The high price of fresh, organic produce can be a deterrent for shoppers who want to be healthy but need to stick to a budget.
“I’ve had a lot of my patients tell me that they do not consume fruits and vegetables because they cannot afford organic,” said Wendy Wesley, a St. Petersburg, Florida-based registered dietician and nutritionist.
A more cost-effective option: frozen fruits and vegetables.
The fruit and vegetables that end up in the frozen foods aisle of your local supermarkets are often picked and frozen at the peak of freshness. Essentially, they end up being more “fresh” than some of the produce that has to travel from farms to the stores to your kitchen counter.
From a nutritional standpoint, there is no downside with frozen produce, Wesley said.
In addition, frozen produce often is a better choice because it reduces food waste. Frozen berries and green beans, for example, can last up to a year in the freezer. If you accidentally leave their fresh counterparts in the fridge for longer than a week, you’ll end up with moldy berries and limp green beans that you’ll have to throw away.
“For a long time, I would only buy fresh produce,” Wesley said. “I wasted a lot of fresh produce, because life got in the way and I didn’t get to it in time. And that’s when I became an advocate for frozen vegetables.”
The winning quality of frozen fruits and vegetables is that they’re ready when you are, Wesley said. With fresh produce, on the other hand, the clock is ticking to eat it before it goes bad.
She said that people who keep their favorite produce stocked in the freezer tend to eat more fruits and vegetables. For the healthiest outcome, make sure you’re buying frozen produce that doesn’t include added sauces or seasoning, which will increase your saturated fat and sodium intake.
Another reason to keep your freezer stocked with frozen produce is that it’s a cost-conscious way to enjoy produce that’s not in season. You can make peach cobbler in the middle of winter using frozen peaches, for example, rather than paying a premium for fresh peaches when they aren’t in season.
Choosing frozen produce over fresh also means there’s more of a chance for you to find manufacturer or store coupons to help cut down the price. Keep in mind, however, there’s often little to no difference in the generic version of frozen produce versus its name-brand counterpart — and you can usually save money by buying the cheaper store brand.
“A broccoli floret is a broccoli floret whether that be store brand or Birds Eye,” Wesley said. “It is a single-ingredient food. It is a broccoli floret. Period. End of story.”
Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.