“Eating healthy is too expensive!” Guess what? It doesn’t have to be. This is a common concern when increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables. And with good reason. Healthy eating can be pricy but it doesn’t have to be. Although in most cases, you’ll find cookies are cheaper than cauliflower, that doesn’t mean you can’t stick within a tight budget and make healthy choices.
Juicing in particular is often seen as super costly. Not always so! We’ve shared many tips, like how to:
- Reboot and juice on a budget
- Make your Mean Green really cheap
- Save time and money when juicing
- Use budget-friendly, high yield produce
Now, let’s look at the best value fruits and veggies, whether you plan to juice, blend or simply eat them. In other words, what are the least expensive produce items that offer the highest nutrient value?
Loco for Local
The best answer seems odd in today’s culture of easy access, but is probably the most time-tested solution to this modern issue…choosing items in season. Looking at consumer price index data for produce you’ll see that in the 1980’s, strawberry prices were only listed for April, May and June vs. 12 months of data in 2004. In other words, back in 1980 the average consumer could only purchase strawberries in season. Today, you can get them anytime, even in 10 ft of snow, mid-winter!
We know there are numerous nutritional benefits of consuming seasonal produce, like higher antioxidant levels such as Vitamin C and carotenes which can decline sharply from longer storage. With the average fruit or vegetable traveling about 1,500 miles from the farm to your table, eating out of season is a significant concern. Eating seasonal, local produce also provides less worry around sketchy contaminants that can come from overseas growing practices. Some estimates even show that healthy foods come out on top as least pricy, when certain factors are taken into consideration, like convenience and season.
Chilly is Cheaper
Purchasing frozen produce, especially out of season, is a great way to still enjoy favorites at a much lower cost, often of better or at least equal quality. Be sure to choose fruits and veggies that are loose in the bag, not packed in syrups or buttery sauces. Read all about how frozen vs. fresh fruits and veggies stack up here. For juicing, frozen fruit works well as long as you let it defrost first. Remove from bag and place in a glass or other container in the fridge, keeping covered overnight. Use within 72 hours and enjoy a higher yield of juice from the melting process.
Having frozen veggies and fruits on stock is perfect in a pinch. You can grab them anytime without worry of waste and know you have a healthy option on those busiest of days. Besides smoothies, add frozen veggies to soups, stews, chili, stir-fry and baked entreés.
Here are some great recipes ready for your frozen fruits and veggies!
- Add spinach, peppers or corn to Perfect Reboot-Friendly Chili
- Add green beans, snap peas, spinach or broccoli to Easy Lemon Herb Roasted Green Beans
- Add frozen peppers or spinach to One Skillet Veggie Hash
- Add berries to Trail Mix Oatmeal
Prioritize choosing organic for the items listed in the EWG Dirty Dozen Plus known to carry the most pesticides.
Best Nutritional Bang for Your Buck
While you could easily argue just about any fruit and veggie in season is “the best” in terms of nutrition, some winners take the lead when it comes to economy and nutrients. Here’s a quick list but remember to Eat the Rainbow and include all veggies/fruits you enjoy.
- Bananas are better thank you think.
In fact these staples are one of the least pricy, year round. Plus they’re loaded with potassium and fiber, including resistant starch which can help feed your microbiome for a healthy, happy gut.
- Apples give you Vitamin C, fiber and quercetin a phytonutrient with antioxidant actions. Eating apples has been linked with helping maintain a healthy heart and reducing risk for certain cancers. Like bananas, they are in the top 4 most commonly consumed and least pricy produce in the US.
- Cabbage has been claimed as the most antioxidants for your dollar at only $.16 per serving. As a member of the cruciferous family, cabbage is also known for supporting a healthy liver, and tastes great in juice, salad, slaw and fermented like sauerkraut.
- Dark, vibrant veggies with an orange hue, also come out as dense on nutrients and light on your wallet. Think sweet potato, carrot and pumpkin (look for BPA free canned/box for even lower prices). These veggies are loaded with beta-carotene and other carotenoids, plus potassium and fiber.
What are your best value fruits and veggies?