Shopping smarter like anything you learn about in life is about asking questions. A lot of us feel intimidated about grilling our green grocer or just assume that food must be fresh because it’s in the shop and has a nice spray of water over it. Not always so! Some produce has to travel thousands of kilometers on the back of a truck or even by air to get to the store, or may have been sitting in a cool store for months. And when you find a grocer who’s passionate about what they do they’re sure to love telling you what to look for. You’ll be surprised about what you’ll discover.
For starters though, next time you’re out shopping ask yourself some questions?
What’s in season?
Always look for fruit and vegetables that are in season, they’ll be cheaper and fresher. As a quick guide, in spring look for new growth things like baby leaves, asparagus and new potatoes, summer is the time for warm lush fruits like mangos, grapes, cherries and other stone fruits which don’t last well, autumn is for apples and mandarins and the start of the root vegetables, and winter is the time for the cool loving vegetables like brussel sprouts and cauliflower. You should also try and choose items that are firm and heavy for their size and have no signs of bruising or wilting. If it’s fresh it’ll usually look brighter and crisper.
When buying meat similar rules apply: it shouldn’t look slimy or grey, nor should it be swimming in fluids. Look for meat that’s light and even in colour for it’s species, that hasn’t got a strong smell and that has a firm looking texture.
Where does it come from?
It always pays to ask where your fruit and vegetables have come from. More and more these days thanks to free trade agreements and other globalization pressures local produce is competing on a bumpy playing field. But Australia is a big place and we can get an enormous range of fruit and vegetables year round.
How has it been made?
These days it’s a lot easier to tell where produce has come from as customers have become more and more demanding and labeling has improved. But if your not sure, ask! It’s always better to buy produce that uses a minimum of chemicals and pesticides and meat that comes from humanely treated animals.
What am I going to eat?
It’s also a good idea to buy food that you’re going to be interested in eating! How often have you bought a big bunch of bananas and then left them to spoil after eating just a few. Try and buy a variety of fruits and vegetables. For a healthy diet you need about five vegetables and three pieces of fruit a day so think about what’s going to tempt you the most. That also means choosing a range of ripeness, some for today, some for later.
What do I need?
Have a good think about when you’re going to buy, where you’re going to buy and what you need for the week. Everyone is racing to beat the clock but keep things fresh and reduce waste by buying just what you need for a few days. Try to minimize how far you have to travel with food to keep it in good condition and minimise how long it will be un-refrigerated or in plastic. And finally pull out that pen and pad! Nothing beats a good list and a diary for working out what you really need, preventing waste and saving money.