Produce: The Fresh vs. Frozen Debate

Produce: The Fresh vs. Frozen Debate

Frozen foods get a bad rap for being processed junk. But the truth is, some of the healthiest foods in the market are in the freezer section. Hint: it’s produce!

This is because frozen fruits and vegetables are at their peak of ripeness, easy to use, and readily available. Whether fruits and veggies are in season or out of season is going to impact the price of it.

A rainbow of frozen produce.

When Produce is Not in Season

Logically, produce that is out of season is going to be more expensive. This is because they have higher costs associated with delivering it to the store.

In addition to them being more expensive, they often are of lesser quality because of their longer shipping time. 

If you’re buying fresh fruits and vegetables when they’re out of season, it means they’re not being farmed and harvested domestically. Instead, they’re shipped from abroad where local conditions allow them to grow.

By the time we get fruits and veggies home and retrieve them from our refrigerators, many of these nutrients are at levels lower than those seen in frozen produce.

The longer freshly harvested fruits and veggies sit in transit, the fewer nutrients they retain. Think about it. They sit in transit, at the grocery store, and even in your refrigerator. In addition, produce that is out of season was likely picked before it was ripened and then artificially ripened on its way to you. This decreases the nutrient quality of the produce.

Frozen fruits and vegetables are frozen shortly after they’ve been harvested. Because of this, they are allowed to ripen fully before they are picked. This means that frozen produce has locked in all the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that it had when it was freshly picked.

It is for these reasons that when a vegetable or fruit is out of season, purchasing it frozen is a clear winner.

But what about when produce is in season? Is it better to purchase produce frozen or fresh?

Quick facts on fresh vs. frozen.

When Produce is in Season

Well, frozen is usually cheaper, but it depends on the fruit or veggie, including when and where you buy them. It’s probably best to figure out the price per ounce of what is available for you and go from there. This is because the price of fresh is much more likely to fluctuate up and down than something you pick up in your freezer section. 

For reference on when produce is in season, see the charts below for a timeline provided by the USDA.

Of course, the cost of the vegetables and fruits themselves isn’t the only issue—storage and spoilage also can add quite a bit to the overall price of fresh, which frozen would not be hit by.

The longer storage time of frozen fruits and vegetables makes them a smart option for some households even when the fresh produce is in season. This is because you don’t end up having to toss fruits or veggies that have started to turn.

It’s hard to argue the flavor and the nutrition of fresh, ripe fruits and vegetables. When in season, fresh produce provides a flavorful and healthy addition to mealtimes, but they can cost more than their frozen counterparts whom don’t require washing, peeling, or chopping. All in all, frozen produce saves time in preparing meals.

Frozen produce is a clear year-round winner for those of us on a busy schedule, and a tight budget.

When fruits are in season.
When vegetables are in season.

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