You probably know the struggle—going grocery shopping and then getting excited for all the fresh, nutritious meals you can make with your newly-bought produce. But, when you open the fridge a few days later, you find your fruits and veggies wilted, molded, mushy, and moist.
Luckily, you can prevent this. Remember, you don’t need to store every vegetable in the same way. Some need more moisture, others need to be chilled, and some require a dry environment for the most extended storage life possible.
Below is an insider list of tips, tricks, and tools that will help prevent your produce from going bad, ensuring you get the most bang for your buck.
Consider Separating Fruits and Veggies
Interestingly, multiple factors—temperature, ethylene, and airflow—contribute to the lifespan of your produce’s freshness. These are the three factors you should consider when combining your fruits and vegetables in the fridge. For example, as fruits age, they release ethylene, which is detrimental to green vegetables and makes them decompose faster. That’s why it’s typically best to separate fruits and vegetables when storing them in the refrigerator.
(Fun fact: You can speed up the ripening process of an avocado by storing it in a reusable bag with an ethylene-producing fruit, like a banana, and letting it sit in the sun until it’s ripened to your likening.)
Bag Your Bunch
For most produce items, it is best to utilize plastic containers or reusable baggies to help your fruits and veggies retain the moisture they need. This trick is especially beneficial for leafy greens, which need to retain a certain amount of moisture to keep their signature crunch. You might also want to wrap it in a breathable cloth material so that the moisture is locked in but does not contribute to the wilting or dampening of the greens.
Refrigerate Your Produce
Keeping your fruits and veggies in a cold, preservative state allows for the longest possible lifespan of freshness. If you buy unripened apricots, avocados, kiwis, mangos, melons, nectarines, papayas, peaches, pears, plums, and tomatoes, you should store them at room temperature until they are ripe. When they are ripe, refrigerate them until snack time! This trick is useful for most produce—except bananas, garlic, onions, potatoes, pumpkins, rutabagas, winter squash, and sweet potatoes, which should never be refrigerated.
Freezing Your Food
Whether you buy your produce in bulk and need to save it for later, or you just want to make your favorite fruits and veggies last as long as possible, consider using your freezer over your fridge. The best practice for ensuring good results from this method is to cut your desired produce into servable sizes, place them in bags, and stick them in the freezer. For defrosting fruits and most vegetables, simply place them in the fridge for an hour before you plan to use them—they will thaw into a crisp, fresh state. For defrosting leafy greens, wrap them in breathable cloth, and place them in the refrigerator so that the melting frost does not cause the leaves to dampen.
A Visual Guide
Purdue University’s Produce for Better Health Foundation’s colorful, well-organized guide is an ideal visual aid you can reference to see the best ways to store produce. The guide shows you what to refrigerate (and for how long), what to bag, and the lifespans of each food’s ripeness.
No matter which method you choose, you can keep your fruits and vegetables in peak condition and ready to serve for personal snacks, family meals, or gatherings of loved ones by following these tips!