Food takes up a big part of our monthly budgets, which is why it can be such a waste when we don't get around to eating perishables before they go bad. Here are some ways to save money by making your fruits and vegetables last longer.
The reason why produce like avocados, bananas and tomatoes seem to go rotten overnight is because they release a natural hormone called ethylene. When produce is stored together, this gas can cause everything in the bunch to spoil much quicker than normal.
However, it's possible to slow this process down by using ethylene gas absorbers, like Produce Preserver Disks by ExtraLife. These soak up the ethylene gas, which extends the life of your produce and saves you trips to the grocery store. One disk can last up to three months, and they're available on Amazon for just $10.50.
Another way to help your perishables last is by storing them in Debbie Meyer Green Bags. These special bags contain zeolite, a mineral that absorbs ethylene gas so your fruits and vegetables stay fresh for up to a month.
Each Debbie Meyer Green Bag can be re-used up to 10 times, and you can get a 20-pack for only $10. That's plenty of produce protection.
So, stop throwing your money away. Try out these options and you can easily extend the shelf life of your perishables.
Best Ways to Preserve Perishables -- Savings Experiment
Sure, it's tempting to buy those neatly trimmed broccoli florets, but in doing so you're throwing money down the drain.
"Those packaged fruits and veggies that are already diced, chopped or sliced are marked up 40% over their whole-food counterparts," consumer money saving expert Andrea Woroch says.
The same goes for meat and poultry. Buying ground beef already formed into hamburger patties, or chicken cubes on skewers, can cost as much as 60 percent more than buying the raw ingredients and doing the prep yourself. "Once again, you are paying for the convenience," Woroch says.
She offers a better idea: If you're too busy to start slicing and dicing after a long day of work, carve out some time over the weekend to prepare ingredients for use during the week.
An item's label on the supermarket shelf should list its price per ounce or unit price. Use that apples-to-apples comparison between brands to figure out which gives you the best value for your buck, advises Jeanette Pavini, household savings expert from Coupons.com.
Comparing unit prices will also help you to determine if those bulk buys are really a good deal after all. You might be surprised by what you discover.
Not all organic produce is created equal.
For example, don't waste money on organic fruits and vegetables with tough or inedible peels such as pineapples, papayas, mangos and avocados. "Most of the pesticides can be removed or washed away," Woroch says, citing WebMd research.
If you do opt for organic, make sure you're getting the real thing. Look for the organic seal certified by the USDA, which confirms the food is grown, harvested, and processed according to federal standards.
Labels that boast "natural," "hormone-free" or "antibiotic-free" don't necessarily assure that food meets organic standards.
And when it comes to seafood, the U.S. has no organic fish regulations, so "don't waste your money on false food claims," Woroch says.
Follow retailers and store brands on social media sites for grocery savings.
For example, if you "like" a retailer like Wal-Mart (WMT) or a brand like Ronzoni on Facebook, you can get advance notice of deals and the scoop on upcoming sale events.
Don't take a sale sign at face value, Pavini tells DailyFinance. "If a sale says five for $10, don't feel obligated to buy all five. Check the store policy: Usually you will get the same discount even if you just buy a single quantity."
If you've missed out on a store sale, don't be shy to ask your supermarket to apply the deal to a later shopping trip. "If the item you want is out of stock, have the store give you a rain check so when the items is back in stock they will honor the sale price," Pavini says.
While many fresh fruits and vegetables are available year-round, they're usually less expensive when you buy them in season. So plan your meals according to what produce is freshest. You'll pay less -- and your food will taste better, too.