What fruit and veggies are cheap and in season in autumn?
With money tight for everyone around the country at the moment and limited shopping choices, eating seasonally is more important than ever. Seasonal fruit and vegetables are the cheapest to buy, will last the longest, taste the best and are usually grown in NZ. So what’s in season in autumn and gives you the best bang for your buck?
In autumn you can’t go past pumpkins for good value for money. When they start appearing in the shops for $3.50 or less for a whole pumpkin, that’s the time to buy. Store a whole pumpkin in a cool place such as your garage, but don’t place them directly on the floor – use a piece of cardboard as a pumpkin mat. Stored upside-down with the stalk on the bottom, they can last up to 3 months. Once you’ve cut it open, use it within a couple of weeks. Roast or boil pumpkin, then freeze so you can use for soups in winter.
Pumpkins are great in curries and soups, but did you know you can also use them to make hummus or pasta? Check out more recipe ideas for using up pumpkins here and our guide on how to use up a whole pumpkin.
Broccoli is another vegetable which is cheap to buy in autumn. It has a short shelf-life so use it within 4-5 days of purchase. If you’re going to eat it within a couple of days, store broccoli in a plastic bag in the fridge. Need your broccoli to last longer? Sprinkle the head of the broccoli with water, wrap it in paper towels and place it in a sealed ziplock bag in the fridge. Be sure to make the most of your broccoli by using the stalk and the florets – you can check out more satisfying, stalk-using broccoli recipes here.
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. Make coleslaw, sauerkraut or kimchi or simply chop finely and cook with a little butter or salt.
Whole iceberg lettuces are still good value in early autumn, but with tomatoes and cucumber creeping up in price you might want to rethink how you would use them. How about Vietnamese style as a wrap for mince, or adding the outer leaves to a stir-fry in place of spinach? Store in a lettuce crisper to make them last as long as possible, or wrap in a paper towel and place in a ziplock bag..
What to skip?
Summer vegetables such as tomatoes, capsicums, aubergines and courgettes are past their best by autumn, so will be pricier and will have a much shorter shelf life. Potatoes and onions are always good value. Beetroot and celery may also be reasonably priced at this time of year.
Apples are the cheapest fruit to buy in autumn and are usually at their crunchiest. 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. Grate up apple to use in a coleslaw, make a Waldorf salad with apple, celery and walnuts and add to a devilled sausage casserole. 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.
Kiwifruit start to get cheaper in late autumn. They don’t lend themselves to baking or freezing so buy little and often. If you have too many and they start to soften, your best bet is to add them to a smoothie or try making them into a salsa. Mix kiwifruit with jalapeños, coriander, a bit of garlic and lemon juice and blitz. Great for a Mexican themed dinner!
If you have your own feijoa tree, you will be despairing over what to with them all. If not, you’ll be despairing of their price in the supermarket, which is often upwards of $8 per kilo. Our advice? If you like feijoas, plant your own tree or find a friend with a tree. We have loads of recipes for using up your feijoas here but the simplest is to stew them up and freeze them, so you can use them for the rest of the year, or turn smaller feijoas into jam – skins and all.
Pears are at their cheapest in autumn. Use them in an autumn salad of pear, rocket, blue cheese and walnuts.
What to skip:
The stone fruit season has been and gone so any peaches, plums and nectarines still in store will be expensive with a very short shelf-life. It’s too early for citrus to be at its best; mandarins are the first cab off the rank around June.
Our Easy Choice Family Kai Autumn budget cookbook has loads more ideas for family friendly meals using seasonal produce.