The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “My Plate” guide says we should all eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day—three servings of vegetables and two of fruit. Five a day can really cut into your budget. However, the form of product you choose — canned, frozen, dried or fresh — makes a big difference in how much you spend.
I made a comparison on the cost of vegetables and fruits in fresh, frozen or canned forms at our local stores. And there are bargains to be had. Remember that these prices were checked at the height of the summer season, so prices, particularly of the fresh vegetables, may be a little lower than we will experience throughout the rest of the year.
Canned vegetables are, in general, a bargain. I found canned corn, green beans, tomatoes and carrots at a bargain price of 36 cents per cup. When you move into frozen vegetables, the price goes up. Frozen corn on the cob was about 93 cents per cob. Green beans, peas and frozen corn kernels can be had at 54 cents per cup. When you move to fresh, the price goes up again. Corn on the cob was $1.25 per cob and green beans, tomatoes, and summer squash checked in at $1 per cup. Of course, if you have a garden, this price becomes much more reasonable. The real bargain in fresh vegetables was potatoes at about 20 cents per cup.
Fruit checks in differently with most types being very similar in costs. Fresh berries ran about $1.25 and fresh pineapple at $1.33 per cup. The bargains were with fresh oranges and apples at 60 cents per cup. Canned berries ran about $1.66 per cup, oranges at 74 cents and pineapple at 46 cents. Frozen berries ran about $1.20 per cup and pineapple was $1.66 per cup.
No matter how good the price, the only vegetable or fruit that is nutritious is the one that your family will eat. So if they eat frozen green beans and won’t touch canned ones, the bargains on canned simply don’t factor in. Purchase the type of vegetable or fruit that they will eat.
Keep your eye out for new methods to prepare vegetables. I’ve seen recipes recently that cooked cauliflower and mashed it up like potatoes. This provides more vitamins and fewer calories. My daughter reported that her vegetable-averse daughter consumed a healthy serving of tater tots made from cauliflower. It was still a partially fried food, adding calories, but she is hopeful that this introduction will lead to developing a taste for cauliflower. In trolling through our grocery stores, I found a variety of imaginative ways to consume vegetables. There was cauliflower in various forms and sweet potato fries as well as pureed butternut squash. New forms of vegetables are continually being introduced. Check what is available at your store.
The best way to get your family to consume vegetables and fruit is to serve as a good example. If you eat these high nutrition foods, your family will follow suit. And if you get kids involved in preparing the vegetables for a meal, they will be more inclined to eat them. So get your kids into the kitchen with you, whether it is just to chop up vegetables and fruit or to try a new recipe.
And of course, just keep trying. You never know when a vegetable or fruit will appeal to a child.
Make your fruits and vegetables fun. Try fresh vegetables with salad dressing for dipping, fruit “faces” made from a pear or peach half with carrot hair, use cookie cutters to cut slices of fruit into whimsical shapes and make flowers out of orange segments with a blueberry center. All these forms will encourage consumption.
Fruits and vegetables are an important source for nutrients. Add them to your diet to get vitamins and minerals without breaking the bank. And they just taste good!
Roxie Rodgers Dinstel is associate director of the Cooperative Extension Service, a part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Questions or column requests can be e-mailed to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 907-474-7201.