Dollars and Sense: Big savings on produce? Head out to the ‘Ranch’ - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Voices

Dollars and Sense: Big savings on produce? Head out to the ‘Ranch’

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Linda Hutchings is a Gilbert resident and a life-long frugal consumer—uh, cheap skate. Please reach her at: Send her your penny-pinching ideas.

Posted: Thursday, October 10, 2013 10:17 am

Shopping at Superstition Ranch Market, unlike the name itself, isn’t based on anything supernatural.

While the market actually bears the name of Arizona’s beautiful mountain range, shopping here is sane and satisfying.

Like most farmers’ markets, the store is a little raw, but it’s well worth a trip; it’s a great place to save money.

The market is on the south side of Main Street in Mesa between Greenfield and Higley roads. Drive past the store, see the busy parking lot, and know that you are missing out — big time! — if you don’t check it out. Hand painted signs along Main Street announce the outstanding values of the day. If you live farther east, there is a sister ranch market in Apache Junction on 114th Street.

At the Mesa market, you will find the same typical fruit and vegetables that you find in your local grocery stores. Plus, you’ll find nuts, seeds, raisins, grains, candies and a variety of desert-flavored honeys plus a whole lot more.

My freezer is full of fat strawberries that I bought at a rate of four one-pound baskets for $1. I didn’t have to discard even one strawberry. Every time I go down the freezer aisle at a grocery store, I smugly peer through the frosty window to check out the high price of their frozen berries. Mwa, ha, ha — I’m enjoying delicious strawberry smoothies for a fraction of the money I would have spent buying at a grocery store.

Why is the produce such a bargain? The Ranch Market buys special items from other stores some of which may be too irregular in size, too variable in color, or too ripe to stay on the shelf for many days. Also, produce is purchased from other western states and from foreign countries as far away as South America depending on the season.

Bargains at Ranch Market have included 12 ears of corn for $1. Or eight bell peppers for $1. Of course, prices vary by the season. Some shoppers report filling their carts for $17 dollars and their car trunks for $30.

I like the price differential on bananas. Buy pristine bananas at one price and buy fully-ripe bananas at a much lower price. The riper ones make great banana bread and wonderful smoothies.

As in most stores, you have to pick through the produce to find the best quality. The ability to pick your own produce is an American privilege. In Europe I quickly discovered that I wasn’t welcome to touch the produce in many little shops. At Ranch Market, make sure you take the time to select the best fruits and vegetables in each display. You won’t care about the time required to make your selections because the prices are really good.

Superstition Ranch Market is user friendly, too. There is always plenty of parking, and handicapped parking is right in front of the door. The market provides shopping carts and plastic bags, and the bags themselves are practically indestructible. I buy a fat roll of the bags for $12 to use at home. The bags measure 11 inches by 19 inches and are wonderful for storing or freezing home made bread. My roll of bags lasts for many months.

Know that the produce at the market is mostly ripe. So, beware of over buying. After shopping, plan to spend some time at home managing the food. On some of your produce, you’ll need to quickly refrigerate it, freeze it, can it — or consume it. When I first began to shop at the Ranch Market, I gleefully bought too much stuff.

My refrigerator and freezer were crammed full. I had to unpack them like suitcases if I wanted a tomato or some frozen peaches. So, learn from my mistake and don’t buy too much at one time. The best approach is to shop at the Ranch Market once a week.

The side benefit of buying at this money-saving market is that you will undoubtedly eat more fruit and vegetables. Consuming five servings of fruit and vegetables a day has been shown to directly improve one’s health. Eating sufficient produce diminishes the chance of getting many ailments: heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, cancer, and digestion problems to name a few. The Center for Disease Control says that we are eating less fruit and vegetables now than 10 years ago.

The Bogeyman of Economic Hard Times has us all in a choke hold. By shopping at locales like Superstition Ranch Market, we can financially fight back, break free, and breathe again.

What: Superstition Ranch Market

Where: In Mesa — 4755 E. Main St [Monday through Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.]; In Apache Junction — 7 North 114th St. [Monday through Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Sunday 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.]

Information: Mesa — (480) 832-3421; Apache Junction — (480) 984.3568; Online —

Details: No checks; pay with credit cards, EBT or cash

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