Storing fruit and Vegetables
So much produce gets thrown out needlessly because it went bad before having the opportunity to be used. Becoming aware of some do’s and don’ts when it comes to how to store fruit and vegetables will help extend shelf life, without losing flavor.
Creating habits can be hard, but once you instill proper sorting and storing, you are well on your way to practicing a sustainable living lifestyle.
Location matters when storing fruits and vegetables
Each home has their own system for storing fruit and vegetables, whether you are aware of the system or not. A few tweaks to how you would normally store fruit and vegetables will help reduce overripening, keep flavor at their best.
It’s okay, we all do it!
Most households have a basket of fruit for healthy snacking that includes bananas, oranges, apples and other produce. That is until the sad day it all goes bad before you remember to eat your daily servings of fruit.
Let’s throw a few scenarios out there so you can see how easy it is to let produce go past its prime.
- Part of being an adult is always having bananas and saying you are gonna use the black spotted ones for banana bread. So you hold off on throwing out the uneaten fruit.
- Perhaps you opt to buy local at farmers markets and want to keep produce fresh between meals. Buying local versus big time retailers can often mean more money spent, making it harder to throw out the organic, twice-the-price carrots that were not eaten.
- One of the most expensive departments while grocery shopping is the produce section. You can shop sales and buy what’s in season to keep flavors and spending under control. Sometimes shopping hungry can lead to overbuying since “it was on sale”.
- Cravings dictate buying options, there is no shame in this. Sometimes you just need fresh oranges to knock that cold out.
Whatever the reason for shopping in the fresh produce section, proper storage will ensure longer lasting, better tasting and less waste fruit and vegetables.
How to keep produce fresh longer
Here are some tips on how and where to store your fruit and veggies to prolong their availability and reduce waste! Produce storage locations include the counter, fridge, or a mixture between the two.
But, let’s first address why sorting needs to happen in the first place. Because unless you know the why, the where doesn’t matter. So we gotta ask the big question.
What causes ripening?
Glad you asked, produce gives off gas known as Ethylene during the ripening process. Fruit and vegetables let off different levels of ethylene, which can speed up the ripening process.
If you are not careful, high ethylene producers can cause premature ripening in surrounding produce. Let’s look at an example we have all probably been through.
When you mix a high ethylene producer like bananas and apples, it can cause the other to ripen faster. Ever notice how bananas get spotted a lot quicker when stored in a fruit basket?
Apples are the culprit since they let off higher levels of ethylene gas like bananas do, resulting in premature ripening.
Knowing which produces the highest levels, and how to separate is easier than you think, and your tender produce will thank you for the help.
Hint: there is a produce storage chart at the end 🙂
You probably already have assigned seating on the counter space and refrigerator, but there are some surprising assignments to take note of below.
Fruit and vegetables to store on the counter
Fruits and vegetables stored at room temperature can come in two categories. One is for permanent placement, while the other is a temporary ripening platform.
Some produce will benefit from a day or two of light and warm temperatures to become the desirable ripeness, then added the fridge to extend the lifespan.
Fruits that need permanent space on the counter:
- Thick skinned squash like butternut, spaghetti and pumpkin
- Citrus like oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit.
- Tender skinned produced: yellow squash, zucchini, watermelon, eggplant, cucumbers, peppers
Fruit and vegetables to ripen on the counter before adding to the fridge
We all want to avoid spending our hard earned money in vain. Being disappointed by lacking flavors because we buy green, hoping to give ourselves some wiggle room for preparation is one of the biggest adult struggles. We are all looking at you avocados.
Ripen these fruits and veggies on the counter and then add to the fridge to extend the lifespan while maintaining flavors.
BEWARE: Apples, bananas, tomatoes, bananas and avocados are the highest ethylene producing. So store these AWAY from others on the counter.
What fruit and vegetables to store in the fridge
Cool temperatures in the fridge will keep low or higher ethylene producing fruit and veggies fresher longer. Just take care to keep tomatoes and avocados stored separate, in a sealed container to avoid ethylene over ripening sensitive produce.
- Leafy greens like spinach, lettuce, kale, fresh cut herbs keep the longest in airtight bags
- Tomatoes and avocados -high ethylene produces should be stored in bags away from others
- Heads of broccoli or cauliflower store best left unwrapped in the crisper, away from high gas producing tomatoes
- Berries like strawberries, raspberries and blueberries should be kept in containers with small ventilations. Try these cute containers
- Root crops- carrots, leeks, green onions, beets, turnips need to have greens removed and store in sealable bags
Produce storage options
Storing vegetables can be done in a few different ways depending on your preference. Zero waste kitchens will opt for reusable whenever possible. but if you are sensitive to smells sometimes odor residue can be easier to avoid with disposable.
Onions and garlic for example can cling to containers, so either reuse the same container for storage, or opt for disposable.
Counter space can be precious, and chore to keep clean of clutter. Here are some ways to organize and keep produce stored correctly.
- Food hammocks- save counter space and use hammocks! You can make one with a recycled t-shirt with slits cut. Or try this cute macramé hammock under the counter with hooks.
- Baskets like wicker, plastic woven or this wire two tier basket
- Stackable wire shelving
- Plate tiered stands – diy your own or grab this cute farmhouse galvanized tiered stand to keep produce separate!
- Rolling cars– great for end of counters
- Wooden potato bins- with wire doors to create air flow like this one
Fridge storage can pose a challenge since space is so limited. But eliminating the store packaging can be a start. Replace (and recycle) store containers with these sliding shelf storage options for better storage, and easy access.
- Bags- plastic single use or reusable. You can just as easily reuse plastic bags such as Ziploc by rinsing them out and letting them dry before storing food in them again. Here are some great reusable sandwich bags if you are looking to save on constantly throwing out plastic bags
- Wax cloth- If you are looking to start zero waste kitchen habits, wax clothes are a great way to dip your toes in! They come in all kinds of patterns and sizes, try these CUTE ones and see how they reduce waste!
- Containers- glass or plastic lunch containers, mason jars
- Sliding basket to clip on fridge shelves for less digging and easy storage
If you can’t decide, here is a set up of reusable bags, wax cloth and stretchy lids so you can try it all! Click here for link to set
Store veggies in water for freshness
Sounds kind of silly, huh?
But storing produce in a water bath is actually one of the best ways to extend crispness, shelf life and have snacks on hand. Storing in water slows the oxidation process, in turn reducing browning and shrinking. Not all produce likes a water bath, below are a few ideas that will benefit and can help save you time!
Grab some wide mouth mason jars and these colorful reusable lids for packing veggies in water. Or reuse glass sauce jars like marinara jars.
- Potatoes that are peeled, and cut. Makes prepping ahead SO much easier
- Carrot sticks won’t dry out, crack or bend funny when stored in water
- Apple slices
Don’t forget about bugs
The one less cute, but honest thing to consider when storing fruit and vegetables are the bugs. Is it the heat of the summer? Are flies buzzing everywhere? Are you having an ant or creepy crawly infestation?
It happens to the best of us.
If you are dealing with bugs, the fridge might be the safest place because of how many hiding spaces there are. Fruit and vegetables that can be peeled are okay to leave out if you must since the peel will be thrown away.
Be sure to inspect and discard any produce the bugs got to discourage a habitat for the critters to move into. Found some buggy holes? Don’t toss them just yet!
Try recycling compost friendly produce or making your own kitchen cleaners with citrus. If the bugs only got to a portion of the citrus, use the good half to make your own citrus chemical free cleaner!
How to store produce printable
How to correctly store fruit and vegetables doesn’t have to be hard to remember, especially when you can have a visual guide. Life is far too busy, and I would rather help than add one more to your plate to remember.
So here is a printable chart for you to keep on the inside the cupboard door for easy reference.
Having trouble downloading? Try clicking this google docs version.
How to Store Fruit and Vegetables chart
Investing in fresh produce doesn’t have to end in throwing away unused or rotten fruit and veggies when proper using storage habits. Hopefully these tips can help encourage less waste, and more usable fruit and veggies to keep you living sustainably.
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