When isn't a bargain a bargain? When you end up with a lotta rot.
July 13th, 2011
02:00 PM ET
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Linda Petty is an editor at CNN Living. She liked boxed mixes and tarted-up vegetables.

Hi, my name is Linda and I am a compulsive shopper at membership big box stores.

Right now I am composting several avocados, half a ginormous bag of baby carrots and some celery in my refrigerator - along with some shriveled up oranges and some garlic that is growing roots. I bought it all in bulk because it was SUCH A DEAL!

And I must confess to using my refrigerator way too often for accidentally composting produce that was so pretty and sold at great prices at the store where I am a member.

Here's why: A mango a day – doesn’t quite work the same healthy magic that an apple a day does.

And yes, avocados are good for you. But can you really eat one everyday and not end up with a figure that looks avocado-ey in shape?

I have found that if you put the fresh fruit in the freezer it will slowly become freeze-dried. Very slowly. So slowly that it sucks all the flavor out of the fruit and just leaves the fiber behind. (OK so I didn’t re-wrap the frozen fruit every time I took a serving out of the bag. Sue me.)

I know the problem is mine. But shouldn’t they ban single people from shopping at these places?

However if they did, then I would just head over to my favorite farmer’s market in DeKalb County, Georgia, where I would buy smaller amounts of produce. But the variety and uniqueness of the produce would do me in there as well. I love, love, love everything I see – it just looks delicious.

I buy stuff I have no idea how to cook or serve. Like the pretty star fruit. Or the strange greens. Or the root vegetables. I did actually make soup with a few of the dozens of parsnips I have brought home and it was delicious.

And do you know what a nice, green bunch of cilantro looks like in a few weeks in my refrigerator? It looks like a plastic bag of green slime that I have to carefully remove like toxic waste before it contaminates any else that has survived neglect.

But much of the produce gets lost in my refrigerator and oh the waste burns my middle-class, penny-pinching soul.

So that is my excuse for buying the pre-fabbed, one-serving-sized, meals in a box that stay fresh for thousands of weeks before being popped into a microwave.

And I know I am not alone because there is a line every day at the office of people waiting to put their food-sicles into the nuker.

Vegetables: here's how to use and cook 'em

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Filed under: Cooking • Hot Messes • Shopping • Supermarkets

soundoff (171 Responses)
  1. I Heart Evil Grin

    I will admit, read the article not the comments, sorry no time, but those yellow green veggie saver baggie thingies really do work and you can wash and reuse them several times before you would need to discard. Don't know how, they just do, its been a life saver for me

    August 4, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
  2. Richard

    I eat TV dinners often for the convenience/ cheap cost but those "meals" have been processed so much there is only a small percentage of nutrients left. I force myself to buy vegetables on each grocery trip and do my best to use them before spoilage but that is the risk I take for eating SOMETHING healthy during the week.

    August 4, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
  3. KatieB

    For those singles looking for recipes try Cooking For Two (or Just You) – it's a fantastic cookbook about making delicious food for one or two servings. She even goes into how to make bread, not that I'm that ambitious but I've used the soup recipes and they are delicious. Best thing my parents ever bought me when I moved out! And if you buy an ingredient that is too much, just search through the book until you find another recipe that uses the same thing.

    July 14, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  4. dragonwife

    Where I live, farmer's markets are only once a week, so running by every 2-3 days isn't an option. My husband & I are on different work schedules, so from the time I get home I literally have only about 30 minutes to cook dinner in order for him to be able to eat before he leaves. The produce at our local stores is pretty sad; no matter how well I try to care for that head of lettuce or lovely ear of corn, it will be icky within a day or two. I wish I could use more fresh produce, but between the lack of markets and the near-impossibility of finding anything tasty in the stores, it just doesn't work for me. I do try to grow what I can, but with a postage-stamp yard, that's not a lot!

    July 14, 2011 at 8:44 am |
    • LP

      I love to cook, but was tired of trying to crank out quick meals on weeknights, too. So I do the week's cooking on the weekend and portion it into containers in the fridge. That way you're "using" at least some of your produce before it has a chance to go bad. Takes a couple of hours on a Sunday, but frees up the weeknights. We also started eating those "main meals" at lunchtime, and just have a salad or smoothie in the evenings.

      July 14, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
      • Amayda@LP

        we do this too! I do two entrees and several different sides during the kids quiet time sunday afternoon and then most of our lunches and all of our dinners consist of leftovers from that mega session of cooking. :)

        July 14, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
  5. cdub

    A great idea for a lot of fruits: Blender. I use the older strawberries and bannana's to make smoothies. Freeze them overnight(topped/skinned) and toss cup of strawberries or so in with a bannana or two and a cup of OJ, you have the worlds best smoothie! Vary it as you like. For apples, I do the same thing, but skin/core them and don't freeze...just blend/purree. Textures can get tricky, so be careful blending "grainy" types (apples) and strawberries together. It will taste great, but you might not be a fan of the texture. Safe bet? Start with the strawberry bannana smoothie and experiement! With these types of things, you need little or no extra sugar. Desert? Blend in a scoop of vanilla icecream! And, since its usually a larger portion when I make stuff, I just freeze the rest in a glass Ball jar or old (clean) other glass jar (spaggetti sause, etc).

    July 14, 2011 at 8:26 am |
  6. Lushrimfire

    So right about single people buying in bulk, seems we are virtually forbidden from taking advantage of bulk offers, I'm fortunate to have a market that sells individual produce at fair prices, however shopping daily is a burden.

    July 14, 2011 at 8:11 am |
  7. John Smith

    Buy your produce a little at a time, think of shopping for your produce as something other than a chore, more as an adventure.

    July 14, 2011 at 3:18 am |
  8. Liz1388

    Another single householder here who shares Linda's "rotty" problem. I agree about learning not to buy in bulk, and freezing single searvings.

    My Amana fridge produce drawers have slide thingies that're supposed to regulate humidity, but AFAICS, they are useless. Fridge manufacturers need to do better!

    I have a trick for keeping some items from rotting so quickly. Cut bell peppers, many fruits, lettuce, celery and all onions: drain and dry off the pieces as much as possible, make a paper towel "nest" for them in bag or container. Press air out of any plastic bag. The towel will absorb condensation from produce. Replace towel when it gets damp.

    Also, not veggie-related, but lactose free milk has a longer shelf life than regular milks and tastes the same to me.

    July 14, 2011 at 3:14 am |
  9. MelanieArnold

    I always feed any vegetables that we can not finish to my bunny :) Ever since we got a bunny we hardly ever have wasted vegetables!

    July 14, 2011 at 3:06 am |
  10. AAA

    I'm not understanding this article. You're telling people that eating 1 avocado everyday will make them fat? To not to put fruit in the freezer because you can't figure out the packaging?

    And finally, instead of coming to a conclusion and learning a lesson to share with the world, you use your overbuying of fruits and vegetables to justify eating another Lean Pocket instead of real food. Congratulations on your accomplishment.

    July 14, 2011 at 2:58 am |
    • MelanieArnold

      You got that right!

      July 14, 2011 at 3:07 am |
    • cdub

      harsh but true

      July 14, 2011 at 8:28 am |
    • MalaDee@AAA

      That's quite a conclusion you've jumped to. You went from "pre-fabbed, one-serving-sized, meals in a box" to Lean Pockets? Tell you what, give your mother a break & do your own grocery shopping. Then you can learn about ALL the options the stores have to offer. Not just what you watch on TV.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:35 am |
  11. j man

    Careful with Farmer's Markets. Organically speaking most farmers there are not 3rd party certified...you may not be getting what you are paying for. Stick with certified grocers like Whole Foods Market. Prices are usually cheaper than Farmer's Markets and feature local produce! Happy hunting.

    July 14, 2011 at 2:51 am |
    • sockpuppet

      sure advocate for the chain store and warn us against the evil sneaky local farmers

      July 14, 2011 at 2:57 am |
      • j man

        So the chain store who is overseen by 3rd party certifiers as required by the government is sneaky? You're too skeptical friend. Though I doubt Mr. Farmer is misrepresenting that his product may be organically grown I do doubt that he transported it to the market without contaminating it. More important than the growing process is the method of getting the product from field to fork.

        July 14, 2011 at 3:07 am |
    • Pixburgh Pixie

      I would love to buy only organic, but I would much rather support small farmers who live/grow in a region than purchase food that has been shipped 2000 miles to WholeFoods. It amazes me that even in regions where there are 3rd party organic certified farms in a region, WF is still trucking stuff in from California.

      July 14, 2011 at 7:10 am |
  12. philly girl

    Very busy schedule – kids, elderly care, bh, housework, full time job, church, grad school student and I like to sleep every now and again. I buy meats once a week and hit my local produce place for oranges, apples, carrots and other basics once every other week. stuff like fresh herbs and quick to rot fruits and veggies only are purchased when they can be used within a few days. Also buy those stay fresh veggie bags. I'm tossing less fruit and veggies. I HATE waste. As for cooking, I cook a large meal on weekends for Sunday and Monday. Sometimes grill up stuff for several days and bake a quick cake, brownies or cookies. Get kids involved too. Wed-thurs is catch can. i.e. turkey burgers, chcken over salad, meatball parms (from leftover spaghetti & meatballs), etc. Then pizza Fridays. Have it down to a science and it works without me going nuts over weeknite dinners. Once in a while a stop at Wendy's, but I don't believe in feeding kids a diet of fast food. We can make our own burgers and fries - healthier and cheaper.

    July 14, 2011 at 2:43 am |
  13. Dana

    Boring. Not clever, pithy, insightful, or entertaining.

    July 14, 2011 at 1:15 am |
  14. lilmuse

    The cure is to dehydrate, have zucchini from the garden drying now. Tomorrow is zucchini chips with various seasonings. They will not go to waste. They will not go to waste. They will not ... ;)

    July 14, 2011 at 12:00 am |
  15. Julie

    Anyone have a good recipe for carrots? I have a large Costco sized bag of em and I don't know what to do. They are already starting to mold on the outside a bit. I dislike carrot cake and carrot juice is just disgusting. I'd like to know of a better way to use up my veggies before they rot.

    July 13, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
    • Humor

      Slice them into circles and cook them in a little water, you can add parsnips to them also, you can eat them plain or glaze them with a little honey. Simple veggie dish.

      July 14, 2011 at 1:14 am |
  16. Enlightened European

    Big, fat, lazy Americans.

    July 13, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
    • COL

      You must not be Italian, German, French or Polish ugh? Well, when I lived in 'Europe' buying food/preserving and cooking was very enlightening. It was about family, friends and comfort. I never had to leave the 'village' and drive, waste gas, money and precious time after work and will always love the people that I have met while sitting at a table enjoying bread and cheese. I learned how to butcher a pig and wring a duck. America is a melting pot of all peoples and where ever one goes there is always someone that needs to learn how not to waste (as well as how to understand).

      July 14, 2011 at 12:30 am |
      • philly girl

        Yeah, food is an experience. From a southern African American family and the kitchen is where all the good conversation happens. I was a kid from the 70s and 80s and my Mom didn't "do" fast food. We cooked, even simple meals, and ate at the table - with a knife and fork. And we talked!

        July 14, 2011 at 2:52 am |
    • COL

      Geeze 'EE", you just pissed in my cheerios!!!

      July 14, 2011 at 12:32 am |
  17. COL

    Honestly, I'm a 'BBB' and hoard when it comes to non-perishable foods (frozen meats included). Always a must is flour, pasta, rice, legumes and basic root vegas. I love to cook and can't live without spices. Also, I make certain herbs are readily available by freezing them. When it comes to fresh vegetables and fruit I'll go buy what the meal(s) may require. Should I not have an ingredient needed then my meal is announced as an 'experiment' which intrigues the family w/ conversation before 'ASBL'.

    July 13, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
  18. Amy

    Where I live, the only place to shop within 50 miles is Walmart or some dinky regional grocery stores. Anything you buy from either place is guaranteed to be half-rotten within a day or two.

    July 13, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
  19. Angelique

    This is why I started using grocery delivery, and we have AmazonFresh here in Seattle. I still shop at a warehouse store, but I don't buy anything that is quickly perishable there. Instead I get weekly deliveries of all my produce and fruit, and things like milk, eggs, and bread. Interestingly, my monthly grocery bill has gone way down, even though I'm not getting those deals, because I'm not throwing things away!

    July 13, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
  20. n

    I bought a vacuum sealer last year. best investment I ever made. can freeze in small or large quantities. then just pull out from freezer as needed. and it stays fresher with no "ice" buildup or freezer burn.

    July 13, 2011 at 11:22 pm |
  21. Goat Bottoms

    Donkeys don't rot.

    July 13, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
  22. MMR

    Tupperware has a great product called FridgeSmarts which preserves produce 3 to 4x more than usual life of the produce. These containers are amazing – Once I tried them I loved them and ended up getting whole set. . . Then I joined as a consultant to get more for free!! Check them out!

    July 13, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
  23. Mycology

    blame the jews?

    July 13, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • n

      was that comment really necessary?

      July 13, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
  24. Harvey Wallbanger

    I buy fruits and veggies in good faith because I know they are required for good health. The only problem I have is that swill is so gross I can not eat it without a good chance of throwing up. As a result 90% goes to waste.

    July 13, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
  25. Brian in Montreal

    I find it effective to make a QUICK LIST of ALL PRODUCE (esp. Herbs and Vegetables) as I am putting it into the fridge and a dish or two in which I can use it. I check each off as I've used them. It saves you the hassle of brainstorming when tired each night coming home from work Here are some examples:

    1) CILANTRO (tomato salsa, fruit salsa, spring rolls, black bean soup) ** Put Cilantro into cold water in fridge!
    2) BASIL (bruschetta, tomato-basil salad, pesto)
    3) MUSHROOMS (omelette, with burgers or on pizza, in grilled cheese, pickled with lemon zest)
    4) ASPARAGUS (cream of asp. soup, steamed with parmesan, etc.)

    July 13, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
  26. C. Smythe

    I am guessing the price of fresh vegetables is far too low if so many of you can afford to get lazy enough to waste food. I've been on welfare and I can't tell you how many times I thought the no name mac and cheese dinner would go nice with a carrot . . . or a tomato or just about any vegetable at all. If you can afford to waste food you got 'er pretty good my friend . . .

    July 13, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
  27. KissmeimPolish

    The Dekalb Famers Market is not that great....check out the one on Buford Highway.

    July 13, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
  28. PaleoRules

    I have a hard time understanding this. I have two kids and the four of us here eat veggies constantly. I buy tons and I don't have nearly that kind of waste. It is the most basic planning–if you know you won't eat three pounds of baby carrots before they rot, you buy the little bag, not the huge one. If you know that your kids won't eat spaghetti squash more than once a week, get one, not three. If you see that something is going to rot soon, cook with it or do something to preserve it (blanch and freeze or can etc).

    July 13, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
    • COL

      You hit the perfect note! A lot of people don't know what can be blanched and frozen let alone the canning process of bulk foods, the last does require some time with a hectic schedule. My grandma would come home with 'garbage vegas' for pennies from the farmers market and can. I learned from her. With family of 11 we loved left overs as well, they tasted better than before.

      July 14, 2011 at 12:02 am |
  29. Bob Brown

    You (Linda Petty) are invited to dinner at Emory Cottage. If you're tough enough to deal with the hell-on-wheels denizens of the DeKalb Farmer's Market, I want to meet you. (A somewhat motley crew of people assemble here on Saturdays. The food is good; the bread is home-baked, and the vegetables are fresh.)

    July 13, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
  30. PaleoRules

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with eating an avocado a day! What is wrong with this lady?! Avocados are outrageously good for you and full of monounsaturated fats. An cup of avocado only has 235 calories and is LOADED with vitamins and minerals. There is no reason you can't plan for that many calories in, for example, a lunch salad. it is a hell of a lot better for you than a baked potato!

    July 13, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
  31. Karen

    Here's a trick to keep fresh produce longer: Place sheets of paper towels in the produce bags. They'll absorb the moisture that leads to the rot. Check on the paper and change as needed. This works wonderfully for things like lettuce and mushrooms.

    July 13, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
    • PaleoRules

      NOT good to do this with mushrooms. Mushrooms need to breathe when stored, which is why the packaging they come in is pourous or has holes punched in it. Mushrooms are a source of clostridium botulinum, an anaerobe. Your shrooms will stay dry enough if you let them breathe and they will rot more slowly. (Also good to keep shrooms away from leaf produce, as it will make them rot faster.)

      July 13, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  32. Sut

    The most wasteful country on earth..

    July 13, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
  33. Anon

    Worthless post by a compulsive shop-a-holic, who can't control herself and advocates others to eat unhealthy. Total waste of time.

    July 13, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
    • PaleoRules

      I tend to agree. So wasteful!
      Just take 50.00 a month and go toss them on your compost pile. It will save time.

      July 13, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
  34. Yummy

    put that photo up on YummyWar lol, it's a winner!

    July 13, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
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