Kylee Brown

Kylee Brown of the LSU AgCenter

With the new year, many people resolve to make healthier food choices. Some may think it is more expensive to buy healthy foods, but with a little know-how and some planning, buying fruits and vegetables can be cost effective for the whole family. Here are a few tips to shop smarter:

* Celebrate the season: Buying fruits and vegetables that are in season are typically easier to get, have more flavor, and can be less expensive. Your local farmer’s market and produce are great resources for seasonal produce.

* Why pay full price?: Check the local paper, online, and at the store for sales, coupons, and specials that would cut food costs.

* Stick to your list: Plan out meals ahead of time and make a grocery list. You will save money by buying only what you need. Don’t shop when you’re hungry. Shopping on a full stomach will make it easy to pass on extra snack foods.

* Try canned or frozen: Compare the price and the number of servings from fresh, canned, and frozen forms of the same foods. Canned and frozen items may be less expensive than fresh and don’t spoil as quickly. For canned items, read the labels, and choose fruit canned in 100% fruit juice and vegetables with “low sodium” or “no salt added”.

* Buy small amounts frequently: Some fresh fruits and vegetables don’t last long. Buy small amounts more often to ensure you can eat the foods without throwing anything away.

* Buy in bulk when items are on sale: For fresh vegetables or fruits you use often, a large size bag is the better buy. Canned or frozen fruits or vegetables can be bought in large quantities when they are on sale, since they last much longer.

* Store brands=savings: Opt for store brands when possible. You will get the same or similar product for a cheaper price. If your grocery store has a membership card, sign up for even more savings.

* Keep it simple: Buy vegetables and fruit in their simplest form. Pre-cut, pre-washed, ready-to-eat, and processed foods are convenient, but often cost more than when purchased in their basic forms.

* Plant your own: Start a garden—in the yard or a pot on the deck—for fresh, inexpensive, flavorful additions to meals. Herbs, cucumbers, peppers, or tomatoes are good options for beginners.

* Plan and cook smart: Prepare and freeze vegetable soups, stews, or other dishes in advance. This saves time and money. Add leftover vegetables to casseroles. Overripe fruit releases natural sugars that are great for smoothies and baking.

These tips might be overwhelming at first, but pick a few and try them out. See what works for you and your family and add some in over time. For the latest research-based information on just about anything, visit our website at LSUAgCenter.com or contact Area Nutrition Agent, Kylee Brown.

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