Lately, I’ve been focusing on saving money on food, and eating more healthy. Just recently it dawned on me that sometimes all it takes is a change of attitude, or reframing a situation in order to make the most of it. The reduced section of my favorite grocery store is where I started…
Previously, in my “snobby” pre-frugal days, I always thought the reduced sections were for poor people, and the goods found there were substandard. Surprise – surprise! This is not true on either count!
The reduced section is for SMART people, and the goods are usually just as good as the ones on the main shelves.
For example, just this past week, I went to the clearance section for canned and packaged goods and found boxes of Propel drink mix marked down to .99 a box, from $2.99. What’s the catch? There is no catch! They just didn’t fit on the shelf space allocated for this item! It must have been a slow seller, because there were several dozen of them. Well, I like the flavor, so I bought 4 boxes. Huge savings plus no loss in value equals smart shopping! (Compare one serving of this in a bottle of filtered tap water, or instead of a can of soda, and the savings in cash AND calories is enormous.)
Then on to the reduced produce section, my usual second stop. This section always amazes me. If the food is unusable or rotten, they throw it out. It is only RIPE vegetables and fruits that go on this reduced rack. The food on the main shelves is usually not yet ripe, and not yet ready for consumption. It is amazing how people will pass over food that is ripe and ready to eat in favor of food that has to sit on the counter for days before eating. I can almost always grab a bargain or two that fits into my meal planning.
My own re-framed opinion is that the fruit and vegetables on the reduced rack that are ripe and ready to be eaten or cooked, are worth MORE to me than those that have to ripen.
Bananas and plantains are a great example. Nearly everyday, there are bunches of bananas on the reduced rack. They have black spots on the outside, and are usually ready to eat. I love getting them like this since they can go directly into my blender for a smoothie when I get home from shopping. (PS. If they are ripe, and you don’t want to use them right away, just peel them and throw them in the freezer for use in future recipes.!)
I wonder how many people don’t know that bananas are not even ripe until they have little brown spots? There is even an old song about bananas, and refrigerators and brown spots. Here you go…
The same goes for plantains – a cousin of the banana. A staple food of many Latin American countries , plantains are versatile and a very, very cheap source of starch. (Around here they are usually 2/$1.00. sometimes 3/$1.00.) They have to be cooked, and I love them fried.
Truth is, when they are all black on the outside, they are ripe, and they are sweet! I think most people think they have gone bad – like a banana that is all black would be. Before they get black, they go from green to yellow to darker brown to black. When yellow, they are very starchy like a potato, and when they get black, they are sweeter like a banana.
I ALWAYS buy my plantains off the reduced rack, as they are sweeter and ready to go!
Fruits are the most common items on the reduced rack and I take full advantage of them for smoothies, fruit salads, and snacking. Just this Labor Day, I made an awesome fruit salad out of marked down fruit, and had friends tell me how they loved that everything was ripe, not still “crunchy” like they usually get…. (No, I did not tell them my secret…)
Okay, enough of the fruit tangent….
Sometimes you have to look for the reduced section, but it’s worth the effort. These sections are always my first stop, before the other smart shoppers get there!