It happens to all us: You buy fresh, amazing-looking fruits or vegetables with every intention of eating them, but end up tossing a few of them out because they went bad before you got to them.
You're hardly the only one. According to studies, 40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten. This uneaten food ends up in landfills and cost an average of $165 billion per year in the US.
But a few simple changes in your shopping, meal prep planning, and food storage habits can put a dent in this outrageous statistic. Keep your produce fresher longer by following these tips, and you'll save money and reduce your carbon footprint. A total win-win.
10 Smart Strategies Buying and Storing Fresh Produce
- Before you head out to the market, clean out the refrigerator. By cleaning out your refrigerator first, you will be able to see what you have and what you need. No more buying a new bag of celery because you forgot you had a bag buried under a bunch of leftovers. Having a clean slate before you shop will help you decide what to buy. Also, it’s best to remove old, rotting produce from your refrigerator before you get a new batch.
- Make a shopping list before you head to the store. It’s easy to get distracted by an attractive produce section or farmers market. By knowing ahead of time what you are planning to cook for the week will save you time and limit produce waste. This is not to say that you shouldn’t splurge on an impulse buy, but have a plan for what you are going to use the majority of your produce purchases before you shop will help keep you on track.
- Knowing what and when produce is at peak season is a good shopping tactic. This will help with meal planning and, often times, seasonal peak produce is cheaper. Don’t let its low price point lure you into stockpiling; instead, have a plan so the produce doesn’t go bad before you eat it all.
- Keep unripe potatoes, onions and tomatoes in a cool, dry pantry, separated. Do not refrigerate these three ever, as refrigerator temperatures ruin the flavors.
- Keep high ethylene producers separate. Ethylene is a gas that is produced by ripening fruits and vegetables. The amount of ethylene gas given off by produce will vary. Produce such as bananas, tomatoes, peaches,cantaloupe, avocado and plum produce a large amount of ethylene gas. Keep ethylene sensitive produce, such as apples, potatoes, broccoli, green beans and summer squash away from ethylene producers.
- In general, if you have a very ripe piece of fruit, separate it from the others to keep the other fruit from ripening too fast. You can also use ethylene gas to your advantage by placing a very ripe fruit or vegetable into a paper bag with an unripe produce to speed up the ripening process.
- Most unripe fruit can be kept on the kitchen counter. Once ripened, you can refrigerate until they will last a bit longer. You can even refrigerate ripe bananas. The peels will turn dark, but the flesh will remain firm and unblemished.
- Store berries unwashed in your refrigerator. Berries are very sensitive and are picked ripe. If you washed them ahead of time, they will mold faster. Wash them right before you eat them. Cherries and grapes should be stored unwashed as well and in their original packaging.
- Store lettuce and herbs in a plastic bag with a little bit of air in them and seal tightly. The air will help keep the leaves from touching the bag and limit moisture built up on the leaves. If you pre-wash your lettuce, make sure it’s completely dry before storage. Alternatively, you can store herbs in a glass filled partway with water. Put the cut ends of the herbs in the water and place a small zip baggie over the leaves. Your herbs will last much longer this way.
- Citrus fruit can be stored at room temperature, but they will last much longer if they are refrigerated and kept in their perforated bags.
If you don’t get to all your produce before it goes bad, don’t beat yourself up over it. You now know much you will need to shop for the next week. If you have a garden or ornamental plants, consider composing.
Any type of fruit and vegetable scraps can be composted and turned into a natural fertilizer for a vegetable garden or landscape plants. Knowing how to properly store your a small action that anybody can do help save you money and limit food waste.
Looking for other ways to keep your produce fresh? Don't miss these articles:
How To Keep Your Fresh Produce Fresh
How To Build A Meal From The Farmer's Market
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WATCH: Z Living's Flip My Food, a show that "flips" the favorite dishes of award winning chefs, celebrities, and everyday people to make a healthier version that's just as mouthwatering. See a sneak preview here.
Tell us in the comments: What are your best tips for keeping your produce fresh?