Get produce savvy with these pointers from buyers at natural foods stores across the country.

>> When in doubt, ask. Many natural foods stores are willing to accommodate customers' requests, whether they'd like to break up a large bundle of parsley or try a slice of cherimoya for the first time. If you have a small family that won't eat an entire melon or cabbage, ask the grocer to halve or quarter it for you.

>> Buying locally grown and seasonal produce has benefits beyond freshness. Because of lower transportation costs and a seasonally saturated market, these fruits and veggies are often cheaper.

>> No need to buy the whole mushroom. If you need only the caps, you'll find them labeled as stuffers or baby tops.

>> Use paper bags for mushrooms and fruit. Paper will prevent mushrooms from becoming slimy in the fridge, and it will act as an incubator for fruit, helping it ripen.

>> If you often eat potatoes, onions, and apples, save money by buying them in bulk. Choose a locally grown, thick-skinned potato variety that isn't green or sprouting, and store it in a cool, dark place for up to six months. If you don't eat an apple a day, make applesauce and freeze it.