I live in a rural area, too, but in a small town (1500 people) that has one chain grocer, a mom and pop grocer, and a health food co-op, plus farm stands and a farmer's market in season. I can tell you that the farm stands here are not any cheaper than the grocery store sales in summer. A few things might be cheaper, but for the most part they're not. I belong to a CSA, an organic farm where I buy a membership every year and get veggies every week. It's expensive since it's organic, but the produce is outstanding, and I like supporting our local farms and community so I cut my costs elsewhere.
I eat a lot of beans and usually save a bundle by buying dry beans and cooking them in my pressure cooker. I have black beans with my eggs in the morning and usually some kind of bean soup for lunch. They're very very inexpensive and one of the "superfoods", packed with nutrition.
I use frozen veggies, but only certain ones that maintain a decent texture when cooked. I like the whole green beans that are on the market now, especially since I can't seem to find nice fresh ones very often. They're great steamed and sauteed with olive oil, garlic, and sometimes some thinly sliced fresh red peppers for color. They stay fairly crunchy for frozen veggies. I also use frozen peppers for things like chili and soups. Frozen peppers are generally much cheaper than the fresh ones in my grocery stores and when they're going to be cooked in a soup or stew, the texture doesn't matter. I do buy fresh ones for my salads and snacks, or for stuffing.
Using every little bit of the fresh veggies I buy helps stretch my dollars. Broccoli is great when I can find it on sale. There have been times in the winter when broccoli is $4/lb one week and $1.29 the next. If I buy whole bunches rather than crowns, I cut off the stems and shred them for slaw. Most of the time I mix it with cabbage and shredded carrots. These veggies can be shredded and kept in a ziploc bag for a quick slaw or for stir frying. They will last for quite a while, so it's easy to do this on the weekend and have everything prepped for a weeknight meal. I like to use Newman's sesame ginger dressing for an asian slaw and the best part is that my family loves it this way. By the way, cabbage is usually fairly inexpensive and goes a very long way when it's shredded.
I also use veggies that are starting to wilt. Those nice packages of salad mix can be used in omelets when they start getting soggy. Just tuck a handful into an omelet - no need to cook the greens first - they wilt just from the heat of the pan. You can also throw them into soups. I also use up my grape tomatoes that are getting soggy by roasting them with other veggies like cauliflower. Almost any veggie tastes good roasted with a drizzle of olive oil, even some of the frozen ones!
Restart : 1/8/13
Restart Wt: 184.4
Round 1: 1/5/09
Beginning Wt: 191.6
Goal #1 Met: 160.0 7/09
Goal #2 Met: 155.0 3/10
Ultimate goal: 150-155 without having to kill myself with exercise or give up chocolate, ice cream, or wine!