So I'm a little behind in my Penny Pinching posts. But today's is one that I am really excited to share! One of my favourite things about the summer season is the abundance of fresh and local produce. In one of the earlier penny pinching posts I talked about some of the ways you can save money on groceries, and today we are going to expand on that by looking at how to get fresh produce for little to no money!
|Some of last year's goods!|
- Visit your local Farmer's Market: Most communities have a market where local farmers, producers and crafters sell their products. Usually these markets run from May to October, and depending on the community anywhere from one to seven days a week. I am lucky to live in an area that is surrounded by farms so our local markets are always well stocked with something right off the farm. Purchasing produce, and other items, directly from the farmers cuts out the middle man, which removes extra costs for packaging, transportation and advertising. You would also be supporting your local farms and producers, as opposed to large corporations that ship produce around the world.
- Stick to local, in-season produce: So if you live somewhere where you do not have a local farmer's market to attend then please try to purchase produce, and other items, that are as local as possible and in-season. I understand the 100-mile diet is next to impossible for many people in Canada (what veggies would we eat in the winter?) but if you wait until strawberries are in season and purchase the ones that are from Canada as opposed to the US you will save money, and enjoy tastier fruit also (winter strawberries from California have nothing on a local, fresh pint). Be sure to read all the packaging and stickers to find out where the fruit is from, and I would try to stick as close to home as possible. Of course this doesn't mean you have to give up bananas and citrus, but choosing items that do come from your local area, when they are in season - sooo good!
- Grow your own: A great way to save money on groceries is to have a garden and grow your own veggies. It is a little late in the season for some veggies, but some produce has two growing seasons, and some things you can plant and grow anytime. Lettuce is a good example of something that will germinate almost anytime, and beans and peas typically have two possible planting times - April when it is still cool, and August when the nights are getting longer and cooler once again. Don't have a yard? Or much space in the yard? Don't worry you can still grow some items right on your deck or patio. Greens, herbs, tomatoes, beans, peas, peppers, and likely more, all grow well in pots. Curious about how? Check out my "In the Garden" series for more info :)
- Learn how to preserve: Alright so here is the best part about fresh local deliciousness: opening up a jar of summer sweetness in the middle of cold and dreary January. Most people my age think that preserving is messy, a lot of work, and not worth it. Well I can assure you with an attitude like that I bet it is! Truth is, making jam couldn't be simpler these days. I am going to share a post on how to make jam and other preserves, but basically all you need is: sterile jars, fruit, sugar, pectin (or lemon juice), a large pot and a little time. It can be messy, but so worth it! And if you choose to use commercial pectin the package contains recipes for jam and jelly of almost every fruit! You can also bottle fruit, make pickles, heck you can even bottle meat or fish. Options are almost limitless, and nothing tastes better than homemade jam from the pantry.
- Use your Freezer: For more than just frozen pizzas! Did you get a good deal on some local berries? Or have an abundance of zucchini in your garden? Freeze them! Most produce freezes well, and keeps for a few months (at least). And there are numerous ways to freeze things, something tells me I should write a separate post on this topic also. But a few quick ones: Berries and other fruit freeze well just as they are. I would rinse them off, and spread them out on a cookie sheet until frozen, and then transfer to a zip-lock bag. Veggies like beans, peas and carrots should be blanched before the same process. Blanching means quickly dropping them in boiling water - this helps them remain crisp when they thaw. And root veggies such as squash or turnip can be cooked and puréed before freezing. Oh and your zucchini? Grate it, and freeze to use in zucchini bread later in the fall or winter :) You can use these items in the winter instead of buying frozen fruits or veggies, or fresh produce from a foreign land.
And there you have it, a short explanation of how to save a little money on your produce purchases this summer! I will get back to you with a more thorough explanation of both the canning and freezing processes. But until then get out and find your local farmer's market!
Happy Money Saving!