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Coupon Abbreviations
  • SC = Store Coupon
  • MC = Manufacturer Coupon
  • SS = Smart Source
  • RP = Red Plum
  • PG = Proctor and Gamble
Coupon Terms
  • WYB = When You Buy
  • B1G1 = Buy One Get One Free
  • .75/1 = 75 cents off one item
  • .75/3 = 75 cents off three items
  • EXP = Expiration Date

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Saving on Produce, Part 1

on 5.30.2009 at 10:25pm

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Saving on Produce - Southern Savers

There are a few questions I get A LOT, and one of them is: “How do you save on Produce, Meat and Dairy that doesn’t have coupons?

* Remember that these items still go on sale so you can still save on them without the coupon.  If you would like to save more though…

My first answer is: “I always buy my tweezers!”  Meaning I always buy the items on the list that are free and make overage.  Tweezers are one of those items that show up recurrently on my favorite grocery store list.  Those items are really money off other things in your buggy.

My second answer is: “Don’t always look to buy it at the grocery store.”

The Farmer’s Market

Since we are only going to save by buying produce that is in season (and thus on sale), why not go directly to the grower?  If you are near a medium to large farmers market you can get some great prices.  We just headed to ours today.

What we got (price in parenthesis is the sale price at a grocery store):

32lbs of Squash at .37/lb (.99/lb)

21lbs of Zucchini at .57 /lb (.99/lb)

8lbs of Strawberries at $1.12/lb ($1.66 lb)

25 lbs of Peaches at .25/lb (.99/lb)

100 ears of Silver Queen Corn .14 cents ea or $7 per bushel (.25 ea)

25lbs of Vidalia Onions at .48/lb (.79/lb)

8lbs of Shelled Butter beans at $2.25 lb (not sold in stores)
(this is high $ purchase but it is a love, and well worth not having to shell them!)

Total Spent: $83
Total if purchased at the grocery store on sale: $163 or more
Total Saved: $80
(this will be added to our grocery budget numbers)

We are still in the process of blanching and freezing everything; I’ll post a final picture to give you an idea of quantity.

Want some tips to get the best prices??

The USDA has a program that can be very helpful for us.  Go here and you can see the current market report for a large market near you.  This will show exactly how much corn is being sold for at one of the larger markets. It will also give you an idea of what vegetables are at the market and are “in season”.  While it might not be exactly what your area is offering it gives you an idea.

Open air markets are still a place where it is okay to “haggle”.  Again check the market report, and you will have an idea of what is a fair price.  If you are at a smaller market that is probably the price they paid to purchase the vegetables.  If it is a farmer, then that is the price they would get if they took it to market so they shouldn’t mind selling it to you for that.  It also doesn’t hurt to offer a few dollars less and let them talk you up to the fair market price.

My husband also likes the trick of “How much will you give you me for $xx” today this got him an entire half bushel of peaches for $5!

For smaller markets that do not sell in half bushels, look at your weekly grocery lists and see what grocery prices are for in season items.  Your goal will be to get a little bit lower than those sale prices if possible.  Ask questions about their produce:

Is it Local?  Did they grow it?  or did the purchase it to resell?  Realize though that your best savings is in a market with more than 4 or 5 vendors.  Competition breeds lower prices…  I think I learned that in economics.

Do you have any tips for Farmer’s Market shopping?

Part 2 on Tuesday… Vegetable Co-ops

    • Shannon

      So, what do you do with all that stuff? Do you freeze the squash? How? Please give more info on how you store everything.

    • Tabetha

      Yeah, I want to know that too…how are you storing all this stuff? Also, did you go to the Farmers market in Columbia, near the stadium??

    • Rebecca

      What do you do with all of the onions? How do you store those?

    • Becky

      Another way and place to save is at a “Pick your own”. You can usually get it cheaper than a Farmers Market. http://www.pickyourown.org is a good place to start. Right now blueberries will be coming into season. The farm close to us had them on sale for $2 a pound last year.

    • Karen

      I live in Lexington but am not sure where the closest Farmers Market is. Where did you go? Don’t they sell produce at the flea markets on Hwy 1? If so, do you know anything about their prices?

      • Jenny


        The farmers market for the Columbia area that you want to go to is down by the fair grounds near the USC stadium. This is a central shipping hub for produce sales so we can get some great prices!!

        For other… I will work on a how to store post.

    • renee

      im all for saving but i need to know how to store all of that!! i buy small amounts of produce because i feel im always throwing some away! what can u suggest to help with this???

    • Mina

      LOL The Farmers’ Market is my stomping grounds. Depending on the time of year, I buy from the vendors who temporarily rent stalls or wholesalers. It’s possible to purchase small amounts from individuals, and there are a couple who I support by doing that now and then just to keep in touch with them. During the summer I’ve gotten watermelon and cantaloupe 3/$1, peaches at $5/bu (I was buying 7 bushels. That was 3 years ago when both coasts had a “good” year. So, prices were depressed compared to last year and the previous one.). I’ve bought carrots, potatoes, cabbage and onions for $5/50 lbs, a bu of lemons and limes for $2, and cases of strawberries for $2. Note that at the market the cases and big bags of corn contain ~60 ears each. Depending on the product, case size isn’t necessarily 1 bu., but will state whether it is 3/4, 1, or 1 3/4 bu, or how many lbs it is.

      Unless there is something I NEED, I go with an open mind and limit to the amount I will spend for the day. I’ve frequently filled my trunk and back seat for under $40. The vendors that I deal with consistently know me and immediately tell me what their bargains are for the day. Don’t buy a large load of peaches or strawberries at bargain price unless you can process them by the next day.

      Corn freezes better than it cans. (You also need to invest in a pressure canner if you want to can corn, beans, or any other low acid food.) Blanch it, cool quickly, cut from cob, place on a bake sheet to freeze, and then pour it into freezer containers.

      When I purchase a massive amount from there. (I ALWAYS have crates of fruit & veggies at my house) I don’t worry whether I can use it all myself. The bottom line is whether the amount that I WILL use is lower than I could purchase it for otherwise. I keep what I will use, pack up bags of my excess and start calling people I know to give it to, and then make a run to my small local food bank where it is always appreciated.

      I go crazy w/the tomatoes, peppers, and zukes in the summer when they are running $5 to $8 crate. I get my very lowest prices on produce that is still good, but past the prime stage that retailers prefer when I’m buying from wholesalers. Small vendors often offer their prices at the end of the day when they just want to go home and not carry their goods with them.

      My trips to the market tend to be long because the vendors have come to know me over time, and I sit and chat or go get their breakfast or lunch for them. I also surprise them with goodies that I’ve made just for them or jams that I’ve canned.

      It’s one place that’s better not to bring my hubby because he just doesn’t “get” the importance of the lengthy social interactions in my dealings there.

      Oh, in Cola there are both large and small vendors in the flea markets on Rt. 1. At least one of the large permanent stalls is an extension of the company’s downtown operation. There are also little one day tables that actual farmers use, and they tend to have better prices and will barter.

    • Holly

      I’m really confused by your “tweezers” comment. Please explain.

      • Jenny


        If you see the words “Free plus Overage” on the weekly list for your store, that means that the product maybe only cost $1.50 and you have $2 in coupons so in the end you get .50 cents off the rest of your groceries. (They won’t pay you to shop so you have to get something else in your transaction). If there are items like this on the list I always get them. They are like coupons off the total bill. Tweezers are on of those items starting today at all Publix stores.

    • Margery

      I used to get overage on tweezers and nail clippers at Publix, but not anymore, so that option is out for me. Occasionally there are other items that give overage, like the French’s mustard. (The coupon is not over the product cost, but the doubled coupon is ;-))

      Another option I have in Atlanta for produce is Super H Mart, which is a mostly Asian grocery, although plenty of non-Asians like me shop there. They have great produce prices, about half the cost of Publix or Kroger generally.

    • I’m in Tallahassee. We have a Saturday morning farmers’ market type thing downtown. Is this similar to what you are talking about? And like others have said… I also need to know how to store the stuff. Thanks, I really have learned a lot and love your blog!

    • Janice

      My neighborhood has a co-op. We have 14 people. Each puts in $5. We take our $70 to the farmers market (We take turns) and buy boxes of Toms., Cukes whatever and bring it back and divide it up. Our last trip we had a basket full of Tomato, Cucumber, Peaches, Corn and Squash!!! A great deal for $5!!

    • Nona

      I wanted to share a few places and sites I use as well. The website http://www.localharvest.org has all local places to purchase produce and meat, everything from pick your own to local weekend farmers markets, etc. Also, if you live in a rural area, there are always homes that have gardens and they sale as they cannot eat as much as they grow. It always taste better, is much fresher and locally grown and in my opinion, that is extremely important. Also, I would suggest searching for local butchers, which you can also do on local harvest. The local farm near me is cheaper than the grocery store, is fresh, never frozen, they do not use any hormones, preservatives or steroids, which is important to me, and it taste fabulous! I buy all of my meat at Patak Meats in Powder Springs, GA. It is amazing! Everytime I go, I see cars from all over the southeast and people stock up on tons of meats until their next trip. As there are no preservatives, the meat should be frozen if not using asap. The deli meat is good for about 4 days, but it is no more than $4.29 a pound and taste much better than anything you’ll ever get at a grocery store, including Boarshead! They also have a website, http://www.patakmeats.com and no, I do not own this place, I’m just a huge fan!

    • My plan was to do exactly the same thing yesterday – unfortunately it didn’t happen. I am a member of a Produce Co-Op and I LOVE it! I pay $16 for a huge basket of whatever there is that day. So unlike you at a farmers market, I’m not able to pick what I want. But the fruit and vegetables I get are so fantastic! And I find my kids trying some new things that I usually wouldn’t purchase – like pomegranate and kiwi. I do the blanching thing too and quick freeze them the same way. It great to have a big baggie full of chopped green peppers or onions when I go to make spaghetti sauce or soup. Just pour a few out of the freezer bag and its done! It definitely takes a lot of time on the front end of it – but well worth it in quality. Add in the fact that you are helping a local farmer and that just makes it even better! Thanks for the post – I love to see others helping their local farmers!

    • Helen

      Thanks Jenny, great tips!

      I’ve always been a little intimidated by the farmers market. I will have to give it a try this week.

    • Helen

      Thanks Jenny, great tips!

      I’ve always been a little intimidated by the farmers market. I will have to give it a try this week.

    • Katrina

      I’ve recently begun buying produce through a co-op that has pick-ups in the greater Charlotte area. (They are Clover, SC; Concord, NC; Gastonia, NC; Huntersville, NC; Indian Trail, NC; Matthews, NC; and
      Monroe, NC.) The website is http://www.yourneighborhoodproduce.net For 17.50, you get about $55 worth of produce. All the quality is very good.

      There are a few downsides such as you don’t get to pick your produce, but the basket always contains apples, bananas, lettuce, and tomatoes, plus about 10-12 other types of produce. For my family, it has been a great variety and a good way for me to incorporate a larger variety of produce into our meals. You pay online six days before the pick-up and then using the pooled money, they order whatever the wholesalers have the best rates on. The produce isn’t organic or locally grown per se, but is what you would find in the grocery store. I do go to a Farmer’s Market in my town, but have found co-op to be a great supplement and is nice when the Market isn’t running. Plus our market doesn’t sell apples and bananas, which we go through scads of. The produce that I’ve gotten in the basket is what I typically buy, so I’ve been very pleased, especially considering the savings. The pick-up window is only an hour, but the savings have definitely been worth the inconvenience for me. If you live in this area and are interested in cutting your produce bill drastically, check out the website.

    • M Rose

      I do a tremendous amount of canning and freezing and have found most everything is easy to do. I have NEVER been successful with squash unless I make squash pies or casseroles to freeze. Onions I saute for 2-3 minutes and then freeze in an ice tray to make little cubes. It so nice to just pull them out and toss them in!!!

    • tonya

      easy tip…

      my husband grows corn fields for his “wildlife management” (hunting). he always brings me home tons and i FREEZE IT RIGHT IN THE HUSK. sounds too good to be true but trust me it works just as good as any other method i have tried and is MUCH EASIER…just throw it in the freezer. i always thaw it in the husk before i cook it.

    • Mina

      I’m gonna say that one of the best parts of tonight’s dinner was the red potatoes. There was no more than half an hour between the time that I dug them from their mounds by sticking my hands into the dirt and feeling for the ones that were just the right size to the time that they came out of the steamer and onto our plates.

      Dessert was plums, blueberries, and blackberries that I also picked from the yard this evening. My favorite part of this time of year is savoring the very fresh fruit from home. The pomegranate has set fruit. Even the pineapples are “in the mood” this year. I got so excited when I saw my first baby pineapple growing! We’ve succeeded in growing kumquats, tangerines, blood oranges, and lemons. I’m determined to eventually harvest bananas. I form an emotional attachment to the food that I grow. I’m sure that attachment adds to my enjoyment of every bite.

    • Emily

      Is anyone here familier with Birmingham Farmers Markets? I remember going to one downtown once, but are there others? Are they competitive? I would love to hear from somebody with experience!

    • nancy

      Anyone form Wilmington, NC know about the farmers market places. The only one I know of is in Wallace,NC. Would like to know and of a local butcher. Thank you. I have been freezing Blackberrys and making jam. I found them growing in the woods not far from my house.

    • bill


      There is a new market that has started on Valleydale, on Saturday mornings in the parking lot of Faith Presbyterian. I have not had a chance to go because I have been out of town the last few weekends, but I plan to try it out this weekend. Hope this helps.

    • Jane

      I am somewhat new to the “coupon game” and have just been introduced to this site. Wow! I really appreciate all the tips and advice from everyone. Forgive me, but I have a questions about a previous post “Legality Part 1”. Over the last several months, my friends and family will often print coupons from the internet and if the deals are good, we will copy our coupons to share with each other. My parents, aunts/uncles and grandparents do not have computers so i all the time copy my coupons for them and sometimes even do thier shopping with the same coupons. We’ve never had a problem at the store, and I have even told the cashiers what I’m doing and they’ve called over their manager who says ok so we continue. However, after reading this info about the tracking info on each coupon, we are all in total panic that we’ve done something terribly wrong without knowing it. We certainly do not want to get into any legal trouble so what can we do to rectify this illegal act? Can anyone help? We’re so ashamed and terrified. Your input and advice will be much appreciated.