Making the Most of In-Season Produce to Save Money

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Cut grocery costs by making the most of in-season produce. Here are some tips to get the best prices and enjoy the fruit of the season.

parchment lined tray of frozen blueberries

How to Freeze Berries

Winter, spring, summer, or fall — all you got to do is haul yourself down to the farmer’s market or grocery store to find all kinds of amazing, delicious, and affordable fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s incredible what deals you can find of fresh produce when you buy them in-season.

Not only does in-season produce taste better, but it’s also more readily available and affordable. It makes no sense to buy strawberries in December — unless you live in the southern hemisphere where strawberries would be in season.

One of the ways you can dramatically cut costs at your house is to stock up on grocery items when they are on sale. Take advantage of great prices on fruits and vegetables and save money.

But, how can you make the most of what’s in season?

Making the most of in-season produce

1. Let the sales and low prices determine your menu for the week.

Those who subscribe to CSAs understand the concept, as do those who live in areas rich in agriculture or who grow their own food. When the corn is ripe, corn’s on the menu!

If yours isn’t an agricultural background, there’s no reason you should walk in fruits and vegetable ignorance. Just know that when food is in-season, it will cost you less and taste better.

Let your produce section, farmer’s market, or your own garden be your guide to meal planning. Not sure what to do with all those tomatoes in summer or the apples that come in season in fall?

Check out these posts for inspiration:

wooden bowl of pesto pasta salad with tomatoes, olives, and green beans

Vegetable Pasta Salad with Pesto

2. Experiment with new recipes.

You may not be familiar with all the different ways to prepare a certain fruit or vegetable, but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying them. Spend a few minutes online searching for recipes that you might like to try.

We were pleasantly surprised to find that sweet cherries (as opposed to tart, pie cherries) still make a great pie. FishPapa was shocked that it didn’t taste like those baked by Dolly Madison and said I may have redeemed the cherry pie for him. Amen to that! I’ll also be using my summer stockpile of cherries in Cherries Jubilee  and Cherry Limeade Muffins.

This Herbed Lemon Linguine with Tomatoes and this Pesto Bruschetta are amazing for using up summer tomatoes.

And Butternut Squash Brownies are an awesome use for all that winter squash.

pickles and garlic in jars ready to be canned

Make Homemade Pickles

3. Process your own produce for canning and freezing.

Our grandmothers knew a thing or two that’s been lost over the years. One of those things is the lost art of food preservation. Several years ago when we lived in a more rural area, I taught myself to can. I loved seeing rows upon rows of olallieberry jam jars lined up on my counter after a few sweaty hours of hard work.

I live too far from the olallieberry fields these days, but I recently picked up a small truckload of sweet cherries and strawberries for great prices – $0.99 and $0.69 per pound, respectively. We ate a bunch fresh, baked up another portion in muffins, pies, and scones, and then packaged the rest for freezing. I now have several bags of both fruits in my freezer for baking and smoothies. The price of doing this myself is far lower than I would pay for the pre-frozen equivalent.

Making Homemade Pickles or Vanilla Maple Apple Butter are delicious ways to preserve fruits and vegetables for later.

With a little work (and maybe some cherry-stained hands), you can enjoy fresh produce on the day you buy it and beyond. Just watch the prices and be adventurous.

fresh cherries in a white plastic colander

Doesn’t this just apply to summer?

Summer is a tremendous season for harvesting and enjoying in-season produce, but it’s not the only time to make good use of fresh fruit and produce. You can make the most of in-season produce sales all year long.

Check out these lists of what’s plentiful and on sale and when to snatch it up:

Spring in-season produce

a bowl of heirloom grape tomatoes with basil and red onion with a small bowl of pesto

Pesto Bruschetta

Summer in-season produce

four persimmons on a black table top

Fall in-season produce

colorful bowls of pink grapefruit supremes on a teal tray

How to Cut Grapefruit Supremes

Winter in-season produce

  • citrus fruits, such as lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruit
  • pears and apples
  • leeks, onions, shallots, garlic
  • cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale
  • cauliflower, broccoli and broccoli rabe
  • beets
  • carrots and radishes
  • weird stuff, like parsnips, turnips, rutabagas

Making the most of in-season produce will not only benefit your budget, but it will also make your life so tasty!

collage of tomatoes, persimmons, strawberries, and squash

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. sunnymama says

    Sorry, I just posted my link on last weeks frugal friday post by mistake but have posted it here now 🙂

  2. dancingwithdaffodils says

    I love berry season! Every year, we can jars and jars of jam that we enjoy year round as a sweet reminder of this wonderful time of year. Jars of jam are always on hand for last minute hostess gifts and the like.

  3. Amanda says

    I just bought a HUGE watermelon(it was on sale and I got carried away). I have diced it up and put int in containers in the fridge. There are only two of us and I am afraid we won't be able to eat it all in time. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks 🙂

    Amanda @ Coping with Frugality

    • centsability says

      @Amanda, You can make two things from that watermelon: 1. Juice. Just put the watermelon pieces in a blender and blend to desired consistency, adding a little sugar to taste. 2. Take the juice and make homemade popsicles from it! They’ll taste just like those real watermelon pops you can sometimes buy, remember those? Super yummy.

  4. Katie @ goodLife {eats} says

    Amanda – Watermelon Lemonade
    is a great way to use up watermelon! I bet you could freeze cubed watermelon for use in smoothies or slushies.

    Jessica – you pretty much touched on all my favorite frugal food tips! Last year I canned salsa when the price was really low on tomatoes. I have 2 jars left and it's been almost a year. I can see that I'm going to have lots of bell peppers in my garden, so I'll probably use this tip and freeze some for later use.

  5. Hoosier Homemade says

    I've been buying strawberries at Aldi's for .99, you can't pick them for that. But, I will be picking blueberries soon.
    Thanks for hosting another great FF!

  6. Katie @ goodLife {eats} says

    I linked up my post about DIY Home Spa Tips. We all enjoy pampering, but it can get expensive.

  7. FishMama says

    Amanda, I would agree with Katie. Since you've got the watermelon already processed, I'd pop your containers into the freezer. It won't be great for fresh eating, but it will be just fine for the applications she mentions.

    To conserve space, you could juice it before freezing. Just run it through the blender and then pour it through a fine mesh strainer, pressing on the solids to get the juices out. I have a friend who buys watermelon juice at Trader Joe's, so you could drink it plain or add it to lemonade of slushies, like Katie said.

  8. Sarah Eliza @ devastateboredom says

    Love this post! It ties beautifully in with mine. I wish I could stock up to the same degree as you, but living in an apartment (with a roommate at that!) makes it so hard. I look forward to a little more settled stage in life, when I can have awesome things like a pantry and big freezer lol. At that point I'll follow your advice word for word…

  9. Michele says

    Your fruit looks so good. We just picked 10 pounds of blueberries last weekend!

  10. Sharon says

    LOVE these tips. Buying in-season definitely helps save money. Looking through some of the links brought me to a question …. When’s the last time you got flour for $1.50/5 lbs.? I never saw a good flour sale either at Christmas or Easter this last year and I’m really bummed about having to pay $3.00+ for it now! 🙁

    • Jessica Fisher says

      @Sharon, Albertsons had it close to that this past winter. It’s not a regular thing, though. I usually buy the 10# bag at Walmart now. I can’t remember how much it is, though.

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