I was at the local fruit and veg supermarket a few weeks ago and happened to walk past a trolley laden with items ‘reduced to clear’. At a first glance they appeared to be a miserable, motley lot, packaged haphazardly with prices scrawled carelessly over the plastic wrap. Clearly the store believed that such produce wouldn’t sell and it therefore couldn’t be bothered to accentuate the appearance of the items. Unperturbed, I paused at the stand to study its contents further. What was so wrong with these items that proved cause for ‘quick-sale’? Not much to tell the truth. A packet of raspberries with a few that had been squished, figs that were ever so slightly discoloured, battered potatoes and a bag of tomatoes that I could not for the life of me work out why they were classed as ‘seconds’. There were many more items, however I would bore you to death if I listed them all here. I was tempted to fill up my basket with numerous bits and bobs, however settled for two packets of strawberries, replacing those on sale that I had collected earlier on. The ‘seconds’ were ridiculously cheap so I figured that I wouldn’t be losing out on much even if half the packet proved to be beyond saving.
On arriving home I unwrapped the strawberries for closer examination. Best to throw away any rotten ones now, before they could infect any others I reasoned. How many did I have to throw away? One. That’s right, one measly strawberry from two 250g packets. We feasted on ripe, juicy and oh-so-sweet berries for dessert three nights running. Would the original strawberries have tasted better? I doubt it.
It’s horrendous to think that every day fruit and veg deemed past its prime by supermarkets is either discarded immediately or branded as ‘quick-sale’. There’s actually nothing wrong with a ‘quick-sale’ label and dropping the prices is actually a good incentive for customers to buy the produce. Unfortunately there appears to be a stigma surrounding such products. A fear that if the supermarket believes they are ‘dodgy’ then it is unwise to purchase them for consumption. I doubt that anyone has died from eating a bruised apple. By all means cut the bruise out. Cook it down to mushy fruit puree if it still appears ominous. Often the food in question has more flavour, and when sold at a discounted price does it matter if a few pieces genuinely are inedible? Consider it a bargain rather than a compromise!
What can we do to reduce the likelihood that goods marked ‘reduced to clear’ end up in the trash? Buy it! It may be an obvious answer, but contemplate how many times you actually stop to consider that produce. I know for a fact that I’m guilty of walking straight past it on several occasions, particularly when I’m in a hurry. I’m now making a conscience effort to change that habit and am already reaping pleasing results. For three consecutive weeks running I have purchased delicious portobello mushrooms for less than half their original price, with very few dark spots and no slime to speak of (a sure-fire way to tell if they are going bad).
Next time you’re shopping for fruit and veg please pause a moment to consider the produce deemed ‘over the hill’ by the supermarket. I can almost guarantee (I won’t say 100% in case you are unfortunate enough to stumble across a complete dud – it does happen) that you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the tasty gems you uncover!