Forgive Your Fresh Produce a Little to Save More

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There's a reason grocery stores guide you immediately to the produce section when you walk in. What's more alluring than all those fresh fruits and veggies, beautifully displayed and lovingly misted? Not only is it an aesthetic pleasure, but it promises a healthier, better lifestyle, full of good choices right from the outset of your shopping trip.

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That is, of course, assuming all that produce looks like it belongs in an art museum. Danish researchers have just published a study on how our emotions affect why we choose the foods we do — and our eyes often play a bigger role than our brains or our stomachs. More specifically, we expect a nonstandard piece of produce (like a misshaped tomato or a banana with brown spots) to taste bad, even if that doesn't match our experience with previous meals or ingredients. Because we then avoid any produce that's not picture-perfect, our food waste grows bigger and more problematic.

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The world of so-called "ugly produce" has been the subject of a lot of debate among psychologists, food scientists, and businesses. We tend to believe that more attractive food is healthier, though that's decidedly not the case; we also believe that locally grown produce tastes better, although that's subjective too. In the end, shopping exclusively for ugly produce may not be the big fix-it we're all hungry for.

That said, it might be most important to simply understand when to save and when to splurge on produce. Food waste is a trickier issue than it seems on the surface, but your budget will surely thank you if you focus on what you know you need and like.

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