PUBLISHED: 4:10 PM on Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Money saving tips on buying produce
For many of us our New Year's resolution is to eat better. One way to do this is to include more fruits and vegetables in daily meal planning. Unfortunately this can be difficult in Southeast Alaska, where produce is often costly or unavailable. For example, apples cost about $1.50 per pound, fresh spinach is $1.99 per bunch and green beans are $4.99 per pound. At these prices you can quickly overspend your food budget and these prices may deter you from eating more fruits and vegetables. But there is an alternative that is kind to your wallet. Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables provide an excellent alternative to costly fresh produce.

Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables are nutritionally sound. In fact some, such as apricots and spinach, are even higher in nutrients than their fresh counterparts because typically they are processed immediately after harvesting.

Another advantage of using frozen or canned fruits and vegetables is their long shelf life. Canned fruits and vegetables can be stored unopened in the pantry for up to two years. Frozen produce can be kept for up to eight months in the freezer. When these items go on sale, stock your freezer or pantry so that you'll have plenty of healthy foods on hand when your food budget is low.

The drawbacks of using canned and frozen produce is that they can be higher in sodium and sugar. However, most brands offer low-sodium and low-sugar versions of their products at the same cost. For instance, unsweetened applesauce is the same price as the sweetened variety at most stores in Juneau. For those on low-sodium or low-sugar diets, consider rinsing the canned product under cool running water to reduce the amount of sodium or sugar consumed. Use this method for fruits or vegetables before using in recipes or before serving.

Soups, casseroles and stir-fries are a delicious way to use frozen and canned vegetables in place of fresh. Frozen fruit tastes great in smoothies and cobblers. Try the following recipes as part of your daily vegetable and fruit servings.

Chicken Stir-Fry with Frozen Vegetables

Serves 5

1/2 pound cooked, cubed chicken

3 cups cooked brown rice

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound package frozen mixed vegetables

1 egg, slightly beaten

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons water

1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil. Stir in egg and fry until cooked. Stir in rice and fry for 2 minutes. Set aside.

2. In a wok or fry pan, heat remaining oil. Stir in chicken and cook for 2 minutes. Add frozen vegetables and cook for 2 more minutes.

3. Add egg and rice mixture to chicken and vegetables.

4. Stir together soy sauce and water. Pour over stir-fry.

5. Stir over medium heat until heated throughout.

Strawberry-Mango Smoothie

Serves 4

1 cup frozen mango

1 cup frozen strawberries

1 cup low or non-fat yogurt

1 cup milk or 100% apple juice

2 tablespoons honey

Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.