When you’re building a frugal pantry, it can be easy to stock up on lots of carbs that are readily available at low, low prices and neglect the bounty of fresh produce that is necessary to a balanced diet. So, while we’re not dedicated a week to each family of veggies, please don’t ignore this important element of your diet. We’ve talked about root vegetables and bulbs as well as fruits. This week, we’re talking veggies.
I’m going to be a little loose in my definition of “vegetables.” Yes, I know that cucumbers are technically a fruit, but we usually eat them with other veggies. So, please forgive my loose use of scientific classification when I address the vegetable.
For our purposes we’re going to talk about edible plants, including but not limited to: asparagus, artichokes, bell peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, corn, eggplant, green beans, lettuce, peas, peppers, spinach, sweet potatoes, and zucchini. Carrots, onions, and potatoes are welcome to the party as well.
These are all tasty additions to your table that don’t have to cost a fortune. Again, let’s look at last week’s guidelines for including fruit in the frugal pantry.
1. Buy in season
It makes sense that if it’s the local harvest season for a certain vegetable, you will probably be able to purchase it at a lower price than six months from now when it needs to be imported from afar. Currently, artichokes are plentiful in my neck of the woods and were available for $0.88 each! Watch the front page of your grocery ads to see what loss leaders are available this week and build your pantry around those veggies.
2. Buy a lot
If you find a great deal on a veggie you know your family loves, buy as much as you can reasonably store and eat before it spoils. I recently found red bell peppers for $0.19 a piece, an unheard of price. I bought about a dozen and built our meal plan to include this item. Since our kids love to eat them fresh, it wasn’t a problem to use them up. But, I would have roasted them and frozen them if we’d had any around to wilt.
3. Buy enough to preserve
I don’t have any experience canning vegetables, but I know my grandmothers did this as a way to make the most of their summer gardens. Instead, freezing has been my mode of choice. I have a very wise friend who bought 20 pounds (or some crazy number) of broccoli last summer when it was $0.49/lb. She blanched it and froze it so that they’d have a stockpile of broccoli in the freezer. You can very easily freeze bell peppers, peas, corn, broccoli, and other veggies. Many need to be blanched prior to freezing in order to preserve taste and texture. Do a little research before you dive in. A good book to consult is the Ball Blue Book of Preserving.
4. Consider buying frozen
Frozen veggies are often packaged at the peak of freshness. Generally speaking frozen veggies are comparable in flavor and quality and can be had for less than $1.00 a pound. Combining sales and coupons can be a great way to stock your frozen pantry with veggies.
How do you make vegetables a part of your frugal pantry?