Can frozen and tinned fruit and veg save you money?

As you gaze in shock at yet another rise in fresh fruit and vegetables, is it time to look at the alternatives?

Devastating floods and fires damaged growing areas a few years ago which sent prices skyrocketing, but while they have eased somewhat, it still seems like fruit and veg are ever-edging up and up. 

So what are our options as far as substitutions go? Can frozen and canned fruit and veg save you money? Consumer advocates CHOICE seems to think so, but only up to a point.

The group recently released its 2024 Consumer Pulse Survey that found the cost of food and groceries was a concern for Australians, with 87 per cent reporting they were worried. CHOICE says this has remained consistently high since March. 

It reflects a wider community trend with bill stress. Compare Club research has found increasing anxiety about paying household expenses. The research found 40 per cent of Australians are spending more than 50 per cent of their income on household bills alone. 

So is frozen as good as fresh? Well yes and no. Yes, because they can be snap-frozen at the peak of production, so you don’t lose any nutrients, but you may lose some flavour.

Australia is a big country, and transporting fresh fruit from the growing areas to markets can mean a considerable chance of lowering the quality. For example, peas can lose up to half their vitamin C content in the first 24-48 hours after picking. Freezing can, well, freeze, that quality in place. 

Dietician Alice Bleathmantold CHOICE the nutritional difference was ‘negligible’. 

“Frozen fruit and vegetables are almost like-for-like in terms of nutritional value compared to fresh.”

However, it’s always a good idea to check for any ‘added’ flavour enhancers that can impact the quality of the product and the nutritional value. Things such as sauces, salt, preservatives and sugars are regularly added to frozen food to improve their taste. 

“Choose reputable brands with good quality control practices and check the packaging, avoiding those with ice crystals or signs of freezer burn which can indicate temperature fluctuations,” Ms Bleathman says. 

Many vegetables are also blanched, or boiled in water very quickly, before freezing which can remove some nutrients.

CHOICE found many frozen fruit and veg can be cheaper than fresh, especially for out-of-season produce. So if you want a mango smoothie in the middle of winter, you are better off buying the frozen stuff. 

As for tinned, while they can be cheaper, the nutritional variation is a lot more extreme. Quality can be patchy, especially for cheaper overseas brands with unknown processing techniques. 

“The nutritional quality and overall value of tinned fruit and veg can vary widely based on several factors,” warns Ms Bleathman. 

She recommends checking the labels thoroughly before purchasing. “Syrups can add extra sugars, increasing calorie content, while brines can add extra sodium,” she said. 

Canning also adds heat to foods, breaking down some nutrients. Typically the process heats the food to between 120-140C, leading to much higher loss of nutrients. 

There is also a much higher change in texture and taste for tinned goods. Take peas again. Great from frozen, but tinned peas are almost another product again. 

But once again, they can save you money. Buying on special and having them on hand to bulk out recipes such as casseroles or pasta can offer considerable savings, especially for products such as tinned beans and tomatoes. Once again, they also offer considerable savings for produce out of season such as stone fruit and tropical fruit. 

In a comparison, CHOICE found fresh is cheaper for many apples, avocado, bananas, beetroot, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, onions, pears, pineapple, potatoes and tomatoes.

Frozen is cheaper for blackberries, blueberries, corn (cobs only), green beans, raspberries, spinach and strawberries.

Tinned was cheaper for apricots, corn (kernels only), mango and passionfruit.

Do you buy tinned or frozen food? Do you prefer the taste or is it the price? Why not share your experience in the comments section below?

Also read: Grocery items you should never buy full price

Jan Fisher
Jan Fisher
Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.


  1. I do buy some canned and frozen fruit and vegetables. Not so much from a price perspective, although that’s important, but mainly to avoid waste. In a one person household, I rarely use up the fresh food. That’s a waste of money and bad for the environment. With frozen, I can use the exact amount. With canned, any leftover can usually be frozen. It’s a win for me.

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