Budget Buster: 7 ways to save money on fruit and veges
OPINION: Everything's going pear-shaped for millennials. When we couldn't afford houses, we took some small comfort in the creamy flesh of our friend the avocado. Now even that tiny luxury has been cruelly taken from us.
Prices have rocketed as high as $7.50 apiece, although we can't blame the Boomers for this one – crappy weather spoiled the crops. Veges are the least affordable they've been in almost six years, which means it's getting harder to eat healthy on a budget. Here are seven strategies to stave off the scurvy:
STAY IN SEASON
Avocados might be off the menu, but this is a great time of year for squash, kiwifruit, mandarins and heaps of other good stuff. Try to feast on whatever's in season, rather than habitually buying the same produce year-round. If you don't know what's good, print out this awesome chart and put it on your fridge, or consult the 5+ a Day website.
Pay attention to prices so you can start to get a reference point for whether something's cheap or not. Then you can stock up on whatever's on special, and let that guide your meal choices – if there's an amazing deal on eggplant, maybe there's a lot of Baba Ganoush in your future. This sort of flexibility requires some cooking skills, so take every opportunity to broaden your repertoire.
FORGET FOOD MILES
The "local food" movement is a protectionist scam. Big commercial farms operating in optimal climates are vastly more energy-efficient than small-scale market gardens. Transportation of produce has also become incredibly efficient. If you care about the environment, you're actually better off buying food that's travelled halfway across the world, assuming it's cheaper than the local alternative. Let price be your guide, and don't get conned into feeling guilty about "food miles" or other such harmful myths.
HEAD FOR THE FREEZER
Nuking a clingfilm-covered bowl of frozen veg looks like a failed attempt at eating healthy, but nothing could be further from the truth! Fresh produce starts to deteriorate as soon as it's harvested, and might have lost as much as half of its nutritional value by the time it gets to your fork. By contrast, veges that are snap-frozen right after picking are often better than the fresh stuff. Frozen veges may not be inspiring, but they're cheap, handily pre-cut, and nutritious. Lightly steaming them – say, in the microwave – is the perfect way to unlock more of the good stuff.
If I ran the world, individually plastic-wrapped bananas would be a crime against decency. The reason supermarkets neatly arrange everything in foam trays and plastic packaging is because it makes it seem like a more "premium" product. Don't get sucked in, and you'll save your cash and the environment at the same time.
GROW YOUR OWN
Honestly, the economics of growing your own veges are not that stellar, but it's a fun and rewarding hobby. The best payoff comes from herbs and leafy greens, which you can grow in a planter box or on a windowsill if you don't have any outdoor space.
We each send about 68kg of food waste to landfill each year, which is a crying shame. A lot of it is spoiled produce left to blacken and rot in the back of the fridge. I've started throwing odds and ends that are getting a bit past it into the blender. Green smoothies might look gross, but they taste surprisingly great. Other people apply the same concept to vegetable soup or stock. If you have a glut – say, a whole hand of browning bananas – freeze them for future use in smoothies or baking.
We must wave a tearful goodbye to our beloved smashed avo on toast, but we can adapt and overcome. Stay strong, and stay healthy! If anyone has more tips for scoring cheap fruit and veg, share them in the comments below