5 Tips for Buying Fresh Fish at the Grocery Store

Shopping for fresh fish at the grocery store can be overwhelming. It can seem difficult to know if you’re getting a good quality product, especially if you’re new to buying and cooking fish. That’s why we’ve put together a cheat sheet for you to reference next time you go shopping. With these tips in mind, you can rest assured that you’re getting a healthy, tasty seafood product that you can feel good about buying.

Check the Texture

Regal_Fillet 3 (1)

The meat of the fish should be firm, moist and freshly cut without any dry spots. If the meat seems discolored or the scales have a “ruffled” appearance, find a different cut of fish for your dinner. The image above shows a perfect, fresh fillet of Lake-Grown Tilapia from Honduras.

Beware of Strong Fishy Smells

Checking the smell of a fish is key to making sure you’re getting good quality seafood. While you may think that your fish should have a strong “fishy” smell, a strong odor may actually be a sign that a fish is past its prime. Instead, your fresh fish should smell like seawater or cucumber.

The Eyes are the Window to the Freshest Fish


If you’re buying a whole fish, take a good look at the fish’s eyes. If the fish’s eyes look crystal-clear, plump, wet and shiny, the fish is truly fresh and healthy. If the fish’s eyes look cloudy, are sunken, or look dry, the fish may not be very fresh.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

The friendly folks at your local Costco, Meijer or Kroger want to help you feel confident about the seafood you’re buying. Don’t hesitate to ask your fishmonger any questions you may have about the fish counter, where the fish is sourced from or fish cooking tips. There’s no such thing as a silly question when it comes to fish shopping.

Take Your Fish Directly Home

Grocery bag on counter

If you tend to lump your grocery run with the rest of your errands, make sure it’s your last stop on the way home. This will help ensure that your fish stays as fresh as possible. Warm cars can cause a fish’s quality, texture and flavor to fade, so go straight home after you’ve left the grocery store and put your fish in the coldest part of your fridge as soon as possible. For optimum freshness, cook your fish within 24 hours of purchasing it.

Shop at Reputable Grocery Stores

In order to ensure you’re getting the best possible quality of seafood, make sure you’re buying your fish from a reputable grocery store. Costco, Kroger, HEB, Sprouts, Walmart and Vons are some of the grocery stores that have a great reputation for carrying high-quality fresh seafood.

Photos: Regal Springs Tilapia / Aleph Studio / Shutterstock.com, cookbookman17, ais3n, Joshua Resnick / Shutterstock.com