Eating Healthy Produce on a Budget

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner
Eating Healthy Produce on a Budget

Would you like your family to eat more healthy vegetables and fruits, but don’t want to spend a fortune?

That may be easier than you think; especially if you are a warm-climate gardener who grows fresh foods at home.

But even if you don’t have access to garden-fresh foods all year long, you can still eat healthy meals and avoid spending too much at the same time. Here are a few general tips that have helped our family over the years:


Eat Seasonally: We are big fans of living seasonally in our households, which is one of the reasons I was inspired to write a blog called

Eating seasonally allows us to enjoy the freshest foods all year long. So even in winter, we’re still enjoying seasonal fruits like apples and pears, along with cool-season vegetables like vitamin-rich kale and cabbage. We also enjoy foods that store well in winter, such as winter squashes and pumpkins.
The benefits to seasonal foods are many. First, foods in season are usually less expensive at the food markets, grocery stores and farmers’ markets. Second, they taste better because they have been allowed to ripen naturally during the appropriate season. Compare a summer-kissed tomato in August with the typical tasteless tomato found at your grocery store in December. You’ll see what I mean.

You also can find more foods grown locally when you eat seasonally, which means your foods will require less gasoline and natural resources to travel to your kitchen table. And you can help your community too, because your purchases support local growers.

Harvest the Abundance: As much as I like to eat seasonally, I still take advantage of the big summer harvest. For instance, you’ll often find sweet peppers at low prices at your farmers’ markets and farm stands in the late-summer. I try to buy more at these lower prices, and freeze the extras. I like to stock up on armfuls of basil to freeze homemade pesto in ice cube trays.

Learn more about freezing foods, and find fun ways to preserve garden-fresh produce and edible flowers.


Do Your Homework: Around here, we like to eat organic foods as often as possible. We also buy “spray-free” foods too, as some small, local farmers find the organic registration process a bit challenging and expensive – but they still want to sell healthy, safe foods.

Basically, our key goal is to keep our exposure to dangerous pesticides to a minimum.

To get this information, we regularly consult the research of the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Each year, this non-profit organization scrutinizes pesticide-testing data generated by scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture as well as the Food and Drug Administration.  

EWG publishes an annual list of the Dirty Dozen Plus™ foods that have the highest residues of pesticides, and that should be ideally eaten organically or “spray-free.” EWG also reports the Clean Fifteen™ foods that have the least pesticide residues when conventionally grown.

By better understanding these EWG lists, you can decrease your exposure to dangerous pesticides. You also can extend your grocery budget by focusing on purchasing the “Dirty Dozen Plus” foods as organic choices and buying conventional produce for the Clean Fifteen™ foods.

Here is EWG’s 2013 Dirty Dozen Plus™ list with the most pesticide residues:
Cherry Tomato
Hot Pepper
Nectarine (imported)
Sweet Bell Pepper

Also added to the list: Summer squash and leafy greens, such as kale and collards. Although these crops did not meet traditional Dirty Dozen criteria, they “were commonly contaminated with pesticides exceptionally toxic to the nervous system,” reports EWG.
Here is EWG’s Clean Fifteen™ list with the least pesticide residues:
Sweet corn
Peas – Frozen
Sweet Potatoes
Learn more from EWG.