First, there are plenty of places where you can buy food. You might shop at several different retail locations to fulfill your shopping list: wholesale clubs, specialty stores, health food stores, convenience stores, gas stations, drugstores, mail order, and online shopping services, for example. For the sake of this series, we are sticking to the typical grocery store. And, today, we’re focusing on the produce department; specifically, fruits.
One key thing to keep in mind in the produce department is to stay flexible, mentally. You might enter with your heart set on picking up fresh strawberries, only to find that they’re out of stock or maybe even out of season. So, consider swapping out for another fresh fruit, like peaches or cherries.
Take advantage of seasonal produce whenever you can. You’ll find it is often cheaper and more flavorful, and that you generally have a wider, better selection. Plus, fruits and vegetables are most nutritious and flavorful at their peak quality.
You’ll also need to be a savvy shopper in the produce department, because that’s where you can really run up your bill (especially if you’re like me). Here are some things to look for to help you be that savvy consumer:
- Is the department clean and eye appealing? A clean store/department often will indicate a measure of care for products, as well.
- Are the fruits in good condition without a lot of brown spots or decay? Damaged and bruised fruit, while generally still edible, hastens spoilage.
- Consider the ripeness of your fruit. Some people like fruits to ripen at home while others prefer already-ripened fruits ready to eat that day.
Some fruits, such as bananas, apples, mangoes and pears, will ripen after they are picked. Others, like avocados, will ripen only after they are picked. And still others, like peaches, blueberries, cantaloupe, and honeydew, don’t necessarily become sweeter after picking but their texture and juiciness continues to ripen.
Think about buying small, as well. Not just smaller quantities, but small items. Small fruit often is sweeter than a larger piece of the same kind of fruit.
Handle your fruits gently, and place them into the plastic bags found in rolls around the produce section or reusable bags you bring from home. The bags help you itemize, but they also help protect you. Placing unprotected produce of any kind in your cart can lead to cross-contamination (picking up germs left by other items).
Buy only the amount you need, because fruits are perishable. And when you throw out rotted food, you really are just throwing away your money.
Here is a tip to prevent your fruits from decaying too soon. When you arrive home from the store, place your fruit directly into the refrigerator without washing it first. Fruit has a natural protective coating that protects it from early rotting. Washing the fruit ahead of placing it into the refrigerator also promotes decays because of the moisture level left on the fruit. Bottom line: wash the fruit under fresh, cold water just before eating.
One last thought for your health. Be colorful! Choose a colorful variety of fruits because each can provide different nutrients. Don’t be shy about trying something new. Buy one piece and try it. Perhaps you’ll get hooked on something new and different.
Finally, support your local farmers by purchasing locally grown fruit whenever possible. Locally grown products don’t travel as far and can be picked just a day or two before it arrives at the store. That’s better for the environment, for your produce, and for your neighbors/growers.
NEXT: We are staying in the produce department, to talk about vegetables.