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Are you on a tight budget and need to make that most of the grocery money that you have for the month? This article features my very favorite frugal produce that can be purchased on a budget during any time of year.
Frugal Produce to Buy on a Tight Budget
We’ve come to the part of the year when fresh fruits and vegetables are just about as expensive as they can get. It can be frustrating when you are on a tight budget but you also want to ensure that your family has fresh food to eat.
Even though we preserve food through the summer, fresh frugal produce is still a staple in most diets. Now that our family has built a root cellar and we have more of an ability to store fresh produce all winter, that has helped tremendously. But we still don’t grow everything and a trip to the store is still necessary.
Below you will find my favorite frugal produce to buy when I need to stick to a tight grocery budget. I hope this list will be helpful to you as you plan your meals and grocery shopping trips!
Carrots are probably one of our all-time favorite frugal vegetables to buy. They can be used in so many different recipes and eaten raw for snacks. Our favorite way to make them is to cut them into “fries” and roast them in olive oil and salt in the oven. SO good!
Here are some other yummy frugal recipes using carrots:
- Vegetable Lo Mein
- Bean with Bacon Soup
- Coleslaw from Scratch
- Simple and Easy Carrot Cake Recipe
- Gluten Free Banana Carrot Muffins
The last time I checked the price of carrots (July 2022), they were $0.98 per pound. Down to $0.78 a pound if you buy them in a 5lb bag. ($3.88) We rarely buy baby/diced/shredded carrots because of the price.
Carrots are a pretty good price year round.
Cabbage is something that we’ve been eating more of lately because I’m discovered how much fun it is to shred it and add it into meals! We like to add it into stir-fry since that’s already a pretty frugal meal when you are using whatever veggies you have.
Here are some frugal recipes using cabbage:
I will buy cabbage when it’s under $0.50 per pound when it’s on sale. You will find the best deals on cabbage during the early spring but you can usually buy it for a low price per pound (under $1 per pound) year-round.
What would a good frugal pantry be without a healthy stockpile of onions? Of course, onions aren’t something you generally eat whole, but they sure add a huge amount of flavor to recipes. They can pack a big punch of flavor to even the simplest recipes.
- Slow Cooker Steak and Caramelized Onions
- Old Fashioned Goulash Recipe
- Homemade Onion Rings
- The Best French Onion Soup Recipe
I look for onions that are under $0.50 per pound. (You have to buy them in a large bulk bag to get this price.) Otherwise, it seems that the price is a little over a dollar per pound. Fun fact, if you DON’T buy onions in a bag (buy then loose) they are much cheaper per pound!
Onions seem to be a pretty fair price year round.
I will be honest, a few years I barely ate anything made out of cauliflower. Now I can hardly go a day without it! Cauliflower has become a staple in our home because it’s versatility.
I couldn’t find any recipes I have here on Little House Living that feature cauliflower, but usually, we use it in place of rice or I add it riced to soups. Of course, it also makes a yummy snack when eaten raw with Ranch Dressing.
I also like to cut off the florets and fry them on the stove with garlic and turmeric for a yummy simple side dish.
We buy cauliflower by the head and try to pay under $2.50 per head when we can find it. A little bit more per head is ok if the head is very large.
Cauliflower is the best price in late spring/early summer.
Celery is another frugal staple along with carrots that should be in every household. Even if it’s just for a soup base. I think I probably start almost every soup I make with a blend of chopped carrots, celery, and onions!
Here are some other frugal recipes I have that use celery:
Celery is usually sold by the bunch and I like to find it for less than $1 per bunch which usually involves buying more than 1 bunch at a time.I usually do not buy celery hearts unless they would be close to or cheaper than my regular celery price.
Celery is the best price in the late fall and early winter.
Along with onions, potatoes are a must-have in any frugal pantry! On this list, potatoes will probably have a price that fluctuates the most since they are not in season in the middle of summer. But for the majority of the year, you should be able to find inexpensive potatoes.
Here are some yummy frugal recipes we love that use potatoes:
- Roasted Vegetable Soup
- Homesteading Tater Salad
- Old Fashioned Scalloped Potatoes
- Olive Oil Baked Potatoes
Depending on if you buy organic or non-organic potatoes, look for them to be $0.50 or less per pound. Like onions, the best deals on potatoes will be found when buying large amounts at one time, 25lbs+ but (as of July 2022), it looks like you can regularly get them for $0.50 per pound at Walmart if you buy the russets in the 10lb bag.
Russets will always be the cheapest variety of potato and you will find the best prices in the late fall and early winter.
Turnips & Radishes
Turnips are something else that we’ve been trying to eat more of lately. I’ve found that they are an excellent addition to soups, especially when you have some pickier eaters in your family.
Here are some recipes to try using turnips and radishes:
Look for turnips and radishes that are under $1.50 per pound. You may be able to find them much cheaper than that, but that’s the lowest I’ve ever been able to find in our area.
The last time I checked prices, turnips have gone way up and might be on their way off of this frugal produce list soon. 🙁 Radishes are still somewhat inexpensive per pound. If you are able to find the ones with the tops still on in the spring, it may be more worth our money since you can use the tops as well.
I love lettuce so I’m thankful that I can find it for a great price all year around. Lettuce is a quick and simple side dish or can be a full main course when topped with other yummy things.
Here are some of our favorite recipes that use lettuce:
The price of lettuce will depend on the variety of lettuce that you like to buy. It can generally be found for $1 or less per head, organic or non-organic. The price of lettuce has gone up lately but there are still sales and you can still find it for the $1 per bunch price point if you buy a larger pack like the one shown above.
Sweet potatoes are another big staple in our home and we eat them just about every day. I love them added to a simple hash for a quick breakfast or lunch.
Here are some other frugal sweet potato recipes we enjoy:
Look for sweet potatoes to be around $1 per pound or less. These stay the same price for most of the year so there isn’t really a better time to buy them. Like the other items on this list, this price might only be achievable with a larger bulk bag or with the loose potatoes that you can bag yourself. Otherwise, the regular price (as of July 2022) is around $1.50/lb.
If you are interested in learning the average price for other frugal vegetables and fruits, check out the USDA website here.
I’m sure you’ve noticed that I did not include fruits on this list. The main reason is that fruits tend to vary more in price based on where they are purchased and what time of year they are purchased. For example…watermelon is one of the cheapest fruits to buy per pound. But of course, that’s in the summer…not in the middle of January! (At least, not in South Dakota!)
Tips on Finding Frugal Produce
- If you are able to grow your own produce, you will be able to get the most frugal produce possible. However, for those that can’t grow their own or don’t have the proper storage for all these things all winter long, I hope this list will be helpful.
- Watch your local farmer’s markets. Some areas have them year around. Here are my best tips for making the most of the farmer’s market.
- Trade skills or other things for produce if you have next to nothing to spend. Learn how to Barter here.
- Shop only the loss leaders. If you live close to a town, this can be a good option. Shop only the items on the front page of the weekly advertisements if possible.
- Frozen vegetables can be a good frugal option when fresh are not available but be sure and double check the prices per pound (on the edible parts). The items on this particular list are usually cheaper when purchased fresh.
- If you are concerned about buying organic or non-organic produce, be sure and reference the Dirty Dozen list.
Want to save time and money on your monthly grocery budget? Meal planning is the way to go! If you don’t already have a meal planning routine that works for your family, you need to check out my ebook, Meal Planning Made Simple. Even if you’ve tried (and failed) at meal planning before, you can find a system that will work!
Every region has different frugal vegetables and frugal produce based off of what is grown in the area and what has to be brought in from far away. I’m looking forward to seeing your comments on this article! Please share what are the most frugal vegetables you can buy and where you live.
Need even more ways to save money on groceries? Here are 12 Simple Ways to Save on Groceries that you might not have thought of yet!
This article on Frugal Vegetables was originally posted on Little House Living in January 2019. It has been updated as of July 2022.