varieties.
Related: How to Cut Up a Whole Pineapple
What are your go-to fruits and vegetables when you're trying to eat well on a budget?