Who among us hasn’t had a bunch of bananas go from perfectly ripe to practically rotten overnight? And when it comes to avocados, well, sometimes it seems like you could blink and miss that magical moment between not-quite-ripe and brown mush. With rotten produce in hand, we feel bad about all the nutrition we’ve missed out on, and we’re essentially tossing money straight into the compost pile.
Certain kitchen staples are just notorious for spoiling quickly, but with a few tricks, you can keep many of them around for a few days longer.
Not all produce should be stored the same way, so before you just toss it all in the crisper together, take note of what you’ve got, how it should be stored, and whether it should be separated from other items in your shopping bag.
Reduce the excess liquid for certain fruits and veggies
Many types of produce, like lettuce, give off moisture when they sit for a while, and that can increase their speed of spoilage. To slow down that process, try wrapping your leafy greens in a paper towel or cloth vegetable bag; even just placing a paper towel in the container holding your greens can help prevent a buildup of moisture.
For other produce, use water to help them stay fresh
Hardy vegetables, like celery and carrots, can be cut into snack sizes and stored in a bowl of water to help them stay crispy. And for more delicate produce, like berries, washing them in a solution of one cup vinegar and three cups of water can help remove the icky stuff, like spores and bacteria, that can cause them to spoil more quickly. Just be sure to wash them well with clean water and pat them fully dry before placing them back in the fridge.
Identify and isolate “gassy produce.”
You might not smell it, but bananas, apples, potatoes, peaches, pears, and other produce give off gases such as ethylene while ripening, which affect other produce (including cucumbers and berries) and make them age prematurely, so it’s best to store them separately if you can. Unless you want to ripen something quickly, that is — in that case, let them get cozy!
Keep it cool
Many fruits and vegetables do well in the refrigerator with a temperature of 40°F / 4,4°C or less, but there are plenty of others, like bananas, that need to be stored at room temperature. Not sure what to do? Take note of how they’re stored at the grocery store; cold produce should generally be refrigerated, and if you’re unclear on the others, a short search for your particular produce should yield a quick answer. It’s also worth noting that some produce that doesn’t ripen well in the fridge, like avocados, can be transferred to the fridge once they reach peak ripeness to give you a day or two to use them up.
Tips to reduce wasted produce
- Do your meal planning ahead of time and shop accordingly.
- Plan a few meals for the week using the same types of vegetables so you can easily go through everything you bought.
- Deep freeze. You can cut and peel ripe fruit, then freeze on a parchment-lined tray in a single layer, transferring to a freezer bag once frozen, and for other veggies, consider chopping and blanching them before freezing. You’ll have plenty of produce for soups, stews, smoothies, and more!
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