Of the several major grocery stores in my area, only one (Stop & Shop) has what they call a “reduced produce” section. They’ve set up some shelves towards the back of their produce area which contains packages of fruit and vegetables that are supposedly past their prime.
The photo to the left shows the price sticker for these peppers: $1.59 per pound. On average yellow peppers run around $3.59 per pound. Good deal! I always inspect the packages carefully to make sure whatever is inside is in good condition and perfectly acceptable to use immediately or within a day or two. These peppers would be used in a vegetable lo mein that night and whatever was left over would be incorporated into a chopped salad with roasted salmon the following night. The key is to make sure you are not just swayed by the great prices and buy whatever only to let it rot in your refrigerator. You have to have a plan and make sure you use whatever you purchase.
The tomatoes pictured left were 99 cents per pound. Not an amazing deal, as sometimes they are offered for around $1.49 per pound on special. But saving 50 cents per pound is nothing to sneeze at and there was absolutely nothing wrong with these tomatoes. I used the two that seemed to be the first that should be used in an impromptu ravioli and mushrooms dish. Mushrooms were on sale the day I bought these tomatoes. I knew I had a bag of frozen spinach as well as frozen cheese ravioli in the freezer. I had bought the ravioli a while back when they were on sale for about $1.50.
So I cooked up the ravioli, sauteed the mushrooms over relatively high heat for a few minutes in olive oil (I didn’t want much juice in the pan) then lowered the heat to medium and added onion, garlic tomatoes and spinach, and cooked for a few minutes more. I sprinkled in a little salt, cayenne pepper and some rosemary. Added 1 tablespoon of butter, let that melt and then tossed in the ravioli and heated a little more. If you want, you could sprinkle a little parmesean, romano or assiago cheese on top. Delicious!
One of the best buys on these reduced produce shelves is the fruit. I routinely buy oranges, tangerines and apples. In season the peaches and nectarines are marvelous. It seems that when you buy first quality, full price peaches and nectarines you always have to let them sit for a few days to ripen up. But the reduced produce version are ready to go….perfectly ripe and juicey. The apples shown to the right were 39 cents a pound, normally they would be $1.89 or more per pound. These apples were in great condition. One of my favorite pie recipes is for oatmeal crust fruit pie and this is where these apples are headed:
Oatmeal Crust Apple Pie
2 1/2 cups old fashioned oatmeal
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 t salt
1 t ground cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 t vanilla extract
3/4 cups butter, melted
5 or 6 apples (medium), peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins
2 T lemon juice
1 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t ground cloves
1/4 t ground nutmeg
2 T all purpose flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup sour cream
Combine all crust ingredients and mix well. Reserve about 3/4 cup for topping and place rest in 9 inch pie plate. Press firms on bottom and up sides, creating a thick crust.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Place sliced apples and dried cranberries or raisins in a bowl. Add lemon juice and spices and toss. Sprinkle in flour and mix. Gradually add flour then sour cream.
Place filling in pie crust and sprinkle reserved oatmeal mixture on top. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until crust is nicely browned.
This pie is great served warm or cold…even good the next day for breakfast (oatmeal and fruit, can’t beat that for breakfast).
I have made this pie with blueberries or nectarines or peaches and love those versions as well.
So, if you are lucky enough to have a grocery store that has a reduced produce section, don’t be embarrassed to head on over and check it out!