Written by Cara, Contributing Writer

As we have been focusing on eating grain free meals to help with some health issues, I’ve had to learn how to shop for other foods besides grains that are filling, healthy, and easy on the budget! Since we aren’t using bread or rice as a ‘filler’ for meals, we’ve started using a lot more veggies.

I think we all know that produce can really add up- I know I could easily spend hundred of dollars on fresh produce at the local farmer’s market or health food store every month if I didn’t watch what I was buying. But by choosing low cost fruits and vegetables, we can include more of these goodies in our diets. This can also causes us to try new recipes and become more creative in the kitchen.

Carrots

Carrots were the first vegetable that I started playing with. We can get organic ‘juicing carrots’ from Costco; 10 lbs for about $6.50! Juicing carrots are just fine for us, they’re not as pretty, but they are organic. I hadn’t ever done much with carrots besides eating them as carrot sticks or steaming them. I’m glad to have more uses for them now.

  • Because I love fermenting vegetables, I tried pickling them, and they turned out great! The kids love Lacto-Fermented Dilly Carrot Sticks, and I love that they’re full of good probiotics!
  • I also tried roasted carrot soup, something that is now an easy frugal family favorite!

Bananas

Bananas are another frugal year-round item in the produce section. Beyond slicing them over cereal or enjoying them plain, they can also be used to sweeten in place of sugar or honey and even made into pancakes!

  • Banana Pancakes use lots of eggs, so they have more protein than the grain-based kind.
  • Sweet ripe bananas are what we use to sweeten kefir smoothies.
  • Ripe bananas can also be used in muffins such as these coconut flour banana nut muffins, nearly eliminating the need for any other sweetener!

Lentils

Not exactly in the produce section, but once lentils are sprouted they become more produce-like! Lentils are a good source of protein, carbohydrate, and fiber. They also are very inexpensive – $0.50 worth can make up the bulk of a meal for our family!

  • Lentils, cooked, can be added to ground beef 1 part lentils to 2 or 3 parts beef, and used to extend the meat out further. Add lentils that have already been cooked to ground beef as you are browning it and they will take up some of the beef flavor. This can be used for chili, taco meat, and casseroles.
  • Sprouted lentils are a great addition to soups.
  • Sprouted lentils can also be made into lentil patties– a healthy homemade veggie burger alternative.

Squash, Summer or Winter

Winter squash recently went on sale here for $0.99/lb. This past summer when our garden overflowed, I dried some zucchini and other squash, and then I keep the now condensed squash in my freezer.

  • Winter squash can be cooked, and served plain with butter, and a sprinkling of maple syrup and nuts if you’d like.
  • Zucchini can be sliced and made into lasagna.
  • We love Butternut Squash Soup with nourishing chicken stock and spicy ginger.

These are four of my favorite frugal foods from the produce section. What are yours?