It is the second week of the new year and many of you have resolved to eat better which naturally includes vegetables. The rest of you have been eating vegetable all year and it’s just business as usual. Maybe you have a different resolution this year. Regardless, you are all headed for the exact same area of the grocery store.
Some things happen like clockwork. The clock strikes midnight on December 31st and people wake up the next morning resolving for all kinds of resolutions. What never ever seems to happen like clockwork though is the grocery store staff remembering to purchase enough veggies for the onslaught of new veggie customers or to staff enough people to keep the shelves full. ! I don’t know why this is the case year in and year out but there you have it. Produce shopping is a bitch right after the new year and for a good week after. This one miscalculation can take weeks to resolve and can cost you some hard-earned cash if you aren’t careful.
Why you need to check the dates on your produce after New Years
Here is the normal play-by-play and why it matters to you. Grocery clerks miscalculate and order too little. After all, it is perishable product and you don’t want it to go to waste. They grossly underestimate demand even after looking at last years data. This is because last year they didn’t order enough either so when it says we sold 60 broccoli that is what they sold, but it doesn’t usually tell them they sold out at noon and could have sold 3 times as much. So when the shelves run bare the grocery clerk overcompensates and orders tons of produce to fill the shelves and to have enough to sell these new ravenous veggie buyers.
Now on to how this costs you money. Now that there is too much produce you have cases of lettuce sitting in the backroom waiting to get to the floor. It takes longer for it to get to the floor and that means when you get it home you have less time to eat it. If you are used to having 5 days to eat the kale before that handy stamped suggested date you may only have 2-3 this time of year and it might just go bad in your fridge. So be sure to look at those dates. If you need longer reach for the back and get the best date possible.
Biggest items to watch for short dates after New Years
The bagged lettuce will probably be the biggest culprit. Though anything that comes in a package is just as likely to have a short shelf life so beware of those items. The other produce won’t be as easy since it is loose and doesn’t have a date. Look for items that look fresh, not wilted or shriveled up and dehydrated. Any fruit or veggie that feels heavy for its size is usually a good bet because you know it hasn’t lost all its water.
Key holidays that impact shelf life
New Years isn’t the only holiday to watch out for date issues. Though the others are for different reasons. At certain holidays stores start building suggestive displays weeks before the event to get you in the mood for what you are going to make. Which happens to usually be the same thing EVERYONE else is making for the holiday. This means that those berries for Memorial Day and 4th of July may have been in the store for a while. Don’t grab them and drop them in your basket without a good once over. If you want the freshest produce for the holiday events try getting it from a local farmer if it is in season and regional to your area. Below are some of the other holidays and events and which items to keep an eye on.
The most avocados are purchased for Super Bowl Sunday. Not Cinco de Mayo, but a football game. While it is easy to know if your avocado is too ripe after the big game, you want to look for unripe avocados that will ripen at your house before you want to make your famous guac recipe. Not all stores will plan ahead and order their avocados to ripen just in time for the big game so plan ahead on this one can ripen them at home.
*Pro Tip: When they get to that perfect ripeness put them in the fridge and you will have a few days before you have to use them
Memorial Day, July 4th
Most purchased and most likely to have problems going bad too fast are berries. All kinds. Most stores will display the berries outside of refrigeration so they can make bigger displays. Just a few hours outside of the fridge can cut the shelf life of berries by DAYS! Try to buy the ones in the fridge.
Thanksgiving & Christmas
There isn’t a lot of variation on the most popular produce items for both of these holidays. There is also one dairy item to keep an eye out for, heavy whipping cream, potatoes, greens, mushrooms, onions, celery, and carrots are the largest orders that will be put in leading up to the holiday that will have the greatest chance of spoiling.