Breaking news—fall has officially arrived because I saw honey crisp apples at the store yesterday!!
I love honey crisp apples, even though I sometimes wonder if they grow on golden trees in a magical land because they are so expensive. No worries though, I front-loaded my produce budget on honey crisps, and then headed to one of my favorite grocery store finds.
Once again, the reduced produce section saved the day! I usually check out this cart before selecting any of my produce for the week, and yesterday I scored three red peppers for less than a dollar, a large carton of watermelon for a little over a dollar, and 5 bananas for fifty cents. The bargains can be amazing, but there are a few things I keep in mind when selecting items from the reduced produce section:
- Inspect produce carefully. A few nicks or outward signs of produce end-of-life are to be expected on the reduced produce cart, but it still needs to be edible. I freaked out earlier this summer when I found a huge pile of raspberry cartons marked down to thirty cents each and threw several cartons into my cart. I freaked out again an hour later when I opened the cartons at home to find sketchy patches of mold.
- Develop a plan and purpose for the reduced produce items. If I don’t want a cucumber to begin with, even a fancy-pants greenhouse expensive cucumber, then I definitely won’t reach for the slightly imperfect cucumber on the reduced cart. It’s not a deal if the produce simply dies a slow death in my crisper drawer.
- Be flexible. I quickly survey the reduced produce cart and try to determine if I can use any of the items as substitutions in my planned menus and recipes. For example, I randomly found a red onion in the reduced produce section a few weeks ago and bought it to use in a stir-fry instead of completing my planned purchase of a sweet onion. The stir-fry still worked, I expanded my onion horizons, and I saved some money.
- Freeze. I regularly buy bananas past their prime and freeze them for future use. Simply peel each banana, cut in half or in smaller bites, and place in a resealable freezer bag. They are great to have on hand for smoothies, whipped banana oats, or baking.