25 Smart Ways to Save Money on Fruits and Veggies This Summer

published Jul 3, 2022
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Summer is the time to revel in fresh fruits and veggies. (Well, unless you live in California. In which case, you just keep on being abundant and awesome all year long.) In a season that celebrates all things juicy, crunchy, fresh, and sweet, it’s easy to get carried away and blow half your grocery budget on berries alone. But enjoying all the produce the season has to offer actually goes hand-in-hand with saving money. Trust us.

We’ve rounded up 25 great to help you stay within your budget while stocking up on your favorite summer finds — and maybe even a few of the too-often-overlooked items. (We see you, turnips!).

Here’s to eating fresh this summer, while keeping your wallet full.

  1. Join a CSA. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and requires customers to make a financial commitment to a farm upfront. This may come in one large payment or a few lump sums. While the initial cost is inarguably more than your weekly trip to the grocery store, it’ll save you money in the long-term — and also provide financial security to a local farmer in your area.
  2. Hit up the farmers market at the end of the day. This tip appeared in an article last year, and it was too good to not repeat. Some farmers and vendors discount their produce as the market draws to a close. If you don’t see a sign advertising discounted prices, ask (politely).
  3. Skip the pre-cut stuff. Generally speaking, the more processed your vegetables are, the more they’ll cost. For example, those prepackaged spiralized zoodles retail for a lot more per pound than whole zucchini. Do the manual labor yourself and save tons.
  4. Buy veggies with their tops on. If you’re buying vegetables sold by weight, it can seem counterintuitive to grab the tops-on beets. After all, they’ll weigh and cost more. But by purchasing whole vegetables, you’re giving yourself more cooking opportunities. Many greens or vegetable tops get discarded, but are delicious in pestos, sauces, and even marinades.
  5. Go foraging. No need to live entirely off the land in the wilderness (unless you want to). With a little research and/or the help of a knowledgeable guide, you can make an entire meal from found ingredients (Did you know you can eat mugwort?). We love following Alexis Nikole Nelson for all things wild and edible.
  6. Pick your own berries. U-Pick berry farms offer cheaper prices because you, the consumer, are eating the labor costs. (Literally?) This tip has the bonus of being a fun activity for bored kiddos. 
  7. Skip (some of) the organic stuff. Ever heard of the Clean Fifteen? This list of produce, curated by the Environmental Working Group, is a helpful guide to the best ingredients to buy conventional. The Dirty Dozen lists the stuff that is worth an organic upgrade.
  8. Sign up for a “seconds” food delivery service. Grocery stores have high beauty standards for produce. In recent years, there’s been a swell of companies that save the rejects from becoming dumpster dwellers. Misfits Market, for example, delivers imperfect produce at up to 40% less than supermarkets. You may even find locally based companies in your area, too.
  9. Start an herb garden. Supermarket herbs are surprisingly expensive, especially the ones sold in small amounts in plastic clamshells. No space for a garden? Even growing a few herbs in pots — put them near a bright window! — will cut costs at the grocery store. 
  10. … Or a vegetable garden. There’s no doubt veggie gardens require work. But most gardeners will tell you it’s worth the effort. If you don’t have the yard space for your own, consider joining a community garden, or renting a plot. Psst — if it’s too late to start your plants from seed, you can usually buy “starts,” or young plants from farms.
  11. Buy in bulk. Many farmers offer discounts for large amounts of fruit and veg. Planning to can a ton of tomatoes? Make a barrel full of pesto? Before purchasing those heirloom tomatoes by the pound, ask your local farmer or market vendor if they offer reduced prices for big-batch buying.
  12. Sign up for free trials on grocery delivery services. Okay, don’t go overboard here — you don’t want to get into an “opened one too many credit cards” scenario. With that in mind, we’d be remiss not to point out that many grocery delivery services offer discounted prices or free trials for the first month or two. Give one or two a whirl, and enjoy lower prices and more free time.
  13. Comparison shop. Instead of immediately recycling the grocery store sale inserts that come with your weekly paper, give them a browse. You may discover that a supermarket you never visit offers much better deals on produce.
  14. Barter with friends. Don’t have a garden? Won’t have a garden? It’s good to know thyself. But there’s no reason you can’t barter for friends’ or neighbors’ goods. Offer homemade baked goods or your weeding services in exchange for some of their harvest.
  15. Buy local. Of course, berries from down the road will taste juicier and sweeter than their faraway competitors. But wait — there’s more! (Or, in this case, less.) Local produce is regularly priced lower because it has a shorter supply chain. 
  16. Brake for roadside farm stands. These neighborhood gems have all the benefits of farmers market fresh produce with less labor costs for the farmers. Many operate on the honor system and cash boxes, so be sure to have a variety of different bills on hand as you cruise around.
  17. Don’t fear the bruised stuff. Many vendors, markets, and even grocery stores discount bruised and squished produce. This is your moment — and a fantastic opportunity to make jam.
  18. Consider frozen and canned fruits and veggies, too. It’s easy to get carried away with a mountain of fresh fruits and vegetables. But a daily smoothie habit can get expensive if you’re relying on fancy-local-heirloom-organic berries. Pay a visit to your grocer’s freezer section for basic cooking, and save the local, fresh stuff for special desserts.
  19. Get a berry container. Fresh berries don’t last forever — especially if they’re at the peak for ripeness. Extend their (refrigerator) stay with proper storage, and never throw out a tub of moldy berries again. 
  20. Eat more salads. Fresh greens lose a lot of volume when cooked (as you’ll know if you’ve ever sautéed a bag of spinach). Enjoy your leafy greens raw, in salads and slaws, and make them last for much longer.
  21. Show the less popular veggies some love. Fresh sweet corn and tomatoes get all the attention in the summertime. Meanwhile, the turnips are just sitting there, waiting from someone to notice ‘em. Consider less popular vegetables that cost dollars less per pound BTW, and get creative with some new recipes. (This gingery slaw is reason enough to stock up on cabbage.)
  22. Create an “eat first” bin. One of the most common ways we lose money in our grocery budgets? Wasted food. Put a simple plastic tub in your fridge and fill it with the almost-overripe or wilted produce. It’s a visual reminder to put your money where your mouth is.
  23. Regrow your head lettuce. Did you know you can regrow lettuce from the stem? It’s science!
  24. Make your leftovers go the distance. Don’t miss out on a single bite of summer produce by repurposing leftover vegetable side dishes. Keep food storage containers handy for those three pieces of grilled zucchini you may otherwise toss — they’re great on sandwiches. Ditto the half-cup of coleslaw. And the corn salad.
  25. Buy or make some really good salad dressing. The best way to ensure every last vegetable will get eaten this summer? Make them taste really, really good. Keep your kitchen stocked with your household’s favorite dressings, dips, and sauces, and get your money’s worth on all those leafy greens, carrots, broccoli crowns, and cucumbers. 

Share your best money-savings tips for summer produce below!