We know that eating fruits and vegetables is essential to a healthy lifestyle. Luckily, there are so many options of how to buy them and all of them can help you reach your goal whether it’s fresh, canned or frozen!
More than just produce
Buying fresh, canned or frozen doesn’t just apply to produce. You can get your protein and dairy in all forms, too! Chicken, beans, and milk are just some examples.
How to decide what’s best
When making your decision, take a few things into consideration:
- Cost: which option is going to fit your budget?
- Amount: which option will help reduce your food waste?
- Time frame: which option will work with your meal plan schedule best?
- Storage: which option will work best with your household layout? (freezer vs pantry space)
Comparing the benefits
Cost can be especially difficult to compare between fresh, canned and frozen foods because they are not always sold in the same units. Some are sold by the ounce, pound, or gallon.
Below is a table that lays out the cost, pros and cons of some commonly used ingredients in the same unit so it is easy to understand and see cost differences. All are nutritious options to feed your family, and the best choice is going to be different for everyone! Fruits and vegetables are beneficial in any form, and we use all kinds in our dietitian-approved ONIE recipes.
Which option works best for you and your family? Let us know in the comments!
|Item||Price||Pros & Cons|
|Fresh||$2.18/lb||Pros: no sodium or preservatives added, can buy exact amount needed|
Cons: has to be used within 3 to 5 days of purchasing, cooking required
Pros: can buy pre-cooked and pre-seasoned, can be stored for 4-9 months in freezer (4 months for pre-cooked frozen, 9 months for raw frozen)
Cons: requires thawing time, typically has added sodium, takes up large amount of freezer space
Pros: shelf stable for up to 3 to 5 years, no cooking or thawing time required, affordable in small amounts
Cons: more expensive per pound when buying in larger amounts, high in sodium
Pros: shelf stable for up to 1 year, available in bulk sizes up to 25lbs at regular grocery stores, can make exact amount needed
Cons: requires soaking before cooking (8+ hours)
Pros: cooked and ready-to-eat, affordable, low-sodium versions often available for same price
Cons: regular version high in sodium, needs to be consumed within 3-5 days of opening
Pros: highest nutrient content, no preservatives added
Cons: not always ripe when purchased, inconsistent flavor
Pros: lasts 6 to 9 months, picked and frozen when ripe, consistent product every time, nutrient content maintained
Cons: thawed frozen fruits not always ideal for certain recipes due to texture changes during thawing
Pros: shelf stable for 1 to 2 years, available in syrup-free and sugar-free variety (packed in natural fruit juice only)
Cons: loses some nutrients during canning process, need to watch for fruits in light/heavy syrup to avoid added sugars
Pros: best in texture for crispness, most nutrient content, great for all types of cooking including roasting and sautéing
Cons: shorter shelf life (best within 5 to 7 days of purchase), requires more prep time for trimming and washing
Pros: available in steamable bags for quick and easy cooking, nutrient content maintained, best for boiling, steaming and blanching, lasts up to 1 year
Cons: not ideal for sauteing or roasting
Pros: most affordable price point, shelf stable for 3 to 5 years, easy to warm and serve as an instant side dish
Cons: regular version high in sodium, not all people like the soft texture, loses some nutrients through canning process
|Milk (1 gallon, 2%)|
Pros: good source of calcium, vitamin D, and A, available in single serving and multi-serving sizes so you can purchase only what you need
Cons: has to be used before expiration date, requires refrigeration at all times
|Shelf-stable (UHT pasteurized carton)||$10.24/gal|
Pros: same nutrient content as refrigerated milk, no added preservatives, can be stored at room temperature unopened, lasts 6 to 9 months unopened, available to buy in bulk packs
Cons: most expensive, requires refrigeration after opening, typically only sold in 1 quart containers
|Dried (powdered milk)||$3.97/gal|
Pros: shelf stable for 18 months to 10 years (depending on manufacturer), same nutrient content as refrigerated milk, can be prepared in any amount required, cost becomes cheaper when buying in bulk
Cons: requires more prep time to mix with cold water, tastes best when refrigerated overnight, requires large pitcher for mixing and storage