Budget Tip: Survival Mode Produce List


Flickr Photo Credit: Rick

We all know how easy it is to destroy a month’s grocery budget in one short trip down the produce aisle, particularly in the United States.

When my husband and I are in conservation mode and without access to homegrown or wild produce, the following budget grocery items are what I reduce my grocery list to.

Fresh Vegetables: Cabbage, carrots, onions and potatoes. If a great sale comes along, I also try to find a way to include celery and squash. Otherwise, the first four items are routinely inexpensive.

Frozen / Canned Vegetables: Broccoli, spinach, canned corn and tomato products.

Fruits: Apples, oranges, bananas, applesauce and raisins.

Not the most exciting list, to be sure. And those of you who know how much of a produce hussy I am know how much I enjoy more exotic produce. But there are a number of things you can do with these items. Cabbage, for example, stays crisp for quite some time. In addition to the standard cabbage rolls and cole slaw, you can lightly steam it as a side, use it with carrots for Asian dishes, or include it as a soup ingredient.

Carrots can be used with cabbage as suggested above, steamed as a dinner side, grated for a cake, added to a soup, or cut into sticks for a snack or lunch addition. Potatoes, onions and broccoli are about as flexible as it gets, and squash can be anything from a dinner side, to soup, to a dessert.

The fruit list is also flexible. Orange zest is great for sweetbreads, and the whole fruit can be juiced for enhancing chicken. Bananas make great smoothies, pancake enhancers, baked goods and snacks. Applesauce of course is a popular fat replacer for oil in baked goods. Based on the lists provided: here are some specific dishes I regularly prepare from these items:

  • carrot cake
  • orange garlic chicken
  • frozen banana and peanut butter smoothies
  • pancit
  • egg rolls
  • New England boiled dinner
  • apple pie
  • bread pudding
  • oatmeal raisin cookies
  • broccoli cheese soup
  • spinach quiche
  • corn chowder
  • vegetable and other soups
  • potato scallop
  • butternut squash soup and pie
  • potato topper night
  • mashed potatoes
  • spaghetti sauce
  • orange raisin holiday bread
  • potato pancakes
  • lo mein noodles

There are more, but this should give you an idea of how far you can go on a limited produce budget.