As families try to cut their grocery costs, it's important to maintain a balanced diet with fruits and vegetables. To save on your produce purchases, try some of these tips.
It's cheaper to buy produce that is in season in the area. Consumers get a cheaper price because the seller doesn't have to pay transportation costs to bring the produce in, said Virginia Schwarzenbach, a communications and marketing professional with the Networking Association for Farm Direct Marketing and Agritourism.
"If you're buying peaches in January, they're not being grown in Georgia. They're more than likely being grown in South America. The greens are actually getting to where they can grow them in a greenhouse. It used to be that you could only get them in the spring or cold weather because lettuce doesn't grow when it's 100 degrees outside. But now they might be able to regulate that a little better in greenhouse growing," Schwarzenbach said.
However, produce such as corn or pumpkins won't grow in a greenhouse, so these are available only during certain times of year, she said.
Shoppers can also buy locally and in large quantities. Instead of buying a quart of strawberries, buy a flat and freeze them to save in the long run, she said.
At localharvest.org, consumers can find a list of farms that grow produce locally, such as Earthwize Farms in Aiken, which sells fruits, vegetables, herbs, nuts and seasonings.
Each Saturday through Oct. 29, shoppers can buy local produce at Saturday Market on the River, Eighth and Reynolds streets, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, visit theaugustamarket.com.
Persimmon Hill Farm in Clarks Hill, S.C., sells produce at Summerville Wellness at 1858 Central Ave., and it also delivers full and half shares of produce weekly. A full share can feed four people, a half share can feed two people, said owner Kay Pittman.
"Our prices, we're not really trying to compete with the grocery stores. We have people that come a great distance to purchase from us because our prices are reasonable, and we sell in bulk for people that want to can or freeze, so they can save that way. I have people that buy it together, and then they split it because the larger the volume, the more economical it is. A lot of people are seeing that if they went to the grocery store, it would cost them more," Pittman said.
Last week, Persimmon Hill Farm delivered cantaloupes, green beans, yellow squash, onions, tomatoes, potatoes and cucumbers to customers, she said.
It's sometimes cheaper to buy produce from a farmer's market because these farmers don't have to pay transportation costs. However, produce is often cheaper at stores such as Walmart because these retailers can buy in bulk, Schwarzenbach said. She said consumers will find better quality produce at a farmer's market but the price "might or might not be less than your local grocery store.
"It's probably more comparable, unless it's the end of the day and the farmer needs to get all of his produce out because he knows that he picked it fresh in the morning, and it's not going to last three or four days on the shelf like it will in a Walmart because they pick it before it's fully ripe."
Consumers can also visit Pick Your Own Farms, which allow the public to pick their own produce, such as strawberries, blueberries, apples and peaches.
"You can really save money that way because you're not paying the farmer to pick them and bring them somewhere," Schwarzenbach said.
According to localharvest.org, Gurosik's Berry Plantation Inc. offers a U-Pick Farm at 345 Briggs Road in North Augusta.
Shoppers can find additional Pick Your Own Farms at www.pickyourown.org.
Click on the purple box on the left to find a farm near you and select your state. Call before visiting to make sure the farm is in business. The site lists Bernice's Blueberry Patch at 1344 Salem Road SE in Thomson, (706) 595-7251. The blueberry patch should open around the end of the monthr.
COUPON OF THE WEEK
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RUBY TUESDAY: In today's paper, readers can find a coupon to save 25 percent off their purchase. It expires July 21.
MORE ON PRODUCE
WAYS TO SAVE: Try these tips from the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and eHow.com:
* Grow your own vegetables. Purchase some seeds and see if you've got a green thumb. During colder months, try growing plants in indoor pots or a greenhouse.
* Look for grocery store sales by reviewing sales inserts. Shop around to learn the typical price for certain fruits and vegetables at local grocery stores.
* Buy whole fruits and vegetables and cut them at home instead of getting pre-cut items.
* Shop at discount grocery stores, such as ALDI in Aiken. Also, shop at larger grocery stores rather than small convenience stores. Produce is often cheaper in larger stores.
* Store fresh fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator or freezer soon after getting them home to make them last longer.
* Buy frozen fruits and vegetables in large bags.
CHECK OUT THESE DEALS: Here are some deals on produce at local grocery stores this week:
Kroger: On sale through Saturday with Kroger Plus card.
* Strawberries: $1.98 for 16 ounces
* Southern peaches: 10 pounds for $10
* Athena cantaloupe: 2 for $4
* PictSweet Steam'ables or Kroger vegetables: 5 for $5
Bi-Lo: On sale through Tuesday with Bi-Lo Bonuscard.
* Red seedless grapes -- 99 cents a pound
* New crop red potatoes -- 99 cents a pound
* Fresh yellow, white or bi-color sweet corn -- 3 for 99 cents
* Fresh strawberries -- 2 for $5 for one pound package