Feel like you are constantly throwing away produce along with your good intentions week after week? Let’s face it, sometimes our weeks just don’t go as planned and finicky produce is often a victim. Well, not anymore. Read on for how to store produce so it lasts forever!
How to store produce so it lasts forever
I feel like this post is LOOOOOOOOOOOOOONNNNG overdue.
We talk all about meal planning, meal prep, and using the freezer to simplify meal time.
We talk about that guilt we feel when our meal plan doesn’t go as plan and we dump a bunch of wilty produce straight in the garbage.
…but we haven’t talked about the steps we can take to stretch that produce just a bit longer.
The steps that will allow life to happen (because it does) and still allow you to repurpose those veggies instead of throwing them away because we’ve stored them in a way that lasts as long as possible.
The truth is, this topic is one that I hadn’t really done my research on until now.
I’d seen tips and tricks, but hadn’t really tried any of them out because they all seemed a little finicky or dramatic, and I didn’t want my grocery put-away experience to take hours…
(fun fact: my current grocery put-away experience is LONG, but hopefully I can convince you in the course of this episode that it’s totally worth it!)
Why how you store your produce matters
While storing your produce properly takes time and energy, it will save you time and money in the long run (it’s sometimes annoying that it feels like every extra thing we don’t wanna do is that way, am I right?)
…but making my produce last longer in the fridge means I’m not having to use the mental energy to buy things week after week, I don’t have to be as vigilant about cleaning out my fridge, AND I am more likely to actually get to my produce because I have time AND because many of these methods make the produce more accessible, more visible, and less likely to get shoved to the back of the crisper drawer.
Most of these methods I am already using and I’m loving reaping the benefits, some of them are new to me, but are well-documented in the world of the internet and I’ll be sure to include links to those who are using those methods with success, particularly the ones I’m not yet using regularly.
Principles of properly storing your produce
We’re going to get into the nitty-gritty of how to store produce of all kinds, but for almost all types of produce proper storage comes down to one thing. Moisture. It’s all about properly managing moisture. Too much and your produce rots, too little and it gets all dried and shrivelly (I’m looking at you weeks old lemons and limes).
So when in doubt think about how you can create sort of a moisture bubble. This is how crisper drawers in the refrigerator work, by creating an area of the refrigerator with slightly higher humidity by closing off the small area. Good news, the crisper drawer is still a good choice for a lot of your produce. Not everything needs a fancy tip or trick to live it’s best (and longest-lasting) life.
Now that we’ve gone over the basics. Let’s dig into all of our favorite produce and see what specific tips and tricks will work best for each type
How to store specific types of produce so they last
Berries/Fruit– One of my favorite tricks that I use for fruit (my favorites are berries and grapes) is a vinegar wash. I don’t know about you, but strawberries and grapes seem to last only days from when I purchase them. In fact, I started planning any meal that utilized strawberries at the beginning of the week, or I made a special trip to the store to buy strawberries so they wouldn’t go bad. So annoying, right? That is until I learned this vinegar wash trick. Simply soak fruit in a mixture of 1/2 C white vinegar to about 4 C cool water. Soak for 15 minutes, rinse, and then let dry on a towel for 30 or so minutes before transferring to a not-too-tightly packed airtight container. If you want them to last even longer, add a dry paper towel to the bottom to soak up any extra moisture, and discard any rotten berries as soon as you notice them. This method has changed strawberries for me, they’ve lasted up to two weeks with this method instead of just days. Grapes taste crisp more than a week after purchasing them. It’s amazing!! Just be sure the fruit is quite dry before you put it back in the fridge.
Potatoes and onions-I feel like this one is fairly obvious, what with root cellars were used for the purpose of storing root vegetables over the winter. Potatoes and onions like cool, dark locations. It may be tempting to store potatoes in the fridge, but in the fridge the starch is converted to sugar and creates and undesirable flavor. My one exception to this is if I have meal prepped potatoes and I’m storing them in water. I’ve found they can keep okay stored in water for 24-48 hours before I need to cook them. Fun fact about potatoes and onions, even though they both like cool dark spaces, don’t store them together. The onions produce gasses that can cause the potatoes to ripen (aka rot) prematurely. I honestly don’t have a great spot that fits the bill for cool, dark, and dry because I don’t have a basement, so I store potatoes and onions in my dark pantry. It would be better if it were cooler, but they do okay. I’m also careful to keep a smaller stock during the summer than during the winter because the heat of the summer causes the potatoes and onions to spoil faster
Tomatoes– Is it just me that thought tomatoes should be stored in the refrigerator? Turns out that storing them in the fridge can diminish their flavor and make them mealy. The exception to this would be home grown-tomatoes (or farmer’s market purchased) fresh off the vine that ripened in the sun. Most storebought tomatoes are picked green so they survive transport. I’m linking to a big old article that gets more into the science of this, I’m not getting into it, only enough to say that farmer’s market tomatoes are probably fine in the fridge for a few days, where as typical tomatoes will likely get mealy.
Fresh herbs-Herbs are another one of those notoriously annoying things to store. Please tell me I’m not the only one who finds slimy cilantro in the back of the produce drawer from time to time. Yuck. I also feel like many times the cilantro is already looking sad within the week that I purchased it, which just won’t do! I’ve been loving storing my fresh herbs in water with a loose bag over the top. The bag over the top helps the leaves not to dry out, and the water keeps them nice and fresh!
Bananas– We’ve all seen those cute little banana hangers, are they worth it? If you’re a banana lover they might be. Hanging your bananas helps them to ripen evenly, where they may get brown spots where they rest on the counter/in the bowl. Another nice thing about a stand is that you can keep your bananas away from other fruits, since bananas are notorious for releasing gases that ripen other fruits much too quickly (you CAN use this tip if you want to quickly ripen something). Fun tip that I learned in my banana research, is that you actually can refrigerate bananas. Don’t refrigerate until they are ripe to your liking but you may be able to squeeze a few more good days out of them by refrigerating at this point.
Greens– When storing greens, you want to find that right moisture balance. Greens (like romaine) can be prone to too much moisture when they are tightly packed. To solve this problem, separate the leaves, wash, dry, and store with a paper towel in an airtight bag to absorb any unwanted moisture. If the leaves are already separate, just wash and dry and again add in a paper towel.
Citrus-The crisper drawer in your refrigerator is actually a good option for your citrus. But if you need it to last extra long, try storing it in an airtight container filled with water! This method has been reported to keep lemons fresh for months.
Apples-Apples, like bananas, onions, and many other fruits and veggies cause other fruits/veggies to prematurely ripen. Because of this you’ll want to keep them separate from other produce. They like cool but not freezing. The crisper drawer is a good choice, but because you don’t want to store them with other fruits and vegetables this might be a inconvenient. They will also do well in a cool room. Apples are actually pretty hardy and they last a long time even in less than ideal condtions so consider space needs when choosing how to store them because other produce is pickier.
Pears/Peaches-Pears and peaches are similar to bananas in that you’ll want to let them ripen on the counter or at room temperature, but you can refrigerate them after doing so to make them last a bit longer. If you want them to ripen faster, try putting them in a brown paper bag.
Carrots– Carrots are another fairly easy/hardy vegetable. For them to fare their best, don’t wash or peel them until you are ready to use them. If you do want to meal prep them, store cut carrots in water, airtight bag
Celery-A fun tip about celery that I haven’t tried out yet, it actually likes to be stored wrapped in tin foil. It reportedly lasts 2-4 weeks when stored this way.
Broccoli and peppers-Broccoli likes circulation (which begs the question why the bag it comes in doesn’t have circulation) so try storing with the bag open, or in a mesh produce bag. Peppers also like circulation. Once cut, store peppers in an airtight container with a paper towel.
Avocadoes-Like bananas, peaches, and pears, avocadoes can be stored in the fridge once they are ripe to get them to last a few days longer.
Alright my friends, that’s it
Hopefully you’ve learned a tip or to for how to store produce so it tastes fresh from the farm days or weeks after you’ve purchased it. I know I’ve been loving experimenting with these techniques and I’m saving money and mental energy by not having to shop for produce quite so frequently. Win-win!
Next time on the podcast, we’re going to discuss high protein snack ideas. I’ve been trying to up my protein intake to compliment my strength training routine, and it can be tough! Protein is so important (whether you train or not) and getting enough can feel tricky so I thought you might like a little deep dive into what I’m doing that actually works.
Thanks for tuning in friends!
Until next time, happy planning 🙂
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