Carrots: Saving Money with Staples

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Saving Money with Staples is a series where I will look at a pantry staple and consider its nutritional value. Then, I will investigate the economics of this staple: what is the most cost-effective way to buy it. Finally, I will offer some suggestions on how to eat and serve this staple to get the most benefit from the savings that it offers. 

 

carrots

What are the health benefits of carrots?

I’m sure many of us were told at some point in our lives to “Eat your carrots: they’re good for you!” I remember my mother telling me that they were good for my eyes. Was she right? You betcha! According to Registered Dietician Anna Taylor, carrots are very good for our eyes. In fact, “carotenoids, an antioxidant pigment found in carrots, may decrease your risk of age-related macular degeneration.”

However, carrots also have other important health benefits, according to Taylor:

  • Help your body fight infections
  • Reduce cholesterol levels, improve heart health
  • Reduce risks for several types of cancer

For the budget-conscious, Taylor mentioned an important fact about carrots: they are low in calories while containing healthy fiber. A half-cup of carrots only has 41 calories while containing almost 3 grams of fiber. Wow! 

Taylor highlighted this quality of carrots in relation to potential weight loss. I would add that when the budget is tight, carrots would be a good food to fill up on that has fiber and nutrients our bodies need. It will help you feel full, even when you’re trying to stretch your pantry to the limit.

Cost of carrots: What are the frugal ways to buy them?

I compared a number of ways to buy carrots as I prepared this article. While the prices may vary from region to region, I am pretty sure that this ranking would not vary unless there was a very good sale. In my region, the most common way to get carrots is in a bag. The price for two pounds of organic carrots or three pounds of standard carrots is the same at a popular discount grocery store: $2.75.

Are you concerned about pesticides on your carrots? In terms of the “dirty dozen,” (more pesticide residue) and “clean fifteen” (less pesticide residue) that some may be aware of, this year, carrots come in at number 29, very close to the clean fifteen, which starts at number 32. So, if your budget is tight, you could only buy organic varieties of the items on the “dirty dozen” list. This way, you could get that extra pound of carrots each time you buy them. 

So, the cheapest way to buy carrots I found was the largest bulk bag.

Here is how other options are ranked, from cheapest to more expensive by weight. I could not find frozen carrots alone, but they are clearly an economical way to buy your veggies:

The large bulk bag (2 or 3lb), frozen no-name peas and carrots (1.5 lbs), a small bulk bag (1 lb), a bunch of fresh carrots (approx 1 lb or a bit less), a bulk mini carrots (2 lb), and then a small bag of mini carrots (less than half a pound). 

At harvest time, there may be more options for you. Some grocery stores in our area offer 10 lb bags in the fall. You may be able to contact a local farmer to ask if you can glean his fields in exchange for some produce. You may be able to place a bulk order with a local farmer and use cold storage to extend the life of your veggies as well. 

I hope this ranking opens your eyes to how you might save when you next buy these fantastic roots. Even a small change, like substituting a bulk bag of carrots for a small bag of mini carrots, will help you save money.

Creative ways to use carrots during lean times

If you buy carrots with the tops on or grow your own, one way to save money with carrots is to eat the TOPS, too! I started doing this over a decade ago, and back then, my friends and family thought this was strange. You can chop carrot greens into basically anything: salads, pesto, tabbouleh, smoothies. 

I dry mine in the fall and throw the dried carrot greens into soups and stews over the winter for extra flavor and nutrition. If you would like to try this, here is a great link with no less than SEVEN suggestions on how to eat your carrot tops.

Here are some other ways to use these veggies along with pantry items in a way that saves you money:

Carrot snacks

Save on snacks by cutting your own carrot sticks rather than buying baby carrots. Grate up a root or two and make some whole wheat carrot muffins with raisins. I sweeten mine only with mashed dates. Delish! Freeze five of them for later and keep seven for your week if you live alone. Juice your carrots and save the pulp to make your own broth. If you like hummus as a snack, you can blend in leftover cooked carrots and/or carrot tops. Yum yum!

Carrot main dishes

On a lean week, you might find me making a simple omelet for supper: I sautee onion and garlic first and then throw in some grated carrot. Once that is soft, I throw in the beaten egg and milk. Voila! Supper! 

In the cooler months, carrots can form the basis for a simple stew or my famous red lentil soup, which feeds me for a week. You can make chicken soup with a carcass and add carrots. Here is a link to a recipe that allows you to turn 2 pounds of carrots into eight servings of pureed ginger carrot soup. While this recipe calls for cream, you can substitute coconut milk or broth if you prefer non-dairy.

By using chickpea flour, these vegan veggie fritters featuring carrot tops and bottoms become a whole low-cost meal. As a non-vegan, I would probably add one of my friend’s free-range organic eggs to this recipe to help with binding. Kept in the freezer, these fritters can last at least three months. The possibilities are endless!

Side dishes with the orange root

One healthy way to eat these versatile vegetables is to steam them. Research has shown this is good for nutrition AND taste. Here is a link to instructions on how to best steam carrots. My go-to method of preparing them is to steam them and serve them with a bit of butter and fresh black pepper.

However, for very little money, you can add creative toppings that can make these types of side dishes come alive. How about carrots with Mediterranean dressing? or Carrots with Honey Mustard Sauce or Minted Carrots with Pumpkin Seeds? I have recently found the World’s Healthiest Foods website and love the way their recipes turn old friends like carrots into something new and exciting for very little cost. 

Carrot condiments

Carrot greens can combine with either basil or spinach to make pesto for a pizza base or pasta dish (hot or cold). If you are on a budget, you could buy the carrots in a bunch once in a while, rinse and dry and carrot tops, puree them and freeze them in small quantities to use later. 

In my wonderful Mennonite cookbook, one of the books that I use to save money, I found a simple recipe to reuse the brine from a 1-quart jar of pickles to pickle your own carrot sticks. How thrifty is that!?!

This one wins the award for the most creative carrot condiment: Carrot Cashew Pate. You can add this to wraps, throw a scoop on your salads, or use it as a dip. How cool is that!?!

Carrots: Tops for savings

Carrots are a frugal pantry classic with lots of potential for savings. Could you see yourself trying any of the thrifty tips offered here? Do you have one you can share with us? Please tell us in the comments below.

About Colette

Colette is passionate about sharing her knowledge of thrifty living and self-sufficiency. She has developed her skills in self-reliance living in the suburbs, the city, and more recently, on her own Half-Acre Homestead. Colette lived five years completely off-grid and without running water in an eight by 24 foot tiny home while designing and building her own 18 by 24-foot eco-cabin. She has just launched her website, Half Acre Homestead. Colette invites you to stop by and visit this work in progress! Coming soon in 2022 is her exciting new online program. Interested in Resiliency, Preventative Health, and Self-Sufficient/Off-Grid Housing (to name a few!)? Stay tuned for more details!

Carrots: Saving Money with Staples
Colette

Colette

Colette is passionate about sharing her knowledge of thrifty living and self-sufficiency. She has developed her skills in self-reliance living in the suburbs, the city, and more recently, on her own Half-Acre Homestead. Colette lived five years completely off-grid and without running water in an eight by 24 foot tiny home while designing and building her own 18 by 24-foot eco-cabin. She has just launched her website, Half Acre Homestead. (www.halfacrehomestead.ca) Colette invites you to stop by and visit this work in progress! Coming soon in February 2022 is her exciting new online program. Interested in Resiliency, Preventative Health, and Self-Sufficient/Off-Grid Housing (to name a few!)? Stay tuned for more details!

8 thoughts on “Carrots: Saving Money with Staples”

  1. Carrots are nice to grate up and add to muffins, cookies, breads, etc. That’s one thing I greatly enjoy doing! I just happen to have a 5 pound bag of carrots in the fridge – organic ones, even. They were on sale. These are great ideas!

    1. Hi Redbranch, That’s GRATE! Thank you for your comment and for sharing your own carrot windfall with us. Please keep us all posted if you try any of the recipes/ideas from the article. Enjoy your healthy 5 pounds of the goodies!

  2. Years ago I found that I could go buy directly from the wholesaler so every fall I go and get 50 pound bags of carrots. (I also get turnip, cabbage, squash, parsnips, beets, and onions all at the same place. All non organic, but dollar stretching is the norm now )
    They list number 1, #2, and cull carrots.
    I usually go for the number two as they are cheap while still being usable. (cull carrots make great animal feed/treats but aren’t really cost effective as you waste a lot of time saving the good stuff). I really don’t care that the carrot isn’t perfectly straight and a certain size, but I do care that a #2 is two thirds to half of the price of the number 1.
    One way to “stretch” a carrot is to take a peeler to it, make peels, and use these in your salad. You can make one carrot go a long way this way versus cutting strips, coins, or dicing.
    Buy in season and preserve the harvest in order to maximize your dollar value.

    1. Hi Joe, What a great post. I totally agree…I would be buying the number two carrots right along with you. I hope that folks will be looking for a local wholesaler in their area. A 50 pound bag would represent significant savings, I am SURE compared to buying them in 2 or 3 pound bags. This is something to look for. I love your conclusion: you are a great example of that! Many thanks!

  3. Isn’t it amazing, how much food we have in plain sight? I never knew I could eat carrot tops, let alone radish and beet greens! How bland our diets have become! I’m looking forward to reading more of your series.

    Also, a source for those who don’t mind misshapen fruits & veggies is Misfit Market. FYI.

    1. Hi Jayne, Isn’t it funny: when i started eating my own carrot greens about a decade ago, I was a bit SCARED! I mean, I had never seen anyone eat them, never heard of anyone eating them. I just thought to myself, “Well, we eat the root, the greens MUST be food, right?…right?” Well, ten years later, I am going strong. It does make me sad how bland and limited our diets have become….a lot of healthy food gets wasted as a result. Thanks so much for your post and for sharing the MisFit Market. I hope Frugalites check this out as a way to save, too! Wishing you a great gardening season, Jayne!

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