Make Half Your Plate Fruits and Veggies on a Budget

Fruits and veggies are full of important nutrients, like vitamins, minerals, and fiber. That’s why MyPlate recommends making half your plate fruits and vegetables. Yet many Americans aren’t eating enough for good health. A common reason why is the cost of produce. Researchers decided to calculate how much it costs to meet MyPlate’s recommendations for fruits and vegetables. They found that it only takes $2.50 a day to meet the recommendations. Here are their ideas for making half your plate fruits and veggies on a budget.

Most Affordable Fruits

Fresh watermelon, bananas, cantaloupe, apples, and pineapples were the lowest cost fruit per serving. The researchers found that frozen 100% juice concentrate was also affordable per serving. Just remember it’s best to get focus on whole fruit and limit juice, especially for kids. Peaches, oranges, raisins, applesauce, dried cranberries, pears, canned pineapple, nectarines, and papayas were also in the top 25 most affordable fruits.

Fresh berries, cherries, pomegranates, apricots, dried fruit, kiwis, grapefruit, and some varieties of frozen and canned fruits were the most costly fruits per serving.

Most Affordable Veggies

Potatoes, carrots, dried beans, cabbage, cucumbers, canned green beans, cauliflower, radishes, celery, onions, and green peppers were the lowest cost vegetables per serving. Asparagus, artichokes, fresh corn, fresh okra, fresh tomatoes, summer and winter squash, avocados, fresh greens, and brussels sprouts tended to cost the most per serving.

Fresh, Frozen, or Canned?

I was a little surprised to see that fresh fruits and veggies were the most affordable varieties, even accounting for the inedible parts (seeds, cores, peels, etc.) in the cost. Canned and frozen versions were a little more per serving, but the trade-off is that these types are ready to use without any prep work fresh produce requires. If you’re busy, the slight increase in price might be worthwhile. If you have a problem with eating all your fresh produce before it goes bad, then frozen or canned might be a better buy as well.

Meeting Your Family’s Weekly Fruit and Vegetable Needs

The researchers were nice enough to figure out the most affordable mix of fruits and veggies that meet MyPlate weekly vegetable sub-group recommendations for a family of four. The table below shows you what they came up with.

table of affordable fruits and vegetables sufficient to meet MyPlate recommendations for one week

This table is from the USDA publication The Cost of Satisfying Fruit and Vegetable Recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines. NOTE: prices are from 2013.

If you’re trying to eat more fruits and vegetables, but are worried about your budget, try planning your meals around these more affordable options. There are a lot of ways to keep your meals from getting boring by changing up how you cook the veggies or season them. Be sure to check out the recipes on our new website for inspiration. We even have a search function that you can use to find specific ingredients, like these low-cost fruits and veggies. What other tips or questions do you have for getting enough fruits and veggies on a budget?

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