when are bulk vegetables really bulk?
April 26, 2007 10:18 PM   Subscribe

When grocery shopping is it kosher to split up large bunches of produce when you only need a smaller amount?

I was recently confronted with this conundrum while shopping for vegetables for a vegetable pot pie. My recipe called for, among other things, radishes and parsley (which I don't regularly use) and both were bunched in large allotments while still being sold by weight. I couldn't imagine ever making use of 12+ radishes when my recipe only called for 4, but I wasn't really sure about splitting up the pre-rubberbanded bunch.

So what's the deal, should I buy way more food than I will be able to use, or can I save myself some money and only take what I need?
posted by nerdcore to Shopping (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If the items are sold by weight (which you said in your post) then I think it's okay to split the bunches... But, if something is sold "by the bunch" it's not okay to split them apart... But, you can always ask your grocer to be sure.
posted by amyms at 10:29 PM on April 26, 2007

I've never hard of bundled radishes or parsley (epecially the latter unless dry) sold by weight. Are you sure you were reading the sign right? That sounds bizarre to me.

Prior to entering the question, I thought you meant bananas or tomatoes, which I say it's okay to separate but I've been in stores that say not to.
posted by dobbs at 10:46 PM on April 26, 2007

I've never heard of bundles being sold by the weight. In any case, in most stores, prepackaged stuff can be split apart. I've done this many times with packages of squash, etc. However, when something comes packed by the grower, I don't think you can have it split. For instance, you can't ask them to take a packet of dole brand romaine hearts and split it because you only need one. Then again, those types of things are typically sold by unit not weight anyway.

Also, you can do this in the meat section as well. If you only need a pound of ground beef or chicken breasts but the package has a pound and a quarter, you can just ask them to repack (and reprice) it for you.
posted by necessitas at 10:58 PM on April 26, 2007

Two things re: parsley: 1) never buy curly parsley; it has no flavor. You want flat leaf or Italian parsley. If you can't find or don't like that kind, you're better off just not bothering with it at all, especially if you don't use it very much in your regular cooking.

And 2): when/ if you do get Italian parsley, dry it thoroughly, chop finely (use a sharp knife parallel to the plant to "scrape" the leaves off of the stem), and pack it all up in a container in your fridge. Sprinkle liberally on everything you make; it will last a couple of days. This is a good way to use all the extra stuff up, even if you're not used to using it.

Sorry for not exactly answering your larger "ethics" question. Hopefully these two options will help you as far as the green stuff goes.
posted by rossination at 11:01 PM on April 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Rossination: I'm already a fan of Italian parsley and currently have my leftovers sitting like flowers in a jar of water, I've always used that method to keep my parsley fresh over time, hadn't thought of your method, I'll have to give it a try, thanks!
posted by nerdcore at 11:17 PM on April 26, 2007

What's wrong with asking the produce manager on duty to split the bundle for you, if you're unsure? I've never had one say "No." Look for a door to the back and holler into the void, if he/she's not out on the floor fluffing the lettuce at the moment.
posted by cookie-k at 11:52 PM on April 26, 2007

I split fruit and vegie bundles sold by weight (not by unit) all the time. If I only want two bananas why buy a bunch of seven? My supermarket pre-packages grapes too, even though they're sold by weight, and I not only split them up but pick and chose the grapes I want in my little bag. Why pay for the squashed ones they shoved in the bottom when I don't want them? Stuff sold by unit or in sealed packages is different and shouldn't be messed with, and if you're still unsure just ask someone that works there.
posted by shelleycat at 11:55 PM on April 26, 2007

If it's something like radishes, then split away, what's the worst that's going to happen? The produce manager tells you to stop? I think the greater evil here would be to take home a bunch of veg that's going to get thrown away. If it's something like bananas, where you could cause damage to the produce, either be EXTREMELY careful, or ask the produce manager to do it for you.

Here's a vaguely-related anecdote - my great gramma would always peel off the outer leaves of the cabbage before putting it in her cart. If there was the slightest hint of moisture on any produce, she would shake the hell out of it until it was completely dry. I think she would have peeled the potatoes right there in the store if she could have. She didn't think she should have to pay for something she was just going to throw away. No one ever said anything to her about it.
posted by Wroksie at 1:29 AM on April 27, 2007

I've usually seen bunches of parsley sold by the bunch, rather than by weight, but...

if you want them to last forever, wash and dry the parsley, wrap it tightly with plastic wrap to make several small "logs", stick 'em in a ziplock bag and put them in the freezer. Then you can take out a log to chop and put into a dish as needed. I do this with dill as well. This is mainly for use in cooked dishes--not so sure how well it'd work if you want raw parsley.
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:06 AM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

cookie-k has the answer I've always used. In fact, one of my usual groceries has signs inviting customers to ask store employees to split up any produce. Bag of celery too big? They'll cut it in half, even if it's sold by unit price and not weight. Usually, though, the cashiers miss the secondary price of the new amount (usually on a deli sticker, so there are 2 upc's on the package), so make sure that they ring it up right.
posted by msbrauer at 5:52 AM on April 27, 2007

Most grocery stores are fine with it; I asked a produce clerk the other day if I could split up some grapes they had packaged in zipped plastic bags and he said sure, and seemed surprised I'd even ask.
posted by mediareport at 6:18 AM on April 27, 2007

If it was me, I would ask a store employee. The thing is, if you split the package and leave some of the produce behind, it's probably going to be a loss for the store. I'm assuming that most customers will buy packages if they're provided that way and that they would leave the outlying odd radishes or parsley, believing (rightly or wrongly) that there was something "wrong" or "odd" about them. And eventually, if it's nicer store where the employees are on the ball, they're not likely to let odd vegetables lying around their display area.
posted by Robert Angelo at 6:24 AM on April 27, 2007

One problem with self-service produce markets is that if everyone passing through handles all the produce, the quality of the produce rapidly declines, and sanitation standards drop to nothing. You may think your hand are "clean," but I don't want you handling what must become my food. Yet I see people in stores squeezing every tomato, avocado, nectarine and pear determinedly, as if it were the only way to maintain their "right" to some quality standard, with no regard for what results when a few hundred people do the same.

If you must sub-divide a quantity, ask store personnel to do so; they, at least supposedly have some training in maintaining sanitation and a clear responsibility to do so.
posted by paulsc at 8:04 AM on April 27, 2007

There's no way I would buy an avocado without squeezing it. Do you eat the skin? Do you think the pickers and packers necessarily wash their hands after visiting the porta-potties in the field? Any good cook pinches, examines, and smells produce, before they take it home and wash it thoroughly. How else do you know if it's ripe and fresh?

Anyway, ask the people in the produce section. They usually like to re-bundle radishes on the spot, rather than be left with a little heap of maverick vegies that often end up on the floor.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:54 PM on April 27, 2007

« Older Will I suffocate?   |   How to make my rotisserie chicken taste super good... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.