Secrets Of The Produce Department In Your Grocery Store
You’re just trying to make a healthy decision by going to the grocery store and buying fruits and vegetables. You think, “I’m saving money by cooking from home, and I’m making healthy choices because I’m grabbing all of these beautiful fruits and vegetables.” It is good to add produce to your diet, but your efforts may be in vain if you aren’t familiar with some of the secrets behind those pretty aisles of glistening bell peppers and bright oranges. It’s not all quite what it seems. The grocery store has some tricks up their sleeve around how they present and store their produce. You as the consumer also just need to know what to look for to make sure you’re really getting the best product. When is it worth it to spend a few extra bucks? When is it a scam? You just want to provide your family with nutrients. Here are tips for hacking the produce section at your grocery store.
Perhaps those saran-wrapped bundles of carrots look convenient. They’ve already been peeled and trimmed so nicely. Here’s the problem with that: that peel serves as a natural preservative. Now that it’s been removed, the insides of the carrots have been exposed to oxygen and will go soft quickly. This is even truer if the bottoms of the carrots have been cut down to stumps. Grab the unpeeled, uncut variety and trim them yourself when you’re ready to eat them.
Grabbing those bags of precut/pre-washed lettuce may seem like a time-saver, but you may notice that that lettuce wilts quickly. That’s because every single edge of every cut piece is now exposed to oxygen, and going bad by the hour. Buy whole heads—they’ll stay fresher, longer.
Have you ever found a nectarine or peach that seemed spongy? You bit into it and it was watery and mushy? That’s likely because the store had the fruit frozen in-transit. When it defrosts, its consistency becomes a mess. These types of fruits are best purchased at the Farmer’s Market.
Apples can last for a long time without showing signs of aging. That’s great for us, should the apocalypse hit, but you don’t want to buy apples that have already been at the store for a long time. Apples are some of the worst culprits in grocery stores: some have been in storage for a year. This is another food you may want to get at your Farmer’s Market.
That old salad bar
Want to hit up the salad bar for a quick and healthy lunch? Just know that many grocery stores just use the produce that was pushing the limits of a healthy lifespan to make those salads. Translation: eat that salad today. Or, just make your own at home.
Veiny produce can be a good thing
You’re charged a higher price for the beautiful, flawless fruit, but that’s a shame because the ones covered in those rough veins are better. Those veins mean the fruit was fighting an infection (it sounds bad, but it actually means nothing to our systems), and when it does that, it produces more sugar. In other words, ugly fruit is sweeter.
Reach to the rear
When grabbing bundles of lettuce and radishes off the shelves, move things around and grab the bundle in the back. The items in the front are the oldest, since the shelves are stocked from the back.
Some other items are very old
Apples aren’t the only old produce in the store. Potatoes and tomatoes can be months old, since grocery stores have certain preservatives they’re allowed to apply while these sit in storage until their “season” aka when customers expect to see them on shelves.
Pre-cut broccoli stumps
Those short broccoli stumps that are mostly all broccoli head look appealing, and cost the most, but they’re the most problematic. Get the tall stalks, with the broccolis blossoming off the sides. Once these are cut into stumps, they’re exposed to oxygen, and can go bad quickly. They’re also exposed to bacteria.
Avoid wet produce
The misters add a refreshing touch to the produce aisle, but they do more harm than good. They tend to sit over leafy greens like spinach, romaine lettuce, and kale. But these items are watery by nature. Adding more water to them means they wilt as soon as they spend even ten minutes away from either a mister or your fridge.
Shiny food= waxy food
If a food looks shiny (like bell peppers, apples, and cucumbers), it likely has wax on it. Wax isn’t necessarily harmful, however, our bodies can’t digest it. Furthermore, it is water-resistant, so the only way to get it off is to peel that produce, but most of the nutrients are in the peel.
The fruit salads can be risky
Those little containers of mango and watermelon chunks can make a convenient snack. However, once they’re cut, they lose their protective layer and can quickly become exposed to bacteria. That swirly outer case of a watermelon keeps it safe from germs.
Organic produce may be contaminated
Organic produce is no longer organic if it’s been stored next to and co-mingled with the non-organic produce. Then the pesticides of the latter rub off on the former. Make sure your store keeps the organic produce completely separate from non-organic items.
The organic issue comes up again because, unless you can confirm that the grocery store uses all natural cleaning products, then your organic produce is once again exposed to chemicals and pesticides when it comes time for the staff to spray down floors and shelves.
Many, many reasons to rinse
Just a quick note on cleaning your produce: there are many, many reasons to do so. First, the produce is picked in the field by tons of dirty hands. Then many dirty hands handle it in the store to put it on shelves. Then customers touch the produce, picking out their favorite apple. Sometimes produce falls on the floor, and is put back on the shelf. Then there’s the conveyor belt at the cash register, which is filthy.