How to Pick Produce to Help You Save Money on Groceries

It’s a well-known situation: You’re standing within the produce part on the grocery retailer, assessing a plethora of produce, attempting to bear in mind how on earth you’re supposed to inform if it’s ripe.

You look round and see somebody who seems to be like they know what they’re doing — knocking on a couple of melons, attempting and ditching a couple of earlier than decisively putting one of their cart.

But what are you supposed to hear? Why is that one type of yellow-ish and that different another inexperienced?

Why did you even go grocery purchasing within the first place?

Don’t fear — we’re right here to assist you choose the freshest greens and fruits to make sure you get one of the best produce in your buck.

How to Pick Produce: Your Buying Guide

When it comes to good produce, some culprits are clearly extra ripe than others.

But shopping for meals that’s ripe sufficient (or nonetheless wants a while, relying on your plans) can have a serious impact on how a lot meals — and cash — you waste.

Pro Tip

Knowing how shortly sure meals will go dangerous and the way to retailer them will assist you make a plan in your produce purchases, and, better of all, prevent cash. Let this produce information assist.

If your spinach goes brown and gooey in a single day, you gained’t get the prospect to eat it. And in case your peaches are underripe, it’s possible you’ll neglect them in your fruit bowl when you’re ready, solely to uncover a mushy mess days later.

So to preserve you from a sticky state of affairs — and maximize your grocery funds — we created this record of what to search for in 12 fruit and veggies to guarantee peak ripeness (or a little bit little bit of time to wait) so that you’ll truly get monetary savings on groceries.


Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Although it’s fairly apparent when an apple’s dangerous, among the key markers of ripeness (and overripeness) apply throughout a wide range of fruits, so preserve that in thoughts once you’re on the grocery retailer.

You’re in search of a agency apple that absolutely shows the colour applicable for its selection and feels heavy for its measurement — the heavier, the juicier and riper the flesh.

It’s additionally useful to search for an intact stem finish: It helps a fruit keep wholesome and retains it from drying out.

On the opposite hand, you’ll need to keep away from apparent bruises, mushy spots and blemishes, which might shortly flip a superb piece of fruit to rot.

The smartest thing about apples? Once you do discover a ripe one, simply stick it within the fridge — it’ll final method longer than you suppose. It might be up to six months earlier than it begins to flip rubbery, and even then, you would most likely use it in applesauce or pie filling.


There’s nothing worse than wanting ahead to a scrumptious, creamy avocado — solely to be greeted by a multitude of brown mush as soon as you chop into it.

Fortunately, there’s a super-easy method to determine if avocados are ripe or not: Flick off the little stem bud. If the circle beneath is brilliant inexperienced, your avocado is ripe or shut to it. If it’s brown, steer clear — that one’s already turned.

Another secret: If you purchase rock-hard, unripe avocados, they’ll ripen in a couple of days if you happen to go away them on the counter, and even faster if you happen to put them in a brown paper bag.

Once they’re proper the place you need them — tender however not too mushy to the contact and simply turning from darkish inexperienced to brown — stick ‘em within the fridge to preserve them from ripening any additional.

And if you happen to miss your window, strive one in all these yummy recipes for overripe avocados.


A stack of bananas at the grocery store.
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So, once more, possibly this one’s apparent.

Bananas have one thing like a stoplight system, besides inexperienced means “Stop (I’m not ready yet)!”

Yellow is inexperienced on this analogy, because it means go…

Which means possibly this isn’t an applicable metaphor for bananas.


You most likely know yellow bananas are superior, inexperienced ones are agency and fewer candy and brown ones fall someplace on the mush spectrum from “edible, but kind of like baby food” to “totally rotten.”

But if you buy your bananas early, you possibly can allow them to develop to precisely the place you want ‘em. And on the first signal of brown spots, simply throw them within the freezer — they make an ideal base for smoothies.

You may even make wholesome one-ingredient ice cream!


A stack of strawberries on the shelves of a grocery store.
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How many occasions have you ever taken dwelling a bundle of recent berries simply to have it flip right into a petri dish of mildew in a day or two?

Unfortunately, berries naturally don’t final lengthy — though it’s not laborious to scarf them down by the handful, particularly throughout these summer season months.

But in order for you to choose one of the best contenders, ensure the berries and their packaging are dry. Moisture speeds the expansion of mildew.

Psst — do your self one higher by operating these infants by way of a vinegar tub!

I do know it sounds nuts, however if you happen to rinse them properly, they gained’t style like vinegar. This tactic will kill the spores that develop so shortly into mildew, providing you with extra time to get pleasure from your pure sweet.


Fresh broccoli is inexperienced. As it matures, it turns yellow… however not all the time as a result of it’s rotting.

The inexperienced clusters on the crown of the broccoli we eat are literally flowers, and once they open they’re — you guessed it — yellow!

So in order for you to eat your broccoli fairly than enhance with it, the buds on the blossom finish (or head) needs to be tight, closed and inexperienced. Check the minimize stem finish as properly — it needs to be agency and inexperienced, not slimy or turning humorous colours.

Citrus Fruits

A woman picks up oranges to buy at a grocery store.
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

As a Florida woman, I do know all citrus begins out inexperienced — I’ve seen sufficient of it on the tree.

The finest indicator for a ripe piece of citrus fruit is that it’s absolutely developed its shade. If your orange nonetheless has inexperienced spots, you’re in hassle: Unlike different fruits, citrus doesn’t proceed to ripen as soon as it’s been plucked from the tree, so that you’ve bought to get it proper the primary time.

You’ll additionally need to ensure the pores and skin is as clean as may be anticipated of those dimpled fruits — if it’s withered or wrinkled, the fruit is previous its prime.

Hardness often means underripe citrus, though I’ve seen fruits get small and rock-hard (as an alternative of soppy and oozing mildew) after sitting out too lengthy. Eat them on the prime of the bell curve, once they’re plump and barely pliable, however nonetheless agency to the contact.


If you purchase pre-packaged corn cobs which have already been shucked, you’ll have a fairly good image of how good it’s: Just ensure it’s bought as lots of its kernels as doable, is agency however not rock-solid and that nothing seems to be rotten.

Husked corn is more energizing and yummier — but additionally tougher to verify.

Luckily, there are methods round this with out standing within the produce aisle shucking a bunch of corn. Not solely wouldn’t it not be enjoyable, however you may get humorous seems to be… and also you’d make sure to bum out whoever’s on the opposite finish of that “Cleanup on aisle five!” announcement.

In the U.S., we throw away an estimated 30% to 40% of our meals, in accordance to USDA analysis.

If your corn remains to be within the husk, take a look at the husk itself. It needs to be inexperienced, and wrapped tightly to kernels that also really feel agency and plump beneath. The tassels on the prime needs to be brown and sticky to the contact.

If the husk has gone brown or the tassels are dry and black, you’re taking a look at an previous ear of corn, so skip it.

Lettuce and Other Leafy Greens

A stack of lettuce at the grocery store.
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If you’re lazy like me and purchase pre-packaged lettuce, you get pleasure from an expiration date — however I’ve watched leaves go brown and slimy method earlier than their time, even whereas hermetically sealed.

Lettuce of any selection needs to be turgid, inexperienced and dry, with out conspicuous brown spots. Give a head of iceberg a squeeze — it ought to really feel agency and juicy, and its outer leaves shouldn’t be sloughing off.

Most leafy greens have a fairly quick shelf life (per week, tops). So get to consuming these greens! After all, they’re good for you.


Melons are essentially the most complicated fruit ever. All their goodness is trapped inside their nice large shell, unavailable to assess for ripeness.

What to do about it? Make like a detective and rely on the clues you possibly can entry.

If you’ve ever seen anybody knocking on a melon, it’s possible you’ll be questioning what precisely they anticipate to hear. Me, too.

And although melon-knockers could appear decisive, and their contact stuffed with finesse, the metrics for a “ripe-sounding” melon are fairly obscure: The New York Times suggests you “listen for a melon that sounds full and more like a tenor than a bass.”

Since I wasn’t in my highschool band, I believe I’ll strive a distinct method for choosing produce.

With watermelon, particularly, you will have a serious benefit: Water is heavy. So if you happen to choose up one up, it ought to weigh fairly a bit in proportion to its measurement if it’s ripe and stuffed with water.

While you’ve bought it lifted, give it a flip and verify its “field spot” — the discolored portion the place the melon sat on the bottom earlier than it was harvested.

According to the watermelon specialists (sure, they exist — see for your self), this spot needs to be a “creamy yellow.” If it’s white or greenish, the melon won’t be fairly prepared to eat, but it surely’ll be nice if you happen to’re purchasing forward of time for this weekend’s barbecue!

Honeydew and cantaloupe are rather less mysterious since their rinds aren’t so thick. Like all different fruit, they need to be as symmetrical and bruise-free as doable.

Give ‘em a whiff and a squeeze, too: When they’re absolutely ripe, each of those melons will scent candy, even by way of their pores and skin, they usually’ll give just a bit bit beneath your fingers.

If you need your melons to dangle round for a bit earlier than you eat them, contemplate going for a scent-free, rock-hard specimen. Just don’t wait too lengthy!

Although firmness is an effective indicator for choosing a peach, if it’s too agency, it’s going to style like nothing in any respect.

And odds are, that is the way you’ll discover them on the grocery retailer, since transport is usually a tough course of and ripe peaches bruise simply.

As with different fruits that produce ethylene gasoline whereas they mature (like avocados, apples and tomatoes), you possibly can hasten ripening by putting a peach in a brown paper bag on your counter at room temperature.

Peaches are ripe as soon as they scent candy and are barely mushy to the contact. They’re additionally extra yellow than purple — that shade is extra indicative of solar publicity than ripeness!


A person cuts into a pineapple.
Aileen Perilla/The Penny Hoarder

It may appear to be a prickly mess to determine whether or not a pineapple is ripe. Just taking a look at one, it’s possible you’ll surprise what courageous soul first determined we must always strive to eat these.

Smelling the underside of the pineapple is an effective place to begin: If the fruit is ripe, it’ll scent candy, but it surely’ll be much less detectable behind the laborious, spiky pores and skin round its sides.

A superbly ripe pineapple will even give ever-so-slightly when firmly squeezed. Pick a tough one on the grocery retailer so you possibly can preserve it as an indication of welcome on your counter for a couple of days.


Squash is to greens what melon is to fruit: encased in a giant, laborious shell and fairly laborious (actually) to crack.

Your finest guess is to squeeze gently and verify for good weight. The pores and skin needs to be matte, not shiny, and freed from apparent blemishes.

One good shortcut? Buy it in late summer season and early fall — when you realize it’s in season.

Jamie Cattanach is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder. 

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