6 Tips for Budget-Friendly Farm-Fresh Food

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Farm-Fresh Food that's Easy on the Budget, Photo Courtesy of @LiveSimply2LifeWell on Flickr

Farm-Fresh Food that's Easy on the Budget, Photo Courtesy of @LiveSimply2LifeWell on Flickr

Building financial security means taking care of the big things. Fortunately, there are a lot of helpful personal finance sites available that dispense great advice on home loans, credit improvement, and other “big picture” elements of financial health.

But what about that day-in, day-out food budget?  It’s part of your financial health, too.  For the best use of your food dollars, buy in season.

Here are six tips for getting the most out of your food budget and enjoying the most nutritious, freshest food imaginable:

1.  Pick your own.

When you do this will depend on where you live.  As I write this in the Upper South in the middle of May, strawberries are at their peak.  The berries are sweeter, juicier, and cheaper than at any other time of year.  They’re more (pardon the pun) jam-packed with nutrients too.  When local fruit is ripe, take advantage of it.  Make an outing to a pick-your-own field for cheap recreation and low-priced berries.  You’ll spend less for better quality than at any other time of year.

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2.  Visit a local farmer’s market.

At farmer’s markets you’ll learn that arugula is about done, but the sweet cherries will probably start to arrive in a couple of weeks.  Don’t be shy about asking for a taste of this or that.  You’ll learn that buying a hothouse tomato in June is not as good as waiting for sun-ripened field tomatoes in July.

3.  Find your virtual agricultural extension service.

Every state has one, every county has a local office, and most extension services have great online presence.  Open a browser, choose your favorite search engine, and enter your state’s name and the words “extension service” (no quotes).  See where the results lead you.

4.  Make friends with your supermarket produce manager.

If you do most of your fruit and veggie  shopping at the grocery store, chat with the produce department manager to learn what’s in season, what’s local, and what’s about to show up on the produce counters.

5.  Adopt a small family farm.

More accurately, buy a share in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm.  This is an up-and-coming idea that supports small family farms and supplies consumers like you with the freshest in-season produce.   You pay up front, and you get your produce weekly at crop harvest times.  Be savvy and choose a farm with tons of different crops to get the most return for your investment.  That way, if the strawberries get zapped by a late frost, you’ll get lots of other super-fresh food anyway.

6.  Do it yourself.

Grow your own in patio containers or in a back yard garden.  You don’t have to buy expensive equipment.  You don’t need acres of land.  If you like playing in the dirt, this might be perfect for you!

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While you wait for that special fruit or vegetable to come into season, think about growing your long-term financial health, too.  Check out the great resources available on Quizzle.com, the go-to site for advice on smart money management.

The Quizzle Wire has tons of money-wise advice, too:

Photo credit: @livesimply2livewell on Flickr