Pamela Riemenschneider, Aisle Wandering
Pamela Riemenschneider, Aisle Wandering

The produce industry has been preaching its healthful — and value-conscious — message for years.

I saw another new study recently that shows eating a more healthful diet isn’t as expensive as people like to think. In fact, it’s a better deal than most fast food “value” menu upgrades.

Harvard researchers pored over 27 studies from 10 countries and found the difference between a healthful diet and a lousy diet averaged about $1.50 a day, according to an article from National Public Radio.

But will consumers listen? The deals are found when you reduce meat and processed foods and pick up more fruits and vegetables. This seems like pretty basic stuff, but it’s hard to grasp for many, especially those shopping in food deserts, and those with low cooking skills.

Not even free

I can think of no better example than what I saw on the street corner on my way to drop my son off at school. Austin, Texas, has a pretty liberal panhandling policy, and you see these guys all over town.

On any given day you can see the garbage they leave behind, too, usually after rush hour or early in the morning before they “clock” in for the day. This morning, among the empty water bottles and other junk, I saw a perfectly good red delicious apple.

This irked me to no end because someone who has to ask for money to buy food apparently turned down a perfectly good piece of food that was not only filling, but healthful — and apparently free. (Let’s not argue about the last time a red delicious was truly delicious ... if anyone knows where I can find a good one, I’ll gladly test it in Pamela’s Kitchen.)

Share the wealth — of knowledge

I’ve written about the value of fresh produce many times over the past few years, and feel like a bit of a fruit and vegetable evangelist.

Hopefully this new study will make the rounds and have budget-conscious consumers taking a second look at the produce aisle.

Retailers definitely have some opportunities to talk up healthful — and cheap — fresh produce, especially in the New Year when consumers come down from that holiday hangover. For the record, I’m pretty sure pumpkin pie counts as a vegetable.

While we’re at it, I think it’s a great time for retailers to talk about the actual cost of fresh produce per serving. The Produce Marketing Association had a great study back in 2010 about cost per serving of fruits and vegetables.

They found the average was just 28 cents per serving for fruit, and 21 cents per serving for vegetables, with your full recommended daily servings costing a very attainable $2.18. We’ve had some price inflation since, but not that dramatic.

In the report you can also find some information about the least expensive fruits and vegetables per serving, great information to share with cash-strapped consumers looking for more bang (and in this case a healthier serving) for their buck. 

Among the least expensive fruits and vegetables per serving:


  •  watermelon;
  •  apples;
  •  pears;
  •  bananas;
  •  pineapples;
  •  potatoes;
  •  lettuce/salad;
  •  cooking greens;
  •  summer squash; and
  •  carrots.


Next time I see that panhandler corner occupied, perhaps I’ll try a baby peeled carrot snack pack or something.

Maybe he didn’t like apples.

What's your take? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.