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Monday, April 1, 2019

How I Compare the Price Per Serving for Fresh, Dried, and Juiced Fruits

I mentioned comparing the price per serving for fresh fruit and juice last week in the comments. I had previously developed my own calculations to help me assess whether or not using juice or dried fruit would be as cost-effective per serving as some of the fresh fruit that's within my price range. So, here are my thoughts and how I've determined what will work for my small budget. This may only be entertainment for most of you. However, I've received a few emails and read a couple of comments which suggest that I am not the only one trying to make a small grocery budget work. Therefore, some of my own thoughts may help those of you who fall into this same group.

I've set a current price per pound for what I'm willing to spend on fresh fruit at about 50 cents. This low price per pound limits our choices to bananas and maybe apples or oranges. It's not enough to have the price per pound limit, but I also need to get as many servings per pound to meet a price per serving target.

So, with small bananas, there are about 3 bananas (or servings) per pound. At 42 cents/lb (what I pay at Walmart and WinCo), then each banana costs about 13 cents each. A small banana has about 90 calories.

With medium oranges averaging 4.6 ounces each, there are about 3.5 medium oranges per pound. At 50 cents/lb, each orange would cost 14 cents and contain about 62 calories.

With medium apples, there are about 3 per pound. At 50 cents per pound, each medium apple costs 16 cents, and contains about 80 calories.

Using this information, for my family's budget, I've determined that a single serving of fruit should contain between 65 and 90 calories and should cost between 13 and 17 my calorie range for a serving of fruit is about 65 to 90 calories, and my price range per serving is about 13 to 17 cents each.

This is pretty straight forward. If I find medium apples or oranges priced at or below 50 cents per pound, then my cost per serving lines up with my budget goals.

So, what about dried fruit or 100% fruit juice?

The least expensive purchased dried fruit in my area is raisins. When comparing raisins, I can't do a straight across comparison, as the water content of raisins has mostly been removed. So, I decided to base my calculations on calorie content, looking for a serving of raisins that provides about 90 calories. (That would be about 3 tablespoons.) I went with the high end of my calorie range as grapes/raisins are naturally high in sugar, and anything smaller than 3 tablespoons would be unrealistic as a serving.

16 ounces of raisins contains about 1360 calories. There are about 15  90-calorie portions of raisins in a pound. So, if raisins are priced between $1.95 and $2.55 per pound, then each 90-calorie portion falls between my price per serving range of 13 and 17 cents. In my area, my cheapest price for raisins is at Cash & Carry, with a 4-lb bag of raisins for $9.37, or $2.34 per pound, or not quite 16 cents per serving.

The other form of fruit that we're using is 100% fruit juice made from frozen concentrate. The US government uses 6 ounces of juice as a portion size. With orange juice made from concentrate, there are 82 calories in a 6-oz serving of orange juice when made according to the package directions, falling within my calorie range for a serving of fruit. One 12-oz can of orange juice concentrate makes 8 82-calorie portions. So a 12-oz can  of concentrate would have to cost between $1.04 and $1.36 to fall within my own guidelines for price. However, the 16-oz can of concentrate is often less expensive per ounce than the 12-oz can. Using my Senior Discount at Fred Meyer, I can buy the 16-oz cans of orange juice concentrate for $1.61 each (which is the equivalent of $1.20 for a 12-oz can). I get 10.66 fruit servings from the 16-oz can of concentrate, so my price per serving is about 15 cents, which is within my range.

The price per serving for 100% apple juice is also based on a 6-oz portion of juice, made up according to package direction. A 12-oz can of the frozen concentrate has about 700 calories. One 12-oz can makes about 48 ounces of fluid. In a 48-oz pitcher, there are 8  6-ounce portions of apple juice, each having 87 calories. I bought a 12-oz can of concentrate at WinCo for 99 cents, so each  87-calorie serving costs 12 cents, which is actually below my price range.

So, this is what we've found that will work within our small budget for the current few months: fresh fruit priced below 50 cents/lb and between 13 and 17 cents per piece, raisins when priced between $1.95 and $2.55 per pound, and 100% frozen fruit juice concentrate when priced between 99 cents and $1.36 for the 12-oz can, or $1.81 for the 16-oz can.

I'm not policing portion sizes or even how many servings of fruit a person consumes in a day. I figure that our bodies will consume however many calories and portions of fruit that they require.

My price per pound on fruit will have to change when melon season begins. Melons contain more water than apples or bananas, so I will use calorie content when considering the cost per serving. Our garden produces almost all of the fruit that we consume in summer, providing rhubarb (technically a vegetable but we eat it as a fruit), strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, huckleberries, cranberries, apples, plums, pears, cherries, grapes, figs, and crabapples. I also buy peaches and nectarines in summer, which I know won't fall below 50 cents per pound, but hopefully our budget will allow a higher price per pound for fresh fruit, then.

I hope that this has all made sense. Basically, calories seemed like the best way to determine a price per serving of fruit that could cover fresh, juiced, and dried fruit.


  1. Wow! All that analyzing just blew me away! Fruit is expensive during the winter and citrus gives me reflux so we're only purchasing bananas, grapes and some apples.


    1. Hi Alice,
      It sounds like your fruit selection is pretty limited, too. Soon, though, the other fruits should come into season. Do you have fruit trees or berries on your property?

  2. Sounds like a reasonable way to assess the cost of fruit. Hope I'm not getting overly technical, but do you estimate the cost of peelings/pits in your fruit?

    1. Hi Kris,
      I do think about that sometimes, especially with bananas, as there is so much that I don't use (except as compost). At least with the thick rind on watermelon I can turn that into pickles. But to myself, I have thought that apples and pears are a very low-waste fruit. Oranges can be, if you use the peels to make candied orange peel. I haven't done anything with that information, just observed that some fruits have more waste.

  3. I have a lot of set points for buying different foods, but have never analyzed fruits like this. Besides doing this for cost comparison, I'm sure that it's important to you to know that you are providing good nutrition at the same time.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      Oh yes, I am trying to make sure I buy mostly nutrient-dense foods, right now, and looking at each item more closely has helped with that. The other valuable aspect for me, of figuring this all out, is that I can now plan how much to buy and how much of my budget needs to go toward fruit. As a once a month shopper, for the most part, this way I am closer to what we will actually eat and don't over or under buy as much.

  4. I've noticed thay fruits are larger today than in the past. GMO and better technology? I don't think I could find apples and bananas at 3 per pound, and oranges 3.5 per pound. I'd be lucky to find apples and oranges more than 2 per pound. Fruits in our state cost at least $1 per pound, except pineapples and bananas, around .79 per pound. Today, I bought cantaloupe at .79 /lb, and pears at 1.29/lb, which were the cheapest. When not on sale, apples, oranges, and grapes are over $2/lb. For me, fruits are a nice snack to have around. Because of the high carb content, I find it satisfies me so I don't look for other snacks (except my husband can't go without his favorite snacks.) Too bad, these snacks are not easy to make at home, and are empty calories too.

    Calorie is an interesting way to gauge nutrition and cost. After all, to maintain steady weight we must eat set calories. I know one day, before I start losing my memory function (doctor said what I described to him was a senior moment), I want to make a spreadsheet of nutritive value per serving/calories and cost. So nerdy, but I love keeping track of everything quantifiable.

    Have a good evening,

    1. Hi YHF,
      Oh I agree, pieces of fruit are huge, now. I do find the smaller ones at lower priced markets, either in bags, or as loose (like bananas). Walmart and WinCo have small bananas in my area, and also have bananas cheaper per pound than anywhere else. I think there is a correlation there. Also, WinCo gets bags of apples that they call l"lunch-size" and are smaller than what is loose on the rack. And the only place I can find small to medium oranges is at a local produce stand, again bagged in 10-lb bags, and priced low. Often times these aren't the prettiest pieces of fruit, but the price is right for me. The other way that we've done it in the past is to cut large pieces of fruit in half. I used to buy very large bananas at Trader Joe's for 19 cents each. I would cut 1 in half for each of my daughters' lunches. That was a pretty good deal back then. Are there any fruits that you could or do grow on your property?

      That's an interesting idea to make a spread sheet for nutrition per serving of various food items. I understand the attraction to keeping calculations and records. I'm that way with my grocery lists/price sheets.


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