10 Produce Staples That Are Cheap, Delicious, and Always Available
Buying produce out of season can be one of the fastest ways to overspend on your grocery budget. Grabbing an acorn squash in the summer and some strawberries during the winter may not seem like too much of a splurge, but these out-of-season fruits and vegetables often come with high price tags.
But because of the sheer size of the United States, the country's different growing regions afford us the opportunity to eat some foods year-round. So what's out of season on one side of the country might be in season on the opposite side, meaning you'll regularly have access to that crop without costly imports.
If you're looking to keep your food budget in check, use this handy list of produce that's in season and inexpensive year-round:
A decadent filling for pies, or a simple lunchbox snack, apples are a stand-by fruit that is great for all kinds of dishes. In most grocery stores, you'll find the most popular apple varieties, such as Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Gala, or Red Delicious, year-round. While they're almost all harvested in the fall, apples are kept in cold storage for months. That keeps a steady flow of the fall fruit coming to your neighborhood store no matter the month.
Choose these "mainstream" apples over apple varieties that are more seasonal, such as Honeycrisp, and can come with higher price tags.
Celery is the backbone of recipes from soups to sauces. It adds a distinct earthy flavor throughout. And the best part is that this workhorse veggie won't cost you much. Bundles of celery hearts are just a few bucks each and last for weeks in the crisper. If you're looking for a quick way to use up celery, ants on a log is always a hit with kids and adults alike.
Equally popular in sweet and savory applications, carrots can be a star side dish for dinner. Follow that up with a slice of rich carrot cake for dessert. Cut into rounds for a quick hummus or tzatziki dipper, or push them through a juicer for a quick nutrient-packed drink.
These root veggies are always in season, but look for carrots with the tops on to get even more bang for your buck. These greens can be chopped and tossed into salads, blended for pesto, or even sautéed.
Citrus fruits may be a wintertime specialty, but you can count on having lemons at your local grocery store year-round. Whip up a batch up of lemonade, take out your zester and bake a lemony cake, or slice the whole fruit and place onto salmon just before baking.
You may cry while slicing them, but your wallet won't be crying if you stock up on onions. Varieties like yellow, white, and red onions are available at all times of year and always pack a punch of flavor. More specialty types — such as sweet Vidalia or pearl onions — can be costly, so stick with the basics for saving money.
There's a reason banana bread is enjoyed during summer barbeques and winter holidays: you can find ripe bananas at any time of year. This sweet fruit works as an easy snack, favorite fruit salad add-in, or baking component. If you find a particularly good sale on bananas, they freeze easily and work great for smoothies and nice cream.
The humble spud is a vegetable you can count on to be cost-effective and available at all times. Potato varieties like golden, Russet, and red are always budget friendly and can be used to make main dishes, sides, and appetizers. Skip the fingerling potatoes though; these mini versions are an heirloom variety and can fetch hefty prices.
Grapes are such an easy snack, in addition to being a delicious add-in to salads, grain bowls, and even jams. You'll be able to buy red and green varieties year-round, meaning you have a sweet option no matter what month it is.
Avoid specialty varieties, such as cotton candy or moon drop grapes, as they are very limited quantity due to a short growing season, which their high prices reflect.
Cabbage is one of the most versatile cruciferous around, ready to be sautéed, roasted, stewed, or served raw in dishes like coleslaw and salads. Green and red cabbages are available at all times of the year, often for low prices. While Napa cabbage isn't overly expensive, this Asian variety can cost a little more than your standard green cabbage, so only splurge if it's a dish like kimchi that calls for Napa specifically.
Just like lemons, oranges are a citrus fruit you can count on being fresh year-round, thanks to plenty of crop growing in both Florida and California. Use them to make freshly-squeezed juice, toss wedges into salads, or use the zest to bake vibrant orange cakes.
Just know that the more specialized you go with oranges, such as opting for seedless fruits or shorter supply varieties like Sumo, the higher the price will rise.
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