Part of the fun of shopping with Mom was hearing the arguments that she sometimes had with the storekeepers on the avenue. She knew good produce and she knew her price. No one was going to make a fool out of her by trying to pass off anything that was substandard or too expensive.
Mom would pick up a bunch of grapes and make a face while inspecting it. She would then taste one to see if it was good. I remember her making a big deal about the price: “Ridiculous!” she’d proclaim. All under the watchful eye of the seller, who knew he could not get away with anything with this lady.
Shopping Wisely to Prevent Food Waste
In her later years, Mom would shop with three or four friends. They shared what they bought and depended on her to get the best price and quality. If a bunch of celery was too much for any one of them to use alone, they would each take some home. Or, if she wanted a watermelon, she and her friends would share the fruit and the expense. And there was no concern about excess food going bad.
While I have never had Mom’s flair for the dramatic, there are some really good lessons here: Get the best value for your money and prevent food waste. By knowing what is in season, what good produce looks and smells like, and knowing your price, you’re more likely to get the best quality at the best value.
Another vital part of preventing waste is knowing how to store produce — especially if you have more than you can eat before it spoils. This is where the grower or the produce vendor comes in.
Tap Into Your Food Vendor’s Knowledge
The other day at work, a man noticed my under-ripe banana. “That won’t be ready to eat for at least three days!” he told me, explaining that he knows this from his past experience as a produce man. He also warned me not to store bananas in the refrigerator; they would not be as tasty and sweet as when they can ripen on the counter.
I was grateful for his advice, and it occurred to me that experts like this man are a valuable source of information. Since then, I have tapped into his knowledge about such things as what to do with a bunch of celery or a gigantic head of green cabbage (cook it and freeze it, then find recipes!). So, I can buy these foods with confidence, knowing that they won’t wind up in the compost pile or the garbage.
It is a good idea to talk to your produce vendor or the growers from your farmers market or CSA. Learn how to recognize excellent produce and learn what is in season now — particularly in your region.
I think that most vendors would be glad to share their knowledge and to teach you how to store perishables and how long they will stay fresh. You might even get some good recipes!
You can then buy with confidence, enjoy your food, and prevent food waste!
About the Author
Joanna Lacey lives in New York and has collected thousands of ideas from the frugal habits of her mother and grandmother. You can find her on Facebook at Joanna the Green Maven.