Fruits and vegetables are rich in a wide variety of nutrients: vitamins, minerals, fibre, and natural colours (phytonutrients.) Ideally half your daily intake is from this food group. But what’s the cost? Let’s drill down the dollars.
I surveyed four major Airdrie grocery stores in mid-January 2024 for the following. Bananas are a popular fruit so how do fresh and frozen compare? Fresh bananas are $0.79/lb which equals $0.17/100g. Taking off 30 per cent for the peel means the edible portion costs $0.22/100g whereas for frozen sliced the price ranges from $0.88 to $1.76/100g. Go fresh!
Older bananas are often economical, and any ripe banana can be peeled and frozen whole or sliced at home to be used in smoothies or baking. Did you know you can replace 50 per cent of the fat in muffins with mashed banana or applesauce?
This time of year, frozen blueberries are cheaper. The price spread between stores for 100g fresh was from $2.35 to $4.11, while frozen ranged from $0.75 to $1.00.
Special prices pop up at times so watch flyers and use your store apps for the best deals.
Robust vegetables like cabbage, kale and squashes are more durable than lettuces and greens. Comparing prices and weights again reflected inter-store variability. For example, kale and romaine are sold by the bunch but upon weighing, the bunches varied more than 100 g. Heavier bunches provide a bigger bang for your buck. Green cabbage ranged from $4.70 to $8.70 per head.
That head of cabbage can be chopped up and added to salads, sauces and stir fries providing extra nutrients and fibre, which helps you feel satisfied for longer. And that head of cabbage will last over a month in the fridge. Compare that to romaine for $3/head which stays fresh for about a week.
Planning is another key to defending your dollars. Did you know that in Canada the average household produces 79 kg of waste per year, mostly in produce? Reduce waste and save money by making a meal plan based on what you have on hand and building a shopping list around that. Shop on deal days and not when you’re hungry!
Buying bulk is usually worthwhile but only if you’re going to use all of it. You can freeze lemons, limes and ginger whole for zesting and chopping, fresh tomatoes can be frozen for sauces, extra apples and pears can be made into fruit sauce for baking or desserts.
Prepping fruits and vegetables into grab-and-go clear containers stored at the front of the fridge encourages choosing them when you’re peckish rather than convenience foods. Keep your fridge and freezer organized so it’s easy to find things.
Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables is associated with improved cardiovascular health, prevention of some cancers, improved blood sugar control, eye, and gut health.
So go ahead and fill half your plate – it’s worth every penny!
Maryke Schouten is registered nutritionist based in Airdrie.