EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Lifestyle

August 2, 2013

Produce buying secrets

Dear Jill,

Can you discuss produce savings in your column? I know sometimes there are coupons for fresh produce, but I’d like to hear your thoughts on how we can save money buying something we all need. Is it worth paying more for organics? Are you only eating canned and frozen things because there are coupons? Let’s talk produce!

Anne Marie M.

Here are some of my favorite supermarket strategies and secrets for buying produce. They’ll benefit couponers and non-couponers alike.

Produce:

Weigh your produce. Any produce items that come pre-bagged (potatoes, apples, onions) in a 3- or 5-pound bag are usually packed by volume, not weight. Weigh the bags to find the ones with the most fruit and vegetables inside.

Shake it:

If you’re buying fresh produce from refrigerated cases that mist the produce with water, shake the produce off thoroughly before you bag it. You’d be surprised how much water can be retained in a head of broccoli or a celery bunch. And if you don’t shake it off, you’re paying for water.

Buying produce:

Buying what’s in season is always going to be cheaper, per pound, than buying what isn’t. I like to buy what’s in season too as it tends to be more flavorful and fresher. Some of the long-term “fresh” produce storage methods may surprise you – apples can be stored in a controlled atmospheric setting for well over a year. Author Martin Lindstrom researched this topic in his book, “Brandwashed” (Crown Business, 2011) and noted the average grocery store apple is 14 months old! Think about it – if you’re buying apples in March, they’re not fresh.

Organic produce:

Is it worth the extra cost? Much is often made of the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list, which keeps track of the produce with the highest concentration of pesticides. The EWG advises buying organic for the items on the list – apples, celery, peaches and strawberries among them. However, buying non-organic fruits with skins that you remove before eating, such as oranges, grapefruit, pineapples, kiwis and bananas will save you money. These fruits are on the “Clean Fifteen” list, where there’s little difference between organics and non-organics.

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