Produce Purchasing Tricks from a Produce Manager

by Chris Bertman

Who better to offer produce purchasing tricks than a produce manager? These 3 tips from a produce manager are sure to help you save on your next visit to your grocer’s produce department.

I’ve worked at my local grocery store for the last five years and worked my way up to being the produce department manager. I would consider myself an expert on all things produce related.

Here are three produce purchasing tricks that, as a produce manager, I think shoppers should know that are sure to save you money when buying fresh produce from your local grocery store.

1. Look for markdown produce.

Yes, fresh markdown produce exists. Keep in mind, however, when I say “fresh” that I mean it’s still perfectly fine to consume and tastes excellent!

We’d rather sell blemished produce at a big discount than toss it.

Some grocery chains offer “markdown bags” that will retail about $.99 each. What you’ll find inside some of the markdown bags will be anything from oranges that are slightly misshapen, apples with slight blemishes, tomatoes that are just a little more red than we’d like, or four to six cucumbers or bell peppers (depending on the retail of the week). If cucumbers ring up at the register 2/$1, expect to see 4. If they’re 3/$.99, expect to see six. We still want to give you a discount!

Our markdown racks provide a win-win for both the customer and store. We really hate to waste anything that’s still perfectly good to eat because it lowers our profits. Also, we understand that people won’t usually spend $.99/lb. on tomatoes that have some blemishes, but would be happy to spend $.99 for five pounds of them. It’s salsa time! We still make a profit while customers save money.

Related: Ugly Food 101

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We discount salad kits ahead of the “sell by” date.

Aside from our markdown racks, look out for our markdown salad kits.

Our store’s policy is to markdown any bagged salads for half price if they’re within two days of the “sell by” date. This date doesn’t mean expired and unhealthy to consume. Instead, it just means that the product needs to be sold by that date or we have to scan it out of our inventory. Therefore, don’t be turned off by a markdown “manager’s special” sticker; it’s perfectly fine to eat and at half price!

2. Pay attention to produce sold individually versus per pound.

Our produce is a pretty equal split of items being sold by the pound or separately, whether by the bunch or individual item. For example, our avocados are sold individually, but our mustard greens are sold by the bunch.

Having items sold by the unit means they’re generally the same size; however, you will find some bunches of greens are a little fuller in their leaves or a few avocados may be slightly larger than the rest.

Go for the larger items.

Instead of buying four avocados, you might be able to get away with buying three slightly larger avocados. If you find two slightly smaller bunches of spinach, ask the store to rewrap them to make one slightly bigger bunch. You will get two bunches for the price of one!

3. Talk to the produce clerks!

Strike up a conversation with the produce clerks. There’s a good chance they’ll drop some information about an upcoming sale. At times, a store may have too much product after a sale has ended that needs to be sold before it’s spoiled and unsellable. Usually, in our store, we’ll offer a deal and make a special price to take some extra product off our hands.

Reviewed July 2019

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