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9 Mistakes You’re Making When Shopping for Produce

Learn how to avoid these common grocery shopping mistakes.

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Young woman shopping in the fresh produce section at the grocery store.Shutterstock / Arina P Habich

The produce aisle is a colorful, texture-filled garden of earthly delights that makes us feel happy and hopeful about what we’re going to be feeding ourselves and our families (Skeptical? Check out these spirit-lifting leafy green recipes!) Unfortunately, it’s also a minefield of mistakes just waiting to be made. Here are the ones you’re making that might be keeping you from bringing home the best of the best fruits and veggies.

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Wegmans grocery store facade and sign with people and Christmas wreath decorationsPhoto: Shutterstock / Andriy Blokhin

Shopping at the Wrong Store

You don’t have to spend a pretty penny in order to get great fruits and veggies. But the fact is that some produce departments are better than others. Consumer Reports has identified some of the stores with the best produce departments (including Wegmans) and some of the stores with the worst (including Target). But you can find high-quality fruits and veggies in many venues, including specialty markets and even online grocers. When in doubt, your local farmers market is always a great bet—find the best one in your state.

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Fresh organic BananaPhoto:Shutterstock / PS Prometheus

Thinking You Can Outsmart the Bananas

Turns out, there’s an art to picking the best banana. “If you buy a banana that’s too green, it might never ripen,” advises Consumer Reports, which suggests buying yellow bananas and storing them in the fridge. “The skin will blacken, but the color won’t affect the flesh.”

Already have over-ripe bananas on your counter? Use them to make this easy banana bread recipe.

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StrawberriesTaste of Home

Reaching for Underripe Berries

Strawberries you buy in the supermarket are as ripe as they’re ever going to be, according to Megan Crivelli, the produce expert behind the Produce Nerd. Avoid berries with a white top or tip because those spots will never ripen. Instead, look for bright red strawberries with a natural shine and fresh-looking green caps.

Use them up in these incredible strawberry desserts.

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Texture of pineapples, pineapples on the shop-windowShutterstock / AlexanderDubrovsky

…Or Pineapples

“There is a common misconception that pineapples will continue ripening on the counter, but that is not true,” says Crivelli. For future reference, these are the fruits that will and will not ripen once you bring them home from the supermarket.

When you pick the perfect pineapple, try it in these tropical recipes.

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melons on display shelf at the supremarketShutterstock / digidreamgrafix

Neglecting to Inspect Your Cantaloupe

You’re going to need perfectly ripe cantaloupe for this cantaloupe sorbet recipe, so you best learn the right way to check if one’s ripe. To do this, check the stem end of your cantaloupe. It should be slightly indented and free of any remaining stem. Also be sure it’s free from soft spots and an overly sweet smell—this could mean its gone bad.

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cauliflowerTaste of Home

Not Checking Your Cauliflower for Brown Spots

Brown spots on your cauliflower mean your veggie—which is supposed to be snow-white—is about to go bad. Brown spots also indicate the cauliflower was left unrefrigerated at some point during the journey from farm to produce aisle. So check always check your cauliflower for the telltale brown spots to avoid disappointment.

Check out all these wonderful cauliflower recipes right here!

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Ripe tasty red tomatoes. Village market organic tomatoes. Fresh tomatoes. Qualitative background from tomatoesBarsan ATTILA/Shutterstock

Buying Your Tomatoes Cold

Tomatoes get mealy when they’ve been refrigerated. They also lose flavor. The longer they’re kept cold, the worse the situation gets. So just say “no” to tomatoes that are being sold on a refrigerated shelf or in a refrigerated case. In addition, just say no to tomatoes that haven’t been carefully displayed with their stems facing up—or you should expect to bring home bruised tomatoes.

All of these recipes call for fresh tomatoes.

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3 colors beets on the rusted trayPhoto: Shutterstock/yonibunga

Buying Radishes (or Beets) Without the Greens Attached

According to Phil Lempert, the Supermarket Guru, radishes and beets should be purchased with the green fronds attached. Radish tops should be discarded at home right before using the radishes, and beet greens may be cooked. Another mistake that applies to radishes, beets, and most other fall and winter vegetables: looking for a fragrance. For these vegetables, a fragrance means they’re starting to rot.

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checking list customer at marketShutterstock / Lucky Business

Not Making a List

The produce aisle can be overwhelming. So Lempert advises you to plan your recipes, make a list, bring it with you and actually look at it while shopping. That said, keep an open mind, allowing for on-the-spot substitutions. But don’t bring home produce you don’t know what to do with because chances are, you won’t do anything with it except watch it go bad.

Now check out these six bad habits that make you spend too much at the supermarket.

Lauren Cahn
Lauren Cahn is a New York-based writer whose work has appeared regularly in The Huffington Post as well as a variety of other publications since 2008 on such topics as life and style, popular culture, law, religion, health, fitness, yoga, entertaining and entertainment. She is also a writer of crime fiction; her first full-length manuscript, The Trust Game, was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.