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Reduce the cost of fresh produce

By Paula Pant · Bankrate.com
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Posted: 6 pm ET

It is harvest time throughout much of the U.S., as fruits such as blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, melons, avocados, tomatoes and more are reaching their vine-ripening peak. If you love fresh fruit, you are probably thrilled with the amazing bounty featured at most grocery stores right now.

Unfortunately, fresh produce can be expensive. If you don't grow your own fruits and vegetables, you're relegated to paying off-the-shelf prices. How can you cut back on the cost of buying fresh fruits and vegetables? Here are a few tips.

Buy what is in season

In the spring, you probably noticed massive sales on clementine and tangelo oranges. Those have all but disappeared off the shelves now that we're in the middle of summer, but strawberries and blueberries are in full swing and are being sold at (relatively) cheap prices. When fall comes around, apples will most likely go on sale.

Adjust your tastes to what's in season. Don't insist on getting oranges in the middle of berry-harvesting season. Not only will you save money, you also will be forced to eat a more varied diet.

Shop at farmers markets

Farmers markets typically are temporary markets erected for limited hours on the weekends. In some parts of the country, farmers markets offer both lower prices and fresher produce than their grocery store counterparts.

Create a list of produce prices when you are at the grocery store, and carry this list with you when you head to the local farmers market. You'll quickly figure out where to get the better deals.

Join a CSA

A community-supported agriculture program, known as a CSA, is a project in which people purchase a "subscription" to a local farm. In return, they receive a weekly shipment of whatever the farm produced that week, such as bell peppers, tomatoes, okra or whatever else is in season.

This model minimizes the farmer's food waste and marketing costs, which lowers the "overhead" associated with the food. That results in cheaper, fresher produce for subscribers.

Paula Pant blogs at AffordAnything.com about building wealth and living life on your own terms. She's traveled to nearly 30 countries, owns six rental units that produce thousands in passive income, and runs her own digital marketing company. Follow Paula on Twitter @AffordAnything.

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