The 8 Best Budget-Friendly Fruits & Vegetables to Buy in Spring

Enjoy these plants that are at their most delicious and nutritious!

Honey & Orange Glazed Carrots

Welcome to Thrifty. A weekly column where nutrition editor and registered dietitian Jessica Ball keeps it real on how to grocery shop on a budget, make healthy meals for one or two, and make Earth-friendly choices without overhauling your entire life

Eating with the seasons is one of the many ways to eat that's good for your body and for the planet. But what does "eating seasonally" actually mean? In short, fruits and vegetables grow in a variety of climates and, therefore, have different seasons in which they thrive. For this reason, produce that's in-season is in its most delicious and nutritious state.

As spring temps creep up and the ground starts to thaw, several new plants start peaking through the ground to kick off another growing season. This makes spring a great time to take advantage of what nature has to offer. Plus, in-season foods are typically easier to find locally, which can help save the resources required to ship foods cross-country or internationally. Foods that are locally produced and in-season are more likely to be on sale at your grocery store, too, since they are more available.

Now that you know some of the benefits of eating with the seasons, let's cover some budget-friendly produce to look out for this spring and some delicious recipes to help you use it.

1. Onions

I'm a firm believer that onions are the #1 vegetable to buy if you're on a budget. They're super versatile (I use one almost daily), can be really delicious and boast some impressive nutrition. One half-cup of chopped raw onions contains around 32 calories, 1 gram of protein, 0 grams of fat and 7 grams of carbs, per the USDA. Additionally, onions provide minerals and vitamins, such as potassium, vitamin C and folate, to help you meet your needs. Onions also have antibacterial properties that help support your immune system and alleviate seasonal allergies. One of my favorite ways to cook onions is to caramelize them if I have time. They're also delicious grilled, roasted, sautéed or even raw as a garnish (I toss onions in citrus juice or vinegar to quickly pickle them while I prepare the rest of my meal).

2. Peas

Peas are super nutritious and budget-friendly, whether they're fresh, frozen or canned. They're a great way to add some green to pastas, soups, salads or casseroles. They can even be pureed into a sauce or side, like in our Old Bay Salmon with Lemony Mashed Peas recipe. And at just $2.69 per 10-ounce bag, frozen peas are something that I always have in my freezer. But I especially relish when I can find fresh peas at the store or farmers' market.

3. Greens

There are so many reasons to love greens. They are one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, meaning they pack a punch of vitamins, minerals and fiber in each bite. Plus, from my experience, they are one of the quicker-growing crops. Greens usually take just four to six weeks to go from seed to harvest, making them a great option for the spring and early summer, as they also thrive in cooler temps. Greens come in a variety of shapes, sizes and flavors, so try a new type to switch up your routine. Recipes like our Lemony Lentil Soup with Collards and Massaged Mustard Greens Salad might just make them a staple of your dinner routine. While fresh greens are great, frozen is an equally nutritious and longer-lasting option if you're worried about them going bad in your fridge.

4. Carrots

Carrots are one of the vegetables that are hearty enough to be available all year long and last a long time in the fridge, but they're especially flavor-packed in the spring. Carrots are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C and calcium, nutrients which can help support eye health, immune health and heart health and reduce chronic inflammation. Beyond the standard orange variety, keep an eye out for rainbow or purple carrots for a burst of color, great taste and nutrition. They're especially delicious in our Roasted Purple Carrots with Black Sesame Dukkah recipe.

5. Asparagus

Asparagus is another hallmark vegetable of springtime. YouI can boil, roast, grill, steam and even pickle asparagus spears for a variety of meals. Not to mention, asparagus is a great source of nutrients like fiber, vitamin C, folate and vitamin K that can help with everything from healthy digestion to immune function and blood flow. Try this perfect springtime side in creative ways, like our Asparagus & Smoked Mozzarella Pizzettes or our Scallops & Spring Vegetables with Olive-Caper Pan Sauce.

6. Strawberries

No fruit reminds me of spring quite like a fresh, in-season strawberry. Strawberries are one of those fruits with a really noticeable difference between the in-season and out-of-season flavor. That said, fresh fruit from the farmers' market or local food co-op can get expensive quickly. To enjoy the flavors but save a little money, consider picking your own and freezing what you won't use right away. This will help you preserve the flavors you love for months to come, and can even be a fun outing with family or friends.

7. Pineapple

Believe it or not, the peak season for this popular tropical fruit starts in March. Since many of us don't live in areas where it's realistic to get fresh local pineapple at the farmers' market, the benefit of buying in season is that the pineapple will likely be more flavorful and may be more likely to go on sale. Buying frozen pineapple is a great option, too, because it's always picked at peak ripeness and flash-frozen to preserve its nutrition and flavor. Frozen pineapple can easily sub in for fresh in almost any smoothie, baked good or cooked recipe (though you might want to stick with fresh for things like salsa and salad).

8. Citrus

Fresh citrus is something that I buy by the handfuls every single week, with minimal exceptions. To me, it's one of the easiest ways to level up any recipe, from mains to sides and even drinks (I would not use anything besides fresh citrus for a cocktail or mocktail). Luckily for all of us, spring is the peak season for various delicious types of citrus, including lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruits. While they are a great way to add flavor to meals, they can also be the star of the show—even in savory dishes! Try recipes like our Skillet Lemon Chicken & Potatoes with Kale and Frozen Grapefruit Margaritas to take advantage of the tangy and bright in-season flavors.

The Bottom Line

Eating with the seasons doesn't have to be expensive, and these fruits and vegetables are proof. Whether it's a splash of citrus to brighten up a soup or a handful of greens to add flavor and nutrition, there are so many ways to enjoy spring produce. Plus, cooking and eating with the seasons can help you save resources and money, especially if you're choosing local products. And if you're really feeling ambitious, you can try growing your own vegetables for the freshest and most budget-friendly meals (it could even be a boon for your mental health, too!).

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles