Summer is a great time to buy produce, since so many fruits and vegetables are in season, but are you getting the most for your money? For the best deals, use these simple tips the next time you go shopping.
If you're heading to the supermarket, pre-bagged fruit is a great way to save. These packages are generally offered at a flat price, so it will cost you the same no matter what your bag weighs. Take a moment to use a scale to compare bags, and choose the heavier one to get the most fruit for your buck.
When shopping at the farmers' market, wait until the end of the day to get the best bargains. At this time, vendors are more likely to negotiate on prices so that they can avoid hauling back unsold goods. Your selection might be smaller, but you can score great deals on local produce.
So, when it comes to buying fresh fruits and veggies, make sure to keep these tips in mind to keep your meals and checkbook balanced.
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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.