6 Tips for Buying Produce at Costco, Sam's, and BJ's

6 Tips for Buying Produce at Costco, Sam's, and BJ's

(Image credit: The Kitchn)

Warehouse stores offer great value on many products, like produce, household goods, and seasonal supplies. And while most of the items in the store can sit on your shelves pretty much indefinitely, the fresh produce is a little more fickle. Most produce goes bad within a few days, or at best, up to a few weeks, depending on what it is and how it's stored. So sadly, fruits and veggies bought in bulk can go bad before you have a chance to use them.

Here are some tips for buying produce in bulk from warehouse stores like Costco, Sam's, and BJ's.

1. Limit your variety.

At the warehouse store, most of the produce comes in packages larger than you'd normally buy (I recently got chastised at the Costco checkout counter for attempting to buy two — not six — mangos. Whoops!). If your habit is to buy, say, five different kinds of fruit at the regular grocery store, you may find yourself doing the same thing here and ending up with twice as much fruit as you can reasonably consume in a week. So when you buy produce, buy less variety to make up for the higher quantity.

2. Refrigerate strategically.

Some produce, like avocados, won't ripen as quickly in the fridge. If you're buying 10 of them, put eight in the fridge and two on your counter, then replace them as you eat the ripe ones. Otherwise you risk everything getting perfectly ripe (and then, going bad) all at the same time.

3. Plan to freeze.

If you know you can only consume one pint of strawberries in a week, freeze the rest. Remove the stems, halve or slice them if you like, then freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet until solid. Store them in an airtight container or zip-top freezer bag. Better to do this right away, and not when you realize they're just on the verge of going bad.

Related: How To Freeze Fresh Summer Fruit

(Image credit: Heather McClees)

4. Opt for produce that keeps.

Things like potatoes, citrus, and apples last for a decently long time. They're a better investment than things that will go bad quickly. At the least, buy a mix of produce that will go bad quickly and produce that will take longer, and eat the finicky stuff first.

5. Consider a share.

While you can't share a membership with someone who doesn't live with you, you can certainly share your haul. If you have a neighbor who's shopping for similar things, consider splitting your produce purchases, CSA-style, so that each of you gets a more reasonable amount of food.

(Image credit: Heather McClees)

6. Beware of things that feel too ripe.

If something seems too ripe to you, it probably is — and by buying it, you're limiting the amount of time you have to consume it. As you're checking for ripeness, try to get a mix of things that will be ripe in a day, a few days, or even longer (and use the fridge trick, too).

What tips do you have for shopping the produce sections at big warehouse stores? Add them in the comments below!

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