The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy found that over a 15-year period the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables rose 40 percent, while prices on sweets and soda dropped. Adam Drewnowski, PhD, director of the University of Washington Center for Obesity Research, found that a dollar buys 1,200 calories worth of potato chips and cookies but just 250 carrot calories.
Jake Brown, a communications director in Montpelier, Vermont, bypasses the supermarket whenever possible. Each fall, he buys a lamb from the farmer down the road, paying $70 for 50 pounds of meat that comes butchered and wrapped in meal-size portions. Another local farmer sells him a box of freshly harvested fruits and vegetables each week at a 15 percent discount.
Make it automatic
Set up a shopping list at a site such as peapod.com or freshdirect.com in the East, or winderfarms.com in the West, and you can do a week’s shopping in minutes and have it delivered. For nonperishable items, consider amazon.com, where signing up for regular deliveries will knock 15 percent off your bill.
Don’t rule out warehouses
Bottom line: Buying in bulk can save significant money. Tropicana orange juice costs $1.31 a quart at Costco versus $2 a quart at Giant. Filippo Berio extra-virgin olive oil costs $6 a quart, versus $15.92 a quart at Giant. Got a newborn? Parents can save about 10 cents a diaper by going with the Costco brand; that adds up to nearly $200 saved a year.
the frozen-food aisle
While your instinct may be to buy fresh food, you can save time and boost the nutrition factor by heading to the freezer case.
Bottom line: You’ll cut your vegetable bill in half by going with frozen. In a survey, we found that fresh broccoli, snap peas, squash, and green peppers ran $3 or more a pound, while the frozen versions were $1.50 or less a pound. To maximize your savings, look for bags of frozen vegetables, which tend to cost less than the boxed variety.
Know when to go organic
When is it worth it to go out of your way and spend more on organic foods? Studies have shown benefits for milk and eggs, largely because they have more omega-3 fatty acids.
Plant a garden
The cheapest, most convenient, most carbon-footprint-friendly source for healthful food is your own backyard. Even a little container garden can produce enough lettuce, tomatoes, and herbs for a summer’s worth of salads.