How to Eat Local Produce on a Budget

Summer has an uncanny knack of turning many of us into wannabe health enthusiasts. At no other time of the year is there such an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables at our fingertips. And it’s not to late in the year to take advantage of fresh produce!

Sure, you can still buy strawberries at the supermarket in December. But their taste and quality doesn’t hold a candle to the ones you can buy from a farm during peak strawberry season.

During the summer, our farmer’s markets and local stores seem almost made of juicy tomatoes, peaches, and piles of crisp cucumbers. They’re pulling out the brightest and best the season has to offer, and for many of us, these are the best prices we’ll see on produce all year.

As a result, the foodie and health nut in me adores summer. While Chris and I have been on a minimal food budget for years, my passion for whole, healthy food has taught me that I can be efficient and creative with whatever I have. During the summer, I’m grateful our little family can eat plenty of local produce.

Here are a few ways I’ve learned to do that:

1. Make friends with the local produce stand

It seems like produce stands crop up at almost every street corner over the summer. In the past, I shopped at one in particular that was close to our house. For awhile, I pulled the cash out of my grocery envelope and bought as much as I could, following the set prices.

After several weeks of being a consistent, reliable customer, they started letting me buy an entire box of produce for a very reduced price. It was a mutually beneficial deal. I knew I could get fruits and vegetables super cheap, and they knew that I would come every week.

2. Ask for “Seconds”

“Seconds” are overripe or slightly damaged produce that fruit stands know they won’t be able to sell. Quite often, they are taken home and thrown away.

Periodically, I ask the people running the stand if they have any seconds I can take home. If I’m a regular customer, they’ll often gladly give me a box stuffed with peppers, tomatoes, and zucchini that has become spotted or bruised.

When I get home, the damaged produce gets chopped, grated, etc., and packed into the freezer.


3. Buy a lot of produce at once

If you don’t have a local produce stand, you can go to the farmer’s market and ask to produce by the bushel or half-bushel. I’ve been able to buy local apples and squash for 50 cents a pound, and whatever we didn’t eat fresh was made into applesauce, frozen for later, or cooked into meals for the freezer.

Each market and produce stand is different, so you’ll have to discover what will work for you. However, by using a combination of these methods, I’ve been able to stock our kitchen with locally grown fruits and vegetables for a fraction of the normal cost.

That makes me love summer even more!


Bio: When Steph and her husband got married, they lived in a renovated shed and had a grocery budget that matched. As a passionate whole-foodie, Steph was determined to continue eating healthy, minimally-processed foods on their shoestring budget. So The Cheapskate Cook was born.

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This blog is for educational purposes only. The information provided by Donielle, or any contributor, is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition. If you are seeking medical advice, please search out a qualified health practitioner.

About donielle

Donielle is a natural momma of two, lover of real foods, and owner and editor of Grand Rapids Natural Living and Naturally Knocked Up. You can usually find her in the kitchen whipping up some nourishing foods, cuddled on the couch reading books to the littles, avoiding the laundry and Mt. Saint Dishes, or tapping away on the laptop. Her husband puts up with her sometimes crazy "hippie" ways, but loves her regardless. Welcome to my home away from home.


  1. One of the farmers at my market has two displays of tomatoes: one of regular price tomatoes and one for half price that are slightly imperfect. I’ve seriously picked up a tomato from the half-price section and said “Please tell me exactly what is wrong with this tomato?” because it looked perfect to me. Apparently it had a small softer spot on one side. Sold!

    Also, if you show a friendly interest in the product, many farmers will start throwing in freebies or else round down when calculating your price. I got 3# of pork liver for free from one woman because she was just glad someone know what to do with it!

  2. Great post! One orchard at my favorite farmers’ market almost always has seconds of whatever is in season (peaches, pears, etc.) available at half price, so I snap it up!