Money Grows on Trees: The Most Versatile Inexpensive Produce

The saying “money doesn’t grow on trees” means nothing to chefs and restauranteurs who know anything about produce. When properly utilized, there are a plethora of different produce items that are worth their weight in gold due to their versatility, taste, nutritional value, and low cost. Whether you’re looking to save some green or merely want to add a new kitchen constant to your belt, consider using some of these options.


Pound for pound, carrots are one of the cheapest vegetables out there. Even from a retail standpoint, a single cup of carrots will run you less than 50 cents, with the price dropping even more if you source from industry leaders like Grimmway Farms. Carrots are also a great root-to-stem vegetable, meaning that you can utilize every piece of the vegetable in different ways.


When it comes to seasoning agents, there are few better picks than onions. Luckily for chefs everywhere, their heavyweight flavor is matched with a wonderfully low price point. Honestly, as long as you pick the proper variety for your dish, there are few savory options that don’t work well with onions.


Trendy and suitable to a wide audience, cauliflower is a great low cost way to appeal to vegans and gluten-free eaters. Best off all, cauliflower is hearty enough to create traditional meat dishes like chicken wings without actually using meat! It’s nutritious too, offering 77% of your daily vitamin C per cup.


While slightly more expensive than other greens like romaine or cabbage, spinach earns a spot on this list due to its versatility. Spinach holds up really well in the cooking process and tastes great whether roasted, steamed, or sautéed. Don’t overlook its peak season either; spinach can be a great way to bring color into winter menus! 


Oranges have a near perfect balance of versatility, nutrition, flavor, and affordability. The superfood is beloved by all ages and is suited to every part of your menu; seriously, cocktail hour and brunch would be nothing without these little beauties. When you add in unique varieties and peel-to-seed techniques, oranges become a fruit you can’t afford to not have in your kitchen. 


Potatoes get a bad wrap. Although starchier and less nutritious than other vegetables, potatoes make up for it by being a blank canvas. The heartiness and mild taste of potatoes can compliment almost any flavor profile with little effort, plus they’re literally the cheapest vegetable out there! Even if nutrition is a make it or break it factor, you can substitute in sweet potatoes for a healthier twist!

Bananas and Plantains

We’re bananas for bananas. Puns aside, bananas and plantains will always have a place in our kitchens. Though the two are drastically different, they share two common factors; they’re both extremely versatile and tantalizingly inexpensive. Fruit fans will be surprised to learn that you can use bananas for more than just smoothies while plantain promoters will love these dishes from around the world.


Last but certainly not least, apples hold a spot on this list due to their undeniable popularity and mind-blowing versatility. There are over 100 different varieties grown commercially in the United States, each with their own unique texture, flavor profile, and color. This flexibility allows apples the chance to show up everywhere from school cafeterias to hipster juice bars to beachside cabanas. Top it all off with a powerful nutritional profile and a low price point to make one of the best fruits in the game.