What’s cheap and in season in winter
It’s cold and often wet and everyone’s power bills are sky high. So what’s cheap and in season in winter when it comes to fruit and veges and which are the most affordable?
By late winter even the cheaper vegetables start to become more expensive. Carrots, cabbages, potatoes and onions are your bargains at this time of year. For greens, celery, broccoli and silverbeet can also be reasonable and brussel sprouts are in season in winter. Root vegetables such as parsnip, yams and turnips are in store, but still aren’t particularly cheap at around $4-$5 per kilo. If your favourite vegetables are getting pricey, consider buying frozen vegetables instead. You can buy frozen broccoli, cauliflower, capsicums as well as mixed vegetables. Keep an eye out for the specials or buy budget brands for peas, corn and green beans.
In winter, carrots are great value for money, are full of vitamin A and are great for bulking out soups and casseroles or grating into a winter salad. Carrots can start to go limp faster than you realise. If you store them in a tupperware container lined with a paper towel, they will last up to 8 times longer. If they need using up in a hurry, try roasting them with a honey or maple glaze, or cook and puree, then store in the freezer until you need to make soup. You could also add them to a smoothie.
When you need winter comfort food look no further than the potato. Baked, mashed, roasted or boiled they are incredibly versatile and very filling. Store potatoes in the pantry out of direct sunlight and away from your onions as they last longer stored separately. If your potatoes are beginning to sprout, they are still safe to eat – just cut off the sprouting sections. If they have started to go green though, they then need to be thrown away. The green color of the potato is caused by exposure to light and produces solanine, which causes a bitter taste and can irritate your stomach. You can freeze both roasted and mashed potatoes. Try these twice baked potatoes with bacon and sweetcorn or why not try making croquettes a great way to use up mashed potato?
Cabbages are also great bang for your buck once they get down to around $3 for a whole cabbage. Keep the outer leaves to wrap around the cabbage once you have started to slice through it. Use the larger outside leaves to make this hangi in an oven below.
What to skip?
Summer vegetables such as courgettes, aubergines, peppers and tomatoes are all at their most expensive at this time of year. So think coleslaw, not green salad and make stews and soups using a carrot, celery and onion base.
Apples, oranges, lemons and grapefruit provide your best bang for your buck at this time of year. Persimmons and tamarillos are only available to eat in winter, but sadly at around $16 a kilo for tamarillos these are a delicacy nowadays.
Apples are the cheapest fruit to buy in winter and you will start seeing oversized and undersized apples for $1 a kilo and under. They last up to 8 times longer if stored in the fridge rather than in the fruit bowl, so if buying a bag of apples, make sure you put at least half in the fridge. Apples can be stewed and then frozen so that you can use them later on in November when fruit is more expensive. Check out our 8 ways with apples for more great ideas for using them up – and don’t forget you can always use the peels to make your own apple cider vinegar.
Don’t be fooled by mandarins, they are often up around $4-5 a kilo, when oranges can sometime be had for $2-$3 a kilo. If you live in the North Island, backyard trees are often ladened with lemons, grapefruit and tangelos. Why not knock on a neighbour’s door and see if they have some going spare? Citrus peels can be candied, zested or dried, or used to make a cheap DIY cleaning spray – check out our 8 ways with citrus peels here. Grate the rind off any citrus you buy and then freeze to use for baking. If you have a glut, squeeze the juice into ice cube trays, then freeze and bag up so that you can use them as a dressing on salad in the summer.
What to skip:
Any stonefruit such as peaches and plums for sale will be imported from overseas, so we suggest giving those a miss as the flavour never tastes as good. Kiwifruit will be nearing the end of their season, so check carefully for quality, and pears will start to get more expensive. Keep an eye out for instore specials on bananas and pineapple, and also consider tinned and frozen fruit when they are on special if you want a treat.
Our Easy Choice Family Kai Winter budget cookbook has loads more ideas for family friendly meals using seasonal produce.