Americans waste 30-40% of the food we produce each year. That’s a staggering number, especially when so many Americans are food insecure.
Sometimes it’s impossible to use all the food we buy. You intend to, but you let it go a day too long in the refrigerator. Or it turns a day or two after you buy it.
Either way, it ends up in the trash. Throwing food away is a waste of food and a waste of money.
Are you tired of wasting your money? Do you want to learn how to keep produce fresh?
Check out our fresh produce guide guaranteed to reduce your food waste.
Learn How to Buy Fresh
What do you do when you shop for produce? Do you buy the first thing on the shelf and move on? That’s a strategy guaranteed to fail.
Keeping produce fresh starts with buying the freshest produce possible. Buying the freshest possible means training your eyes and your nose. It means being choosy.
It takes time to learn how to buy produce, but there are some easy rules of thumb.
When buying leafy greens, look for a deep green color. Avoid leafy greens that are discolored or look wilted.
For fruits and vegetables, look for fragrant smells and tight skins. Avoid any that feels soft to the touch. Don’t buy discolored fruits and vegetables.
Keep in mind when you plan to eat your fruits and vegetables. Buying underripe tomatoes and avocados for later in the week is a way to prevent them from turning.
Learn How to Store
You can’t put all your produce in the crisper. Nor can you leave it unrefrigerated. Certain fruits and vegetables stay fresh in the fridge, while others turn quicker.
Some produce releases ethylene gas. This naturally occurring gas causes other produce to turn when in contact. Keep ethylene-sensitive produce away from fruits and vegetables producing this gas.
Storing Onions, Garlic, and Shallots
Keep onions, garlic, and shallots out of the refrigerator. Store them in a cool place free from moisture and away from root vegetables.
Onions and garlic cause potatoes and root vegetables to sprout.
If you use half an onion, you should place it in the fridge. Make sure to seal it in an airtight bag.
Excess moisture is the enemy of leafy greens. Store them in the fridge, but do not wash and then store. The moisture on the leaves turns them soggy.
Greens last longer in bags designed to keep produce fresh. Check out The Freshie Food Saver Bag, where the organic cotton material allows your greens to breathe and releases ethylene, to keep product fresh for up to 2-3 weeks.
Potatoes and Root Veggies
Keep potatoes at room temperature. They brown when stored cold. Store them away from ethylene-producing fruits and vegetables like bananas and onions.
Other root veggies like beets and carrots can refrigerate. They don’t produce ethylene so you can keep them next to leafy greens and berries.
You can refrigerate citrus, or you can leave it out.
Not all citrus responds to ethylene the same. Oranges and grapefruits aren’t sensitive while lemons and limes are.
Citrus best suits a dual approach. Keep it out, and then refrigerate whatever you don’t use before it turns.
Apples, Pears, Bananas
These three fruits emit a high amount of ethylene. Keep them away from leafy greens, sensitive root vegetables, and citrus fruit.
You can refrigerate apples and pears. If you do, put them in one of these sustainably manufactured bags to keep produce fresh. They last longer bagged.
Don’t refrigerate bananas. The cold, moist air causes bananas to brown faster.
Stone Fruit, Berries, Avocados
Avocados are impossible. You buy them hard as a rock. Blink twice and they’ve rotted.
You can keep ripe avocados in the fridge. Firm, unripe avocados can last up to two weeks refrigerated.
Stone fruits like cherries, peaches, plums, and nectarines ripen at room temperature. Berries soften and grow mold if not refrigerated.
Refrigerate these fruits, but keep them away from apples and pears. They are ethylene sensitive.
There are so many neat tricks to keep your produce fresh. Try some of these to save money and prevent waste.
Most produce loses life when it loses water. You can keep your produce fresher longer by using water to keep it alive.
Vegetables like asparagus and kale store well in jars of water. Think of this as placing flowers in a vase of water.
Trim the ends and submerge them in a jar filled with tap water. They’ll keep in your fridge for up to two weeks!
This is also a great way to get a few extra days from your fresh herbs.
Storing tomatoes in paper bags causes them to ripen. It’s a great trick for when you have a green tomato you want to eat soon.
Paper bags also extend the freshness of other produce such as mushrooms. The paper absorbs moisture, keeping your mushrooms and corn fresh and dry.
Freezing your fresh herbs in olive oil is a great way to maintain their freshness for a very long time. This way you have the flavor of fresh herbs all year long.
Use an ice cube tray for this trick. Chop your herbs and place them in the cube molds. Fill the molds with olive oil and freeze.
Citrus also freezes well. Buying large quantities of lemons and limes means we can’t always use them before they turn. Slice them then freeze the slices on a baking sheet.
Once they’re frozen, bag and store in your freezer.
Keeping lettuce fresh is about mitigating moisture. Too little moisture dries it out. Too much moisture and the lettuce turns soggy.
Separate the leaves of a fresh head and layer with paper towels. The paper towels absorb the excess moisture and keep your lettuce fresh and crisp.
Refrigerating berries keeps them fresh. They still go soggy or grow mold too fast. Keep them fresher longer with a vinegar soak!
Mix a solution of three parts cold water to one part white vinegar. Submerge and soak the berries for at least a minute. Strain and rinse with fresh cold water.
Dry the berries with a paper towel and store them in a vented container lined with paper towels.
Tweak Your Fridge
You’ve bought the best produce bags. You take care to store your fruits and vegetables. Do they still turn too fast?
Your refrigerator settings might not be correct.
Experts say 37°F is the best refrigerator temperature to keep your food fresh. It’s warm enough to prevent ice crystals that damage produce. It’s cold enough to keep everything crisp.
A freezer temperature of 0°F keeps your frozen produce safe and fresh.
Your crisper drawer’s humidity settings contribute to freshness. One drawer is set for high humidity, and the other for low.
Keep leafy greens, herbs, and other ethylene-sensitive vegetables in the high humidity drawer. Store high ethylene-producing fruits and vegetables in the low humidity drawer.
Blanching and Freezing
The grocery store and farmer’s markets have sales you can’t turn down. Buying a lot of sale items is a great way to save money. You’re not saving money if you throw this produce away.
Don’t throw produce away. Blanch and freeze it to keep it fresh year-round.
Start by boiling a pot of water. Then trim and cut the vegetables. Once the water boils, submerge the vegetables in the water and let them cook.
Once they’re cooked, drain the pot. Submerge the cooked vegetables in ice water. This ice water bath halts the cooking process.
Strain the produce from the ice water and dry. Portion into freezer bags once dry.
Learn the Art of Meal Planning
Using your produce is a race against time. You can extend its freshness. It won’t stay fresh forever.
Keep your produce fresh and save money by meal planning.
It doesn’t matter if you’re single or feeding a family of four. Each trip to the grocery store should have a plan. Map out your meals for the week and buy the right ingredients.
Another way to strategize is to have a repertoire of meals and buy whatever produce is on sale.
Don’t let your fresh produce linger. Cut and cook it while it’s fresh to use for later meals.
Big batches of soups and sauces can be used during the week. They also freeze well.
Learn How to Keep Produce Fresh and Prevent Waste
We waste so much food in America. It’s a moral concern. So many of our neighbors face food insecurity.
It also drains our wallets.
Throwing away fruits and vegetables is like throwing away handfuls of money. So stop doing it. Follow these tips and learn how to keep produce fresh.
This infographic is from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Visit eatright.org for more information on healthful eating or to find a registered dietitian nutritionist.
Did you find this helpful? We’re here to provide you with eco-friendly shopping solutions. Check out our inventory of sustainable, reusable produce bags.
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