Supermarkets have conditioned us to believe that all fruits and vegetables should look perfect and pristine, shiny and round, but, in the real world (a.k.a. “nature”), anyone who has a garden or a fruit tree know that fruits and veggies get bumped and bruised like the rest of us. Oftentimes, these slightly battered apples and tomatoes taste just as good as their prettier counterparts, but they can cost much less.
According to the savvy folks at All You, the key is to ask your grocer or local farm stand proprietor for any “utility fruit” that may be hidden out of sight to keep up appearances. Provided you’re not too fussy and are willing to take out the paring knife to trim away any truly inedible bits, you just might be able to bring home your weekly portion of fruits and veggies for far less than you’d otherwise pay.
The “utility fruit” plan may not be the best idea if you’re putting together a fruit platter for a party or special occasion, but it could make especially good sense if you like to make fruit smoothies. After all, if you’re blending […] cut fruit with yogurt, ice and other goodies, who would know if the original strawberry or banana wasn’t ready for its closeup?
How about some other ideas for using fruit that isn’t quite ready for its closeup? If life gives you bruised apples, you can always make applesauce! […] And you don’t need cosmetically perfect fruit to make banana bread, pear butter or peach jam! As the author of the Food in Jars blog points out, with a good paring knife, you can quickly cut around the bruised parts (as long as the fruit isn’t too far gone) and make something delicious from ugly duckling produce.
Of course, there are limits even in the pursuit of frugality. Work with a grocer you trust so that you can learn to tell the difference between harmless bruises and serious spoilage. Even frugal shoppers should put safety first. Remember that truly rotten fruit and veggies belong in the trash (or compost pile), not in your kitchen.
Have you ever tried the “utility fruit” strategy? What other tactics do you use to keep the monthly food budget under control while still stocking up on nutritious and healthy choices?