Tips for dealing with the vege price rise

Get creative with your shopping and save money.

Get creative with your shopping and save money.

The spike in vegetable prices need not impact your health — there are plenty of delicious alternatives available.

While vegetable prices have risen a record 31 per cent in the past year, according to Statistics New Zealand, just a handful of favourites are affected.

Broccoli, lettuce, tomatoes, kumara and avocados are significantly more expensive than they were this time last year. But carrots, leeks, celery, potatoes, beetroot, pumpkin and many more remain plentiful and affordable.

Produce prices are up - way up in some cases - but there are still plenty of affordable ways to get your daily greens.
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Produce prices are up - way up in some cases - but there are still plenty of affordable ways to get your daily greens.

Shoppers need to think beyond their tried-and-true choices, experts say. Frozen and canned vegetables are useful stand-ins for fresh produce.

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Carrots are always pretty cheap.

Carrots are always pretty cheap.

"There are always vegetables in season and there are always vegetables that are cheap," says Christchurch-based registered nutritionist Bronwen King, who suggests substituting cabbage for lettuce in salads and bulking them out with spiralised carrot and bean sprouts. 

Our wet autumn, which damaged crops, was responsible for the price hike, according to Statistics NZ consumer prices manager Matthew Haigh. 

The average price for a 500g head of lettuce was $5.28 in May 2017, compared with $2.12 in May 2016. 

Auckland dietician Angela Berrill suggests shopping at specialist vege shops and trying farmer's markets for good deals. 

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If you use canned vegetables, choose those packed in spring water rather than brine, which is high in sodium. 

"Canned vegetables can be a very good pantry staple, they have a long shelf life and they are usually reasonably priced," says Berrill.

Cuisine senior food writer Ginny Grant says it is important to approach the supermarket with an open mind and using vegetables in new ways. Slice yams and throw them into a stirfry, use baby silverbeet leaves in salads, and grate pumpkin into fritters. Citrus fruits, nuts, feta and dried bread made into croutons can add interest to salads.

"Parsley is good value, it has lots of iron, so add that to salads," says Grant.

She is a big fan of roasting vegetables in winter. "Turn the oven up high enough and it's not going to take long to roast anything."

When she buys broccoli, she uses the whole vegetable, peeling back the outer skin on the stems.

Bronwen King says we need to adjust our attitude towards vegetables. "We always think that vegetables should be dirt cheap," says King.

"If we have to pay $4 for a cabbage, we think that's expensive but if we have to pay $4 for a cappuccino we don't think that's expensive. We are in a culture where we think vegetables should be almost free and maybe that's because in the past we would have got them from the garden or trees."

King also suggests looking at your vegetable spend over the course of a year, and remember the savings you made in the summer before you complain about winter prices. The avocado that will cost you $7.50 now was 75 cents a few months ago. 

CHEAP TASTY VEGETABLE DISHES

Cuisine editor Kelli Brett suggests:

* Carrot thrown into a Moroccan type warm salad with garlic, honey, harissa paste or made into a soup.

* Pumpkin and leeks sauteed and  mixed with fresh herbs and ground cumin. Mash and serve with yoghurt.

* Mushrooms and spinach are always a good combo. Put them in a rissotto-type dish, or serve on their own with a squeeze of lemon.

* Silverbeet is great added to sauteed onion, carrots and celery, mixed through some tinned cannellini beans and a splash of chicken stock. Add bacon if you are feeling wicked.

* Potato, peeled and diced, boiled till soft. Add fresh garlic cloves, a slug of olive oil, mash and stir through crumbled feta.

 - Stuff

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