Skip to content

5 Groceries You Should Never Buy At the Last Minute

These groceries need a little time at home before they’re ready to eat.

It's a familiar situation for many of us: you come home from work, hungry for dinner, only to find an empty pantry and fridge.

Sure, you could order delivery, or head to your favorite neighborhood spot. But dining out and ordering in can be expensive, and on busy nights like Friday or Saturday, it can sometimes take forever. Depending on where you live, you might also be facing limited options for foods that just don't hold up well in transit. Not to mention, cooking at home tends to be a healthier option. 

You may think it will be faster to make a quick trip to the grocery store and whip something up back at home. But if you're going to run to the store, there are a few items that are best not to buy at the last minute. These groceries need a little time at home before they're ready to eat.

7 Groceries You Should Never Buy On Sale

Light green avocados

ripe avocado over unripe avocado

If you're craving fresh guacamole tonight, you're better off buying premade guac from the grocery store than hard, light green avocados. They'll need a few days to soften up at home before they're ready to slice and mash into a fluffy dip. 

On the other hand, if you can find a soft and ready avocado in the pile, you're in luck. An avocado that gives a little when gently squeezed and is dark in color should be creamy and soft enough to mash into guac. The fruit that is still hard and light-colored is a bad choice for a last-minute meal.

Frozen meat and poultry

Frozen Raw Ribs Meat

Frozen ground beef can take a full 12 hours to thaw overnight in the fridge. And though there are shorter ways to defrost meat, per the FDA, such as running it under cold water, even this method can take an hour or more. Larger pieces of meat will take longer to defrost, so if you're in a rush, you're better off purchasing pre-portioned servings. 

Like frozen beef, chicken and turkey will also take upwards of an hour to defrost fully under running water or in the fridge. However, you can cook frozen poultry from frozen, just expect to add about 50% to the cooking time, according to FDA guidelines


heirloom tomatoes

Tomatoes, especially large, thin-skinned heirlooms, become very delicate when they're ripe. As a result, there's a high chance of damaging the delicate fruit on the way home from the store. For safer transport, opt for tomatoes that still need a bit of time to ripen, and store them in a dark cloth-lined drawer for a few days and they'll be sweet, juicy, and ready to eat. 

Green bananas

unripe green bananas

If your grocery store is only selling hard, greenish bananas, don't expect to be able to serve or eat them the same day. In fact, depending on how green they really are, you may need two to three days until you have sunny and soft yellow fruit to sweeten your morning oatmeal. Of course, if you wait too long, bananas will also darken and soften more than you might like. Of course, then you can always whip up banana bread!

Frozen fish

frozen fish

While quick-cooking seafood like shrimp and scallops can be cooked directly from frozen, you're better off defrosting larger pieces of fish before making dinner. These will thaw faster than meat or chicken, because of the more delicate flesh. To speed things up, place them under a running faucet of cold water. The running water will defrost the protein in less than an hour for smaller fillets. But if you're in a real time crunch, you're better off opting for fresh seafood.

Lizzy Briskin
Lizzy is a trained chef, food writer, and recipe developer for print and digital outlets including Insider, Real Simple, and the Chicago Tribune. Read more about Lizzy