Most people head to the grocery store when buying fresh produce because that is where most of us are conditioned to go from a young age.
Unless you’ve grown up on a farm or had parents who ventured outside of the supermarket you might believe this is the only place to stock up on fresh produce.
It’s not as there are many other ways you can enjoy the luxuries of fresh produce as long as you are willing to do the work or shall I say, the homework.
According to the Canada Food Guide this is what YOU should be eating in terms of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis.
Fruits and vegetables are food groups that you don’t want to remove from your diet just because you think they are too expensive. Our bodies need nutrients that come from produce that help us stay healthy.
- Children aged 2-3 Male/Female 4 servings
- Children aged 4-8 Male/Female 5 servings
- Children aged 9-13 Male/Female 6 servings
- Teens aged 14-18 Male 8 servings Female 7 servings
- Adults between the ages of 19-50 Male 8-10 servings Female 7-8 servings
- Adults aged 51+ Male/Female 7 servings
You can download the Canada Food Guide Free and print it so you have it for full reference.
I think I’ve lost count how many times I’ve read that we couldn’t possibly be eating a healthy diet on such a small grocery budget for 2. I think $235 plus a stockpile budget is more than enough money although we have off months where we may spend a bit more because of great sales.
Just the other day we stood in line at the grocery store and watched the woman in front of us pay outrageous prices for her produce not to mention other staples that we weren’t shocked to hear the cashier tell her the $181.xx total.
She had only a few bags of groceries to show for that money and my wife and I both looked at each other and then put our heads down. We looked at the grocery belt because lots of our fresh produce had pink stickers on them.
If you are just new to CBB and aren’t familiar with pink stickers this is the way Loblaws stores cut the cost of their produce for fast sale. The pink sticker signifies either 25% or 50% savings depending on where you live. Where we live we get the 50% savings and it’s worth it.
One thing many people do is improperly store produce which leads to waste so another tip is to keep produce such as apples, figs and melons away from other produce.
These fruits produce a gas called ethylene also known as the “Ripening Hormone” which ripen other fruits fast. This is how produce is ripened most times before it’s time commercially.
If you’ve ever heard the tale about putting an apple in a bag of green bananas to ripen them faster you will know this is the truth.
Never refrigerate tomatoes, bananas, peaches and plums because they are best left on the counter. You may find you get those pesky fruit flies in the summer but if you eat them up fast enough this shouldn’t be a problem.
When we visit the in-laws house with the big garden they have a massive fruit basket on the counter as my father-in-law doesn’t like to refrigerate most fruits.
He does refrigerate greens but the one tip he gave us was to never leave them in sealed containers or bags as they will sweat and rot. So always leave the bag rolled down and left open. You may notice your salad containers have holes in them for this reason.
Expand your tasting adventure
How many times have you said you weren’t going to try something because you’ve never heard of it or never tried it before. It’s true that many people tend to stick to the same boring produce and this is why their grocery budget is more expensive than someone who is more adventurous in the kitchen.
Today I want to dispel the myth that it’s impossible to eat a healthy diet filled with produce including higher costing vegetables such as Kale, Asparagus, Bok Choy, Spinach, Rapini, Fennel and even Dandelion greens.
Yes you can eat dandelions steamed and sautéed with garlic, olive oil and salt. We have eaten dandelion on many occasions as my father-in-law loves to forage for mushrooms and other herbs and greens that people might miss in the forest or walking trails.
If your fruit diet consists of just apples and oranges please embark on a tasting journey throughout the produce section of your grocery store. Don’t limit your budget to the same fruits because when you don’t expand your dietary shopping list then you WILL pay more because your options are limited.
There are so many fruits from around the world that taste amazing which aren’t as costly as you think. The important thing to remember is that you should be open to trying new varieties of food.
Fruits that some customers shy away from because of cost or knowledge may be the Mango, fresh Coconut, Cantaloupe, Pomegranate, Prickly Pears (Opuntia), Kiwis, Star fruit (Carambola) and the Pummelo which is similar to a grapefruit and popular in Southeast Asia.
How to save money buying fresh produce
My wife and I have spent years now combing through the grocery industry looking for the best deals and sourcing out delicious fresh produce that won’t break our budget.
Along the way we’ve learned other tricks that have helped us save and today I’m going to share all of this information with you. It’s no fun not sharing right?
Learning about food is a never-ending adventure and probably why I enjoy writing about it so much especially the savings aspect since it is the biggest expense in the budget next to rent or a mortgage.
Don’t miss out on BIG savings at the grocery store or even at farmers markets because produce won’t last forever. They would rather make some money than nothing at all so ask a shop owner if they have reduced product or have a look around.
I know a local produce market in town here has a table when you walk in with reduced produce that you can buy which is great. All the shop sells is produce so they are bound to have some bargains if you are willing to buy ready-to-eat fruits and veg.
The grocery stores typically have racks where they wrap produce and mark it with a very good price. We’ve bought so much from the “cheap rack” that we’ve saved ourselves lots of money. There is nothing wrong with the produce but it is ready to be eaten that day or with-in a day or so.
For example I bought a 6 pack of avocados last month for $1.29 and they typically cost 2/$5. We enjoyed some delicious avocados.
Quiz: Do you think an avocado is a fruit or a vegetable?
An avocado is not a vegetable it’s actually a fruit. Although many of you might have picked vegetable because you put it on your salad or enjoy it on toast or as is.
Yes, yes, yes there are coupons for produce on occasion if you don’t mind using coupons like we do. We typically find coupons for produce on the packages, in the produce section or on other products that we have to cut out. You might also find coupons on a coupon board.
Recently we found a $0.50 off coupon for POM pomegranates and my mother-in-law was lucky to score a great deal from the reduced rack as they were selling them for $0.25 each so she got them free.
If you want to stick to your grocery budget plan your meals so you know exactly what produce you need to buy each week.
Most people buy too much and eat too much so creating portions is a great way to cut back and save money. Just guessing what you might need to eat for the week is a great way to blow your budget.
If you don’t plan your meals you risk buying too much and if you don’t have a freezer you may end up throwing it in the compost which is a huge waste of money.
Buy in Season
Buying in season is so important to your grocery budget. If you want to pay $6.99 for a mini watermelon in the dead of winter be warned that you are going to get little for your money.
Why not hold off until the summer when you can buy huge watermelons for $2.99. My wife loves watermelon and come summer I know I’ll be buying plenty.
Cassie Howard who runs the popular coupon website Mrs. January has put together this comprehensive In-Season Produce List which you should download and print.
Knowing what produce you should buy and when will give you a great idea of how to plan your meals and what fruits and vegetables you may want to stock up on and freezer or can so you have it available all year-long.
Grow your own produce
Growing your own produce is not only fun to do with or without kids but it’s rewarding when you get to cook with the produce you grew yourself.
Whether you have a small space for gardening or want to garden in pots you can do it. Don’t underestimate the power of growing food because many people do and miss out on this wonderful opportunity.
Here are some great gardening articles on CBB that you may want to consider reading.
- How to grow your own fruit at home
- How to start your Spring garden using odd containers
- How to grow your own pot-potatoes
- Tips for growing a Fall garden
- Planting tips for your vegetable garden
- Garden Growing Guide: How to prepare your garden
- Growing a garden in a small space
- Starting our Frugal garden from seed
- Sow, Grow and Save
Some of the cheapest places to buy your produce will be at the International stores. On the odd occasion we visit the Asian market in town where we can buy limes 10 for $1 as opposed to $0.50 for one at the grocery store.
Since the markets are mostly independently run you will find the deals to be greater because they want to keep you there and build their customer base. International stores want other cultures to come in and explore their world of flavours.
We went into an Indian grocery store in Brampton, Ontario once and the owners were so friendly. They helped us to find what we were looking for PLUS they gave us so many food samples to try as they had a sweets bakery in-store that we left high on sugar that day. It was great.
I remember buying bags of star anise at the Chinese grocery store for $1.99 where the grocery store wanted something ridiculous like $4.99 for a small jar full. Drop by these gems and see what they have to offer.
This is probably what most people will do when it comes to saving money in their grocery budget. Most people have the grocery flyers delivered to their home or they use a smartphone app like Flipp or simply go online to see what the deals of the week are.
Plan your meals as I mentioned above around these flyers specials and you WILL see produce savings.
If you don’t want to drive to many grocery stores or if you have a store that price matches why not use this convenience they offer to you. You get the best of all the grocery stores in your area in one shop.
What is price-matching?
Price matching is where one grocery store will match the sale price of another store for the same product. Most stores ask you bring in the flyer or show the product on your smartphone flyer app to get the same sale price.
There’s nothing wrong with buying flash frozen produce especially when it is out of season and on sale. That would be a great time to stock up and enjoy produce you typically would only buy when it was fresh in the produce aisle but don’t want to spend the amount it costs when it’s not growing season.
One vegetable we would buy frozen is chopped spinach especially if we were making a dish that required a large amount. You would have to buy many bunches of spinach to get what you get in a small package of frozen spinach for $1.29.
So go ahead and use frozen vegetables they are worth the money especially when they are on sale.
Local Farming Co-ops/ Gardening
Back in the UK we have farming co-ops where you can garden on a plot of land for a fee all year-long. My sister and her family does this since plots of land in the UK are pretty small or non-existent as we don’t have as much land as Canada.
Every year she brings the kids to garden and they learn skills she hopes they will use as they become adults and pass along to their own children.
Other gardening co-ops may look for volunteers throughout the growing season to help with the garden. In return you will be given free produce. It’s worth doing some research in your local community or talk to the city to see if they have any further information for you.
Just about every community we’ve visited has a farmers market that is open to the public a few days a week. If you live in the Toronto area like we do there is no shortage of local farmers markets that you can visit to find the freshest local produce around Ontario.
One of the most popular markets in Toronto is the St. Lawrence Market where you can pretty much shop until you drop. You will find it all at this market from produce, meat, fish, cheese with local merchants from all over Ontario.
If you live in the Kitchener, Ontario area you might be aware of the popular St. Jacobs market which has produce vendors from the local area every week selling produce from their farms.
That is not all you will find either at St. Jacobs. You can shop indoors or outdoors and you will find local butchers, antiques, fashion, crafts, and all kinds of specialty foods from around the world. It’s a trip the wife and I will be making this summer to check out and stock up on fresh produce.
Buy in Bulk
This is a pretty simple concept which is great if you have a large function that you need to cook for or you have a freezer.
If you can freeze produce it’s great when there is a sale because you can stock up and not worry about running out because your freezer inventory will be fully stocked.
Neighbourhood Garden Exchange Program
If you live in a neighbourhood you might be surprised to find out that there is a produce program that happens right in your area. You might even find a Facebook group that is dedicated to the streets you live on or a local school in the area may be the hub of knowledge where these programs begin.
In our residential community our neighbourhood association has teamed up with organic farmers in the area to offer produce bins to the residents for a decent price. I believe it’s $20-$40 for a bin of mixed fruits and vegetables.
You can mix and match the produce as well so it’s a great way to get involved in the community and you can pick up your produce on the way home if the school is close to your house.
Another program I’ve heard of is a neighbourhood garden exchange. Not all of us have huge backyards so some neighbours who do have the space rent out portions to those who want to grow a garden.
I know it sounds like it may cost more money BUT not always since some homeowners might only charge for the water you use because they really just want to see the space get used up every year plus help out local families who want to garden.
Organic Farmers Buyers Club
We all know that the cost of organic produce is very pricey but if you have a look around you can still find deals. I had a look online and I know the Toronto area has plenty of places you can buy organic produce that will be delivered such as Fresh City Farms for a fee to your door but I wanted to see what else was in the surrounding areas.
I managed to find a place called Globally Local that will deliver fresh seasonal organic produce in the surrounding London area for $4. You can also pick-up your produce bin at a designated area in the city.
What they sell is a produce bin filled with organic vegetables. The cost to you? You can get a full produce bin for a mere $40 which is a weeks worth of produce.
Fruit – Bananas, Ambrosia Apples, Red Bartlett Pears, Navel Oranges, Grapefruit
Veggies – Romaine Lettuce Hearts, Green Kale, White Mushrooms *Ontario*, Carrots, Zucchini, Eggplant, English Cucumber *Ontario*, Bean Sprouts, Grape Tomatoes *Ontario* Green Onion, Yellow Potatoes *Ontario*,
This box contains a balanced mixture of high carb and low carb organic fruit and vegetables. This box is ideal for families of all sizes. Total produce weight is between 25-35 pounds.
Roadside Farmers Stands
So you are driving along and all of a sudden you start to see road-side stands where farmers are selling their local produce like they did years ago.
If you want to get organic or non-organic produce from the farmers but have no way to drive out to the farm or markets keep an eye out in the city.
Many farmers rent local parking lot space in the city to set up a stand where they sell everything they grow including corn, peaches, asparagus, apples, beans etc.
This is a great way to support your local farmers especially when they bring the farm to you.
Friends and Families Gardens
If you have family or friends who loves to garden like we have don’t be shy to see what they are willing to give you if you help them out.
We never have to ask as we get boxes full in the summer when we visit but if they were in town we know that we wouldn’t be buying any produce over the summer months.
You could also volunteer to help with the garden if it’s a large garden or water it if they need to go on vacation. You never know how what produce they might gift you for your generosity because it’s tough to go away with a garden that needs tending to.
Kijiji and Facebook Groups
I know that every year we try to get rid of apples that grow on our property in abundance because we simply can’t use them all. We hate to see them go to waste so we put an ad online and we always have people emailing right away willing to pick the apples and take them away for free.
If you are looking for freebies don’t miss out on joining freebie Facebook groups or put an ad on Kijiji to see if anyone has too much produce that they want to give it away if you come and pick it.
I’m pretty sure we’ve made a few people happy!
There are plenty of savings to be had when it comes to produce but you have to be willing to go get them or open to new concepts of buying produce.
I’m sure as time goes on this list will expand and you might even have something you’d like to add that will help save consumers money in the produce department.
If you do please leave a comment and share your knowledge to help those who come to CBB to learn all the ways to save money in their budget.
April grocery game challenge posts
If you missed any grocery game posts for the month I will post the line-up for the month each week here in this section for you.
Join in the Grocery Game Challenge fun and post your grocery shop in the comment section of each blog post… here are the GGC rules!
Grocery Saving Tips
Click, Save and Print. It’s that easy!
Free Money Saving Downloads are awesome lists that were created to get us on track to work towards reaching our budgeting goals and now we are sharing them with you.
I hope you take the time to get back on track and start the savings process in your grocery budget today.
Get organized with a FREE freezer inventory, meal plan, shopping list, price comparison list and much more all for FREE. CLICK HERE to download all the free lists and even our family budget spreadsheet for FREE.
NEW!! You can now download the FREE Canadian Budget Binder Budget Spreadsheet in Excel…Grab it while you can… It’s FREE! We use it to budget and in large part a reason we could pay our mortgage off in 5 years, check it out!
Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide
If you are new here and haven’t had a chance to read past posts grab yourself a beverage, sit down, relax and enjoy some educational reading material on ways to save money in your grocery budget.
If you missed a Grocery Game Challenge post some of the most popular posts are listed below or you can now find the posts listed on their own page called The Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide.
If you know a topic that should be discussed send me an email.
2015 Grocery shop results
If you are a foodie like I am you will enjoy going through my Free Recipe Index where recipes from CBB Home Chef Nicola Don and myself are shared every Sunday on the blog. Check it out!
Yearly grocery budget for two 2015: $2820
(The above total does not include the stockpile budget of $240 per year or $25 per month.
- Premium Bananas $2.41
- 2 x fresh Pineapple 2/$5.00
- Sweet potatoes Bulk $3.47 sale
- 3 x Astro Yogurt Coconut $2.49 each
Total out-of-pocket $20.28
- PC Salsa with white corn $2.99 500 PC Plus Points
- Organic Baby Carrots $2.50-pink sticker 50%
- Baby Spinach container $3.79 sale
- Renee’s Dill Dip $4.49-50%
- Baby Bok Choy $2.77-50%
- White Bulk mushrooms $4.14-50%
- Smoked Ham $7.99 reg $14.99
- PC Tuscan Style ham $5.79-50%
- Black Forest ham $10.58-50%
- 2x Ricotta Cheese $6.99-50% each
- Provolone Cheese $6.17-50%
- PC Cheese Tortellini fresh $7.99-50%
- PC Tomato Basil Tortellini fresh $4.79-50%
- PC Spinach and Ricotta ravioli fresh $4.79-50%
Total out-of-pocket $50.43
Points Overview (add any other sections you need to show us your savings)
- Total Grocery Budget for the Month: $235.00
- Total Grocery Budget with any carry-overs $235.00
- Total Gift Cards used to date: $0
- Total Rewards Points redeemed this week: $0
- Total Rewards Points used to date: $20.00
- PC Points Plus Earned to date: 61986
- Scanning Code of Practice (SCOP) to date $0
Coupon Apps (add any other apps you use to save money)
- Snap Groupon to date: $1.50
- Zweet to date: $1.50
- Cart Smart to date: $0
- Checkout51 to date: $1.50
GROCERY SHOP THIS WEEK (add any other sections you need to show expenses and savings)
- Total to spend this month $213.47 ($26.53 overage from March applied)
- Stockpile budget 2015 ($25.00): (Jan/Feb) $50.00 +$0 (Mar)+$16.94
- Stockpile budget used this month: $16.94
- Total coupons used this week: $0
- Total coupons used to date: $13.00
- Total in-store discounts this week: $36.15
- Total in-store discounts to date: $229.40
- Total spent this week: $70.71
- Total spent so far this month: $63.38+$70.71=$134.09
- Total over/Under spend this shop: -$10.02 over
- Total over/Under spend for the month: $n/a
- Total left to spend for the month: $150.19-$70.71=$79.48
- Total Spent To Date 2015: (does not include stockpile budget) Jan $166.49+ Feb $261.51+ Mar $231.02 + April $
Weekly Overview (your final thoughts): We picked up a fair amount of groceries this week but the good news is many of them were 50% off and came with PC Plus points. The rest of the month will be tight but we have a nice storage of food that should last us along with our stockpile budget that we can use up.
Canadian Coupons Found This Week
Last week we found quite a few coupons so check last weeks GGC post if you missed reading it as I’ve scanned in all the great coupons found in Ontario stores right now.
Here are some great places you can find Canadian Coupons!
Frequently Asked Questions
- Grocery Game Challenge RULES: Read the rules first and if you have any questions email me or comment on this post with your question and someone will answer you as soon as possible.
- Do I have to be Canadian to post my Grocery Shop?: No, you don’t have to be Canadian to post your shops only to win a monthly prize. We have fans who post their grocery shop who live all over the world.
- When does the Grocery Game close each month?: The Grocery Game Challenge closes at midnight of the last Sunday of the last post for the month but you will still get a ballot when you post your shops even if they are late but I encourage you to stay on schedule. It’s a proven fact the minute we stop doing something that is scheduled that we end up forgetting to do it all together. Don’t let that be you! You can post your shops all month-long.
- Does your Grocery Budget include health and beauty and laundry products?:
YesNo, our Grocery Budget includes such items as shampoo, conditioner, laundry soap, fabric softener, dish soap etc. As of 2014-2015 we no longer include such items in our grocery budget so we can see actual food numbers at the end of the year so we can plan accordingly for our budget. We don’t mind stockpiling items that won’t be affected by expiry dates or have long expiry dates but not so much food any more. It’s just one way to help cut your budget to save money.
- Canadian Coupons: Where can I find Canadian Coupons?: Here are your latest Checkout 51 offers that you can use to help you save money in the Grocery Game Challenge. There are many great Canadian Couponing websites online that share weekly coupon match-ups so you can plan your grocery list.
- What is an FPC?: An FPC is a free product coupon which means you can get a free product as described on the coupon.
- What is GGC?– The Grocery Game Challenge of course!
- How Do I Know what stores accept coupons?: If you are not sure it’s always best to call the store and ask.
- How Do I Grocery Shop?: I can tell you about grocery shopping and what we do in terms of shopping to save money and how it works for us. There are no wrong or right answers, just smart choices.
Over time you will gradually learn where you should and shouldn’t go in the grocery store or at least how to say no, I’m on a budget I need to buy this or that.
You may also substitute items in order to stick to your grocery budget to make it work. Nobody is perfect, heck we struggle with this part of our budget like many people do.
This is why the grocery game challenge was created to not only show you that we are like everyone else but to bring us all together to work as a team to get our budgets on track.
If you have just joined The Grocery Game Challenge 2015 get ready to dive deep into your grocery budget and learn just where you are spending, how much you are spending and what you are saving.
Feel free to read all the above posts that I linked to above which I feel are relevant to learning about the grocery budget and grocery shopping in general. If you are brave and want to learn everything I know about grocery shopping in Canada check out my Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide! It’s FREE!
You’ve made a wise decision to take control of your grocery budget now show me your shops and let’s get saving!
Welcome to The Grocery Game Challenge 2015!
Join in and become money savers and take control of your grocery budget.
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