Shopping for produce seems like it should be easy. Unfortunately, because of the way that most fruits are picked, packed, and shipped, it can be more challenging than it appears. If you find yourself throwing away a lot of uneaten fruit, these tips might help:
Do buy frozen fruits.
Frozen produce is just as packed with nutrients as its fresh equivalent. In some cases, it may be better — while fresh produce can sit for days before its purchased and eaten, frozen fruits and vegetables are frozen at the peak of freshness, which preserves more of their nutrients. Frozen fruits also tend to be much cheaper.
The trick here is to buy pure frozen fruit, not smoothie mixes. Frozen fruits should be nothing but fruit, while smoothie mixes may contain added sugar or preservatives. Always read ingredient lists and avoid foods with unnecessary sweeteners or preservatives.
Don’t buy underripe berries.
Some fruits will ripen after picking. If you buy a bunch of green bananas, for example, you can wait a few days while they ripen and become softer and sweeter. This can be a smart strategy if you know you won’t use fruit right away. Berries, however, don’t do this. However ripe they are when you buy them is as ripe as they are going to get. If you aren’t going to eat or use berries right away, either freeze them or purchase pre-frozen berries.
Other foods that don’t ripen after picking include:
Do smell fruit before buying.
Many fruits will begin to smell sweet when they near ripeness. Pineapple, for example, will smell fruity if you sniff the stem end. If you smell a pungent smell similar to wine or beer, skip the fruit. This can indicate that it’s overripe and beginning to ferment.
Don’t buy fresh fruit in prepackaged bags.
It might seem like a good deal, but prepackaged fresh fruits are on the “don’t” list for a number of reasons. For one, packing fruit in a bag means that the fruit will bang together more, causing bruising. Bags also make it more difficult to see if any of the fruit is damaged. Since most bags are still made of plastic, prepackaged fruit also contributes to the epidemic of single-use plastic pollution.
Instead, purchase fresh fruit from open bins. You’ll be able to see exactly what you’re getting, know-how ripe it is, and skip any fruits that are bruised, overripe, or have bugs.
Do buy in season.
Buying in-season produce can save you a lot of money. Domestic blueberries, for example, will be much cheaper than blueberries that have to be flown in from another country. They’ll also have a much lower carbon footprint. Since out-of-season produce has to travel so far, that lengthens the time between picking and eating. The more time there is after picking, the more opportunity there is for nutrient levels to start dropping.
Don’t forget your farmers’ market.
Buying frozen and in-season fruit is great for saving money, but your local farmers’ market can save you even more. Best of all, you’ll know that all of the fruit there is local, in-season, and freshly picked.
Do take a deeper look.
When supermarket employees stock things, they are taught to put the newer items behind older ones. This is a strategy that ensures that foods stay fresh, and the ones that have been in the store the longest get sold first. If you’re shopping for fruit, take a look behind what’s in front. The freshest produce and least-handled produce will probably be in the back.
Don’t buy pre-cut.
The more fruits and vegetables are processed, the higher their cost and the lower their nutrient profile. Whole fruits will always be a better deal, money, and nutrition-wise. After produce is cut and exposed to the air, it begins to oxidize and deteriorate. The skin of a fruit protects all of the good stuff inside, so you should try to keep it intact right up until you’re ready to use it.
Fresh picked, local produce is the best buy when it comes to cost, nutrition, and sustainability. Frozen fruit is a close second. If you want to give yourself and your family the highest quality, most flavorful fruit you can, follow these tips to maximize your fruit-buying power.