Since I do not have access to a large amount of land for growing my own food, in order to preserve the harvest I have to find locally grown produce I can afford. This is a big detractor. Last year I bought a couple bushels of apples and made applesauce, which we canned. But by the time I paid full price for the apples, and bought the supplies, my costs were pretty similar to buying applesauce at the grocery store – and a lot more work.
However, it is possible to get great deals on veggies and fruit so that food preservation makes sense. It will save you money, give you control over the ingredients, and provide personal satisfaction. So let’s talk about how to find inexpensive bulk produce, ’cause that’s what you need.
The key here is to make sure your price for produce and supplies makes the time and investment for food preservation worth it. It’s a good idea to figure out your cost limit before you start looking for produce deals. What is your make or break price on the produce you want – what price will make it worth the effort? That’s your goal.
Buy in Bulk at the Grocery Store
Sometimes your grocer will allow you to order in bulk at a discount, so this is a viable option. However, grocery store produce is not always the best quality depending on where you live, so you might want to shop around. You can also check out restaurant supply stores such as Restaurant Depot. Or talk to your local food buying club like Costco and ask them about buying veggies in bulk by special order as well.
Hit The Famers Market Late In The Day
One way to find the best deals on produce is to head to your local farmers market at about the time everyone is ready to pack up and close shop. Farmers know they won’t sell much more and the last thing they want to do is pack all that produce back up and take it home. See if the farmers will make a deal so that you can buy a lot of fresh food at a fraction of the cost you would normally pay. Take note of the prices before things start closing down, and then make an honest, reasonable offer. Also, let the farmers know that you are looking for produce and to keep you in mind when they have excess.
Be personal about it – tell them why you want to buy the produce and what you will use it for. Do not be manipulative. Worst case, the farmer will tell you no. If your farmers market closes at noon, plan to arrive at 11 to consider your best options. During the months of July, August, and September be ready to spend your afternoon (or whatever day the farmers market is locally) canning or freezing the food you buy.
Get To Know Food Growers In Your Area
While you’re hanging out at the farmers market checking out produce, get to know the farmers in your area. Talk to them, buy from them, go check out the local farm if possible. Be real. As you start to grow that relationship, you’ll find out all kinds of wonderful information like which produce is ready to pick, which produce is coming next week, and maybe even some great deals on extra fresh produce.
You may also be able to work out a “pick your own” type deal, where you go out to the farm and harvest what you need for yourself at reduced cost. Or you may be able to get a great deal on excess produce that the farmer isn’t able to sell in time.
Join or Form a Food Co-op
Often the best deals are to be had when you can buy large quantities of a single produce type. When we’re talking about buying straight from the farmer that may mean more of one kind of produce than you could possibly use. Yet, because of the price, this can still be well worth it. The solution is simple.
Get together with a few other families interested in buying and preserving local, seasonal food. You go in and buy the larger quantities together and divide them up equally. Everyone gets a much more manageable amount of fruits and veggies to can or freeze while still being able to take advantage of a great deal.
This is called a Food Co-op. To find local food co-ops in your area, talk to your friends and neighbors, ask in Facebook groups or local support groups, and check local deal sites like Groupon or Living Social.
I admire you for saying not to be manipulative. 🙂
Very helpful advice.