A Produce Trick to Save Cash

  • Buy Dry and Save

    Instead of spending a ton for a pound of produce flown in from another country, wasting vegetables that you keep forgetting about in your crisper drawers or missing fruits that are out of season, here’s a trick that could save you money. Adding some of these dried foods to meals and mid-day snacks could mean getting the same good stuff like vitamins and fiber year round, without spending extravagantly on what you might consider staples. Photo Credit: Whistling in the Dark
    Apricots
  • Apricots

    Apricots are summer favorites, as are peaches, but their dried counterparts are just as flavorful and you don’t have wait till they’re in season or buy expensive imports when it’s cooler outside. These stone fruits are full of fiber and rich in beta-carotene, the same nutrient in carrots that’s good for your eyes. Canned apricots may not have the same nutritional value and they’re likely soaked in sugar. Plus some canned goods have been found to contain harmful chemicals from can linings. Plus, the dried ones are an especially good add-on to a cheese plate as a contrast to the more pungent cheeses. Dried vs. Fresh: Dried apricots are widely available year-round while fresh are really only availably domestically in the summer months ones aren’t in season. While dried apricots retail on Melissa's mail order site at about $1.55 a piece and fresh ones retail for $1.45, you can store the dried ones for months as opposed to only a few days. And cheaper dried ones are probably available at your local grocery store. Photo Credit: Itinerant Tightwad
    Habanero Chiles
  • Habanero Chiles

    Ripe habaneros can vary in color from brown, red and orange to pink and white. While their name indicates that they’re from Havana, it’s unclear whether that’s actually their country of origin since they’re grown in similar climates and widely used in in Asian cuisine. They’re a favorite for hot sauce, dips, and jerk seasoning that will make you sweat. Dried vs. Fresh: Dried habaneros cost about $5.99 for a half-ounce package, which since they’re 30 to 50 times spicier than a jalapeno, means that little will go a long way, according to produce supplier Melissa’s. A pound of fresh habaneros might run you about $6.99, according to Melissa’s. Photo Credit: I likE plants!
    Cranberries
  • Cranberries

    It’s currently cranberry season, but the fresh versions may be too tart for your taste buds when added to baked goods. Just like cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving, sugar is added to make dried cranberries the vitamin-loaded snack that they are. Dried vs. Fresh: Dried cranberries are widely available year-round for about $2 or $3 for a six-ounce package of Ocean Spray Craisins, for example, while you may only find the fresh ones in grocery stores in the fall priced at $2 to $3 for a 16 ounce bag. Photo Credit: Grongar
    Blueberries
  • Blueberries

    Blueberries are the classic superfood. These little bursts of flavor are rich in antioxidants, and the dried versions actually have a more potent flavor that might actually make them a better-tasting addition to your favorite breakfast cereal than fresh ones. Plus, they won’t go moldy in your fridge after just a couple of days. Dried vs. Fresh: Dried blueberries cost about $7.99 for three ounces, while a pound of fresh ones is about $4.99. Dried blueberries may cost a little more, but they’re available year-round and last considerably longer than the fresh ones. Photo Credit: Tiffany Washko
    Mangoes
  • Mangoes

    Some mango lovers can’t take the acidity of the fresh versions of their favorite fruits, but the dried kind can be tamer. We recommend dried mangoes from the Philippines, which in our experience are much softer, sweeter and flavorful than some others. Dried vs. Fresh: Dried mangoes cost about $4.99 for three ounces of peeled and sliced pieces of dried mangoes compared with a dollar or two each, or even more depending on your region, for their fresh counterparts. Photo Credit: Francis Storr
    Apples
  • Apples

    Apples may be available year-round, and very cheap in the fall, but dried apples are a healthy, portable and shelf-stable snack, and apple chips are great when you’re craving something crunchy, but still all-natural. You can even add some chunks to your breakfast cereal, pancake batter or trail mix, perhaps with a dash of cinnamon, for a taste of the fall year-round. Dried vs. Fresh: Dried apples and apple chips may come in bags containing several apples’ worth of peeled slices for a dollar or two, while apples can cost $1 to $2 a pound when bought fresh. Photo Credit: Laurel Fan
    Pears
  • Pears

    The price of pears may vary more widely year-round and year-to-year than apples, but dried pears are a sweet snack that you can find at the same price any time, and price comparisons are the key to grocery savings. Dried vs. Fresh: Pears reach their peak season in the fall, so that’s the best time to get cheapest pears grown closest to home. During the rest of the year, produce suppliers have to ship pears to stores from further away. Sold per piece at Melissa's, dried and fresh D'anjou pears cost about the same, at $1.25 a piece. Photo Credit: Furryscaly
    Ancho Chiles
  • Ancho Chiles

    Working with dried chiles makes you less vulnerable to the wrath of fresh chile juice, which could remain on your fingers after you handle them and wind up in your eyes or worse if you’re not careful. In addition, dried chiles are often more readily available in stores and sell for significantly cheaper. Dried vs. Fresh: Dried ancho chiles can be found in the spice or ethnic foods sections of your local grocery store or online for around $5 for a two- to four-ounce package, while seeds to grow freshs ones seem to be more available than fresh ones themselves. Photo Credit: mccheek
    Portobellos
  • Portobellos

    Portobello mushrooms have more of a deep, earthy flavor that your average, white button mushrooms. But they can get pricey. Especially if you’re thinking of using them in soup or sauce, the dried version could save you money. In fact, when we did a head-to-head comparison of risotto made with fresh vs. dry mushrooms, the dried mushrooms won by far, since we used the water they were soaked in to boil the risotto. Dried vs. Fresh: Dried portobellos cost about $2.99 for an ounce, while fresh ones will run you about $3.99 lb. And fresh portobellos are massive mushrooms that shrink dramatically when dried. Photo Credit: FotoosVanRobin
    Shiitake
  • Shiitake

    Dried shiitake mushrooms are commonly used in Chinese cuisine, in some cases more so than fresh ones. You can buy them dried whole or sliced depending on your intended use, and you may find them in meat and vegetable dishes and in soups. Dried vs. Fresh: For the right taste and texture in certain Chinese dishes, dried shiitake mushrooms are a must. You can get them for about $20 a pound, while the fresh ones, which won’t keep long, could cost you about $16 a pound. Fresh ones might look cheaper, but a pound of the dried ones reconstitute to much more than a pound. Photo Credit: arnold
    Chanterelles
  • Chanterelles

    Chanterelle mushrooms make a heavenly cream of mushroom soup. Their flavor isn’t as bold as the Portobello or the significantly more expensive morel mushroom, and the flavor works very well in cream-based preparations. Dried vs. Fresh: A four-ounce package of dried chanterelles could run you about $18, while the fresh ones might cost about $20. That's pretty close in price, but the dried ones last significantly longer. Dried chanterelles may have a slightly more rubbery texture than the fresh ones, even when soaked, but the flavor is still undeniable. Photo Credit: randomduck
    Porcinis
  • Porcinis

    Porcini mushrooms are some of the most popular varieties of dried mushrooms. That’s because their almost a third of the price of the fresh ones. Dried vs. Fresh: Generally, fresh porcinis would cost about 75% more than dried, according to Melissa’s spokesman Robert Schueller, and the fresh ones are only available two months out of the year. Photo Credit: Patricia Turo
    Morels
  • Morels

    Morel mushrooms are the ultimate mushroom for the fungus lover. They’re spongy and nutty, with a honeycomb tripe-like texture. Anything better would be the gold of the ground known as truffles. Dried vs. Fresh: Be warned. Morels are pricey. But if you love mushrooms, they might just be worth it. Dried morel cost about $8.99 for one ounce, but you’d have to shell out $16 per pound for their fresh counterpart. Pound for pound, morels end up costing about 60% more when fresh, Schueller says. Photo Credit: mccun934
    Full Disclosure
  • Full Disclosure

    While dried foods may be an affordable way to cut grocery bills, some nutritionists would say that the lack of natural juiciness could make you want to eat more to fill your stomach, and that could mean packing in more calories than you should. But if you’re the type to forget about fresh produce you’ve left in the fridge or just want to keep the good stuff longer, dried foods can make a pretty good substitute. Photo Credit: Ginnerobot
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