by Laura Edwards-Orr
This is the 6th (and final) post in our series, Six Ways to Shop Your Values without Breaking the Bank.
These tips to help you get the most for your money and make the most impact with your purchases. We can’t all be perfect, so remember: When you make one change for the better, you’ve made a solid move in the right direction!
Shop Your Values Tip #6: “Fresh” isn’t always better.
The quality and price of fresh produce depends on a myriad of different factors: weather, supply, labor, global supply chains, the price of oil – the list goes on, and on. Bottom line: perishable product always has to be handled with kid gloves. Frozen, canned, and dried product, however, can play by different rules. We mentioned the concept of buying seconds directly from a farm or CSA. Similarly, product that goes into processing for “shelf stable” or frozen items are generally grown with the same care but are graded “seconds” due to size, shape, or slight blemishing. The other advantage to buying processed fruits, vegetables, and legumes (beans) is that they are actually processed more quickly, (as soon as they leave the farm) which preserves all of the nutritional value and flavor of fresh-picked.
Beyond product quality, frozen, canned, and dried products are often easier to find in store brand product lines – since they are already considered value items. In terms of savings, compare fresh organic spinach at $4.99 for a 7-ounce tub with $2.96 for a 16-ounce bag of frozen organic spinach. In beans, canned beans generally run for $1, plus or minus a few cents. A bag of dried beans might cost a dollar more but has at least four times the servings. Lastly, since you aren’t dealing in perishables anymore, this is a great product to buy in bulk when it goes on sale.
So, there you have it. If you take the time to make a plan that’s reasonable for you, look out for deals, buy in bulk when you can, and have fun, shopping for local, organic, sustainably grown or raised foods doesn’t have to break the bank.
Plus, you’ll feel good for having gone the extra mile the next time you meet a thriving farmer, just back from her well- deserved family vacation!
Laura Edwards-Orr started her career as a local foods advocate at Farm Aid - America's longest running concert for a cause. She now works for Plainville, MA based Red Tomato where she connects farmers across the Northeast with access to wholesale markets, like grocery stores.
Laura also works as a freelance writer, researcher, and data nerd for organizations and businesses working to create family-farm based food systems and value chains. She lives in Providence, RI with her husband, toddler twins, horse, dog, and two cats.