As a general rule, start by noting the condition of the produce department. It should be clean and organized, with an ample selection of fresh vegetables. Check how the vegetables are displayed and maintained. Many stores spray vegetables with a fine, water mist. That keeps greens crisp, but it also can make vegetables soggy, promoting mold growth and rot.
Just as with picking the best fruits in the produce department, there are some tips to selecting premium quality vegetables.
For greens like lettuces and kales, look for fresh, tender leaves that don’t contain brown spots or any yellowing. Items such as potatoes should be firm with no wrinkles or sprouts. Potatoes should not have signs of bruising or green areas, caused by exposure to light. Lift up the bag of potatoes and examine the bag carefully before placing it into your cart.
Vegetables such as cucumbers, celery, carrots and eggplants should all be firm, with no signs of bruising or soft spots.
Maybe you are searching for longer-lasting produce, something that will hold better in storage. If so, try broccoli, cabbage, carrots, Brussels sprouts, parsnips, potatoes and sweet potatoes, as well as the assortment of squash. These vegetables will hold well in either your refrigerator or pantry.
For convenience, choose prewashed bags of salad greens, sliced vegetables, etc. But remember, these items, while convenient and time-saving, cost more than their whole counterparts and the extra packaging typically ends up in our landfills, unless you recycle.
One last thought before you pick up any prepackaged vegetable: check the expiration date! If you are going to pay more for the item, it should have an expiration date that gives you time to enjoy the food.
Here is another cost-cutting shopping tip. If you are searching for a particular vegetable and you can’t find it because it’s out of season, try the frozen food section or even the canned or jarred varieties. They provide year-round availability for many seasonal products.
Canned or jarred vegetables are great to keep in your pantry. They come in convenient portions and they’re non-perishable, so they are a staple when preparing for hurricane season. And frozen vegetables, especially when packaged in bags, can be portioned out with no need to thaw or use the entire package. Companies use a quick-freezing process that retains color, flavor and, importantly, nutritional quality.
And as we said in the last blog: buy colorful and only in the amount you need. That’ll keep you in fresh produce, and keep more of your money where it belongs: in your pocket..
NEXT: The frozen food section, with a look at fruits, vegetables and frozen meals.