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Pick and Process Your Own Fruit to Save Money

Written by Matt Jabs - 9 Comments

Pick and Process Your Own Fruit to Save MoneyIt’s that time of year again folks! It’s harvest season for pick your own strawberries here in Michigan, and blueberry season isn’t far behind. Wouldn’t you rather pick local, organically grown berries for a fraction of the cost of store bought berries from who-knows-where?

Good, me too. First, go to PickYourOwn.org to find local, organic fruit growers. Second, get your lazy but off the couch and go pick some fruit.

Why pick local fresh fruit?

There are many good reasons to pick your own fruit. Here are a few.

  1. It saves you money. In most cases, picking fresh fruit is far cheaper than buying fruit at the store… Even if you’re picking organic fruit. Why? Because picking your own cuts out a whole laundry list of middlemen. When you pick your own, there are no picking costs, distribution costs, processing costs, or store stocking and markup costs.
  2. It’s better for you. Picking ripe, organic fruit fresh from the plant is far higher is nutritional value than fruit grown on factory farms (Del Monte, etc.). Conventionally-grown fruit is normally sprayed and fertilized with chemicals, picked before it is ripe, shipped across the country, ripened artificially, and covered in a waxy coating. The secret is also in the soil. Most small scale, local, organic farmers nurture their soil because they know that better soil means better crops.
  3. It tastes better. How do I know? Because this skeptic has compared the two. Don’t believe me? Go to a local organic farm and pick some strawberries. Now go to the store and buy some conventionally-grown strawberries (which will most likely be from out of state). Do a simple taste test, compare costs, and decide for yourself.

Why not just grow fruit?

Well, you can… But most fruit plants aren’t like tomato plants. You can’t just plant them in the spring and reap the bounty a few months later.

If you have the time, space, a plan, and the desire to do so, then growing your own may be just what the doctor ordered. However, many fruit plants require a lot of real estate and several years to mature and produce.

If you would rather grow your own, and have the wherewithal to do so, then by all means – go for it! But for those of us who don’t have time or space, picking locally may can make more sense. It does for me and Mrs. Jabs.

More about the health benefits

Here is a great quote from the enormously popular and influential book, Healthy at 100: The Scientifically Proven Secrets of the World’s Healthiest and Longest-Lived Peoples:

And we can see that the diets of the world’s exceptionally healthy and long lived peoples have a great deal in common:

  • They are all low (by Western standards) in overall calories.
  • They are all high in good carbohydrates, including plenty of whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.
  • They are all “whole-foods” diets, with very little (if any) processed or refined foods, sugars, corn syrup, preservatives, artificial flavors, or other chemicals.
  • They all depend on fresh foods, eating primarily what is in season and locally grown rather than relying on canned foods or foods shipped long distances.
  • They are all low (though not super-low) in fat, and the fats comes from natural sources, including seeds, nuts, and in some cases fish, rather than from bottled oils, margarine’s, or saturated animals fats.
  • They all derive their protein primarily from plant sources, including beans, peas, whole grains, seeds, and nuts.

More about the benefits

My wife, who is enjoying her new found freedom of summer break, just picked 25.6 lbs of local, organic strawberries. The cost? $32.00. Those who do the math will see that we paid just $1.25/lb for produce that is far healthier and tastier than anything we could have purchased at our local Walmart.

Here is how we have used our berries so far:

  • A homemade strawberry rhubarb crisp
  • 10 jars of homemade strawberry jam
  • 10 pounds into the deep freeze
  • 5 pounds left fresh and whole for eating over the next week or two (my personal favorite!)

We’ll plan to use our frozen berries throughout the remainder of the year, and will probably end up picking another 10 or 20 pounds to make sure we have enough. We may also make some more jam to give away as homemade Christmas gifts, just when people are hankering for a taste of fresh, wholesome, strawberry jam.

What about you?

Do you pick your own fruit? Or maybe you grow your own fruit? Do you have any tips or tricks to share? Or do you think this whole idea is a complete waste of time? Please let us know in the comments.

Published on June 24th, 2010 - 9 Comments
Filed under: Frugality

About the author: is a thirty-something IT manager and blogger who wants to help himself and others get out of debt. He writes about personal finance and debt-free living at Debt Free Adventure.

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9 Responses to “Pick and Process Your Own Fruit to Save Money”

  1. 1
    Andrew Says:

    I’m not convinced that local “organic” fruit is that much better than store bought fruit. The commercial grower has every incentive as the local farmer at using the best farming practices. The commercial grower benefits from the economies of scale, they will use the land more efficiently. Pesticides and fertilizers are regulated by the FDA, they enable commercial growers to grow more per acre of land than the local guy. The wax coating does not significantly alter the flavor of the fruit, but goes along way in preserving it. local “organic” fruit will spoil much faster, so I don’t doubt that the local grower’s fruit will taste much better on the day you pick it, I doubt it will be much better coming out of your freezer than the frozen stuff you get at the supermarket.

    Driving to a farm, picking your own takes time, and fuel. A single truck hauling 10 tons of fruit will pollute less than 1000 cars driving out to the farm and picking up 20lbs each. Also, having individuals pick fruit is inefficient, it will naturally lead to a percentage of the fruit crop being wasted due to everyone rifling through all the plants. A commercial farm has great incentive to minimize waste.

    I;m not knocking local farms, they are great for fresh fruit, but it’s not that much better than commercial farms, especially if you want the fruit to last a little longer, and that’s especially true if you don’t want to have to drive out to the farm every few days.

  2. 2
    GoYanks Says:

    Pick your own is good for having a nice day out with family, fresh food, good for local economy etc etc, but cost effective? Noway! Here in NJ cost of strawberries at local “pick your own” farm is $2.99/lb. Cost at the Farmers Market store – $0.99/lb!

  3. 3
    Ace @ aceofwealth.com Says:

    Matt, that sounds awesome! Unfortunately, I’ve never had the pleasure of being able to drive down to my local fruit farm and pick fruits. As GoYanks just mentioned it does sound like a wonderful way to spend the day with family and friends. It definitely makes me want look this up and find a local fruit farm near me =P

  4. 4
    PMT Says:

    @Andrew

    Just because the FDA regulates something doesn’t mean it is beneficial. We used to spray everything with DDT and now that’s banned. Asbestos was installed in every public building and now it too is banned and costs thousands to remove. You’re talking about something designed to kill another living thing…you think that won’t have some residual effect on your health?

  5. 5
    PMT Says:

    In the past we have canned peaches and made apple sauce after picking fruit from the local farms. Give us tasty fruit and a low cost all year round. True it is a pain to spend a day canning but then we at least have control over what goes into the jar so we can lower sugar, preservatives and other junk that you find in commercial foods.

  6. 6
    Red Says:

    Great post! I went to Pick Your Own and found a fruit and berry patch nearby that has a very wide selection. Thanks for the info! :)

  7. 7
    Jeff @ Sustainablelifeblog Says:

    Thanks for sharing matt. I went to pick your own, and although they wont win any webdesign awards anytime soon, they did have some useful information. I didnt think there would be much available in wyoming, but there was more than I thought. I’ll definitely have to make a trip up to some of those places.

  8. 8
    Funny about Money Says:

    The city and the county made a carefully deliberated decision to get rid of agriculture around the Phoenix area and replace it with acre on acre on acre on acre of lookalike subdivisions, all of which are now half-empty and worthless. The result is there’s no fresh anything within driving distance of this city. Unless bankruptcy and foreclosure can be regarded as a form of “produce”…the fruits of farming houses.

    You used to be able to pick fresh grapes and citrus around here. To do that now, you’d have to drive about 200 miles.

  9. 9
    Deborah Says:

    For the first time in years, I’ve made the time to pick and preserve local u-pick blackberries. At $3.00/pound, they’re about half the grocery price and the difference in quality is astonishing. A tip for freezing them, I flash-freeze, which just means I spread them out on cookie sheets so they are not touching and quickly freeze the berries, then I measure and freeze in quart bags. This stops the berries from getting squished in packaging and lets one remove measured amounts from a bag if you don’t want to use the whole thing. Great topic, thanks.

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