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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Tips for Buying Produce

I meant to write this post earlier in the summer, but just never got around to it. I have a few suggestions/guidelines for buying produce:

  1. I almost never pay more than 0.99/lb for any produce (except blueberries!)

  2. When I do buy my blueberries I buy in major bulk from a provider so they are a little less (and fresher) than ones you would buy at a store.

  3. For apples, pears and other produce that can be grown locally, ask around to see who doesn't use all of the "fruit" from their own tree -- you will be amazed at how willing people are to share their extra bounty. For example, Nathan & I love to press our own cider each fall, but we do not own even one apple tree (something I hope to change). But for now we decided to see what we could acquire from other people's extras. One year Nathan called an orchard and asked to pick up their drops - they said yes, so he did. They apples weren't the greatest (quite bruised), but it was a place to start. So then he took a drive around Secor spotting some nice-looking apple trees, went up to the door and asked the owners about their apples. 3 trees were owned by an older couple who use all of one tree themselves for canning & sauce, but usually had the other 2 trees go to waste. They said they didn't like having all the apples fall to the ground making a job for them to pick up so they were very happy to let us pick them. We provide them with some of the cider we press as a "thank-you" and have developed a nice relationship with them now. Same goes with a local pear tree. Nathan spotted it during harvest, waited until one day someone was outside the house so he stopped and asked. They said they never-ever picked them & we could take what we wanted. They might say "no" and that's fine!! but you don't know until you ask - and often you will find them very willing to share. Nathan also has an uncle with a small apple orchard who has been amazingly gracious letting us pick apples for sauce-making (takes a nicer apple than cider does). So I have never had to buy apples for sauce either.

  4. Take advantage of the season!! Each season has its own produce so obviously those items will be cheaper at that time of year. Strawberries in the spring, blueberries in mid-summer, grapes usually in summer (varies), pears in late summer, apples throughout the summer & fall, melon in summer & fall, citrus in the winter.

I try to keep all of those things in mind when shopping for produce. I do occasionally spend more than $1 per pound at the store, but not very often. My kids love clementines, but they are always cheapest in November-December so that's when we get them. For a special treat in the summer I might buy a 3-lb bag for $5, but not on a regular basis. Why would I spend $5 for clementines when I have 2 fridge drawers full of FREE sugar pears and 2 bushels of FREE apples in the garage that they can eat to their little hearts content?? Variety eventually comes, it just has to wait its turn when you're on a tight budget.

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