It’s all about proper storage, folks! If you are wondering how to stretch your food budget while eating healthfully, (and keeping grocery trips to a minimum), we have some simple and effective tips for you!
These days, the safest rule of thumb is to purchase more at a time in order to shop less often. This is easy when stocking up on dry and canned goods. But what about our fruits and vegetables? After you fill your kitchen with beautiful delicious produce, there is nothing worse than finding that it has turned to mush in the fridge. So frustrating! But if you are in the know about the best way to store your fresh fruits and vegetables, you will find that you will have less waste and you will save money! Here’s how:
Photo by Scott Warman
1. Perfectly Picked -
Select the freshest produce you can find at the store. If it already is starting to turn, it won’t last very long in your pantry. Pick blemish-free fruit and vegetables. If you see it starting to go bad in your fridge, separate it from the rest. You know the one about the bad apple, right?
2. Delightfully Dry -
As a rule of thumb, produce should be dry when placed in the fridge. Don’t prewash. This can quickly lead to mold.
3. Breathing Room -
Don’t cram everything in the fridge. Again, this is another way that can lead to moldy vegetables. Your produce needs space to allow for air circulation. If everything is smushed together, especially those leafy greens, they will not last very long. And, when things start to look a little limp, cook them up enjoy right away.
4. It's in the Bag -
Speaking of which… salads and leafy greens are best stored in the plastic produce bags that they come in. This helps them to retain moisture. If they have any ties or rubber bands, make sure to remove them to allow for better air flow. You also can give the Hutzler Salad Saver a try. This is designed specifically for storing lettuces. When planning meals, keep in mind that greens with thicker leaves, like kale and collards, last longer than delicate lettuces. So eat the delicates first and save the kale for later in the week.
5. Think Flowers -
Asparagus, scallions, and leeks are unique as they are best stored with their roots (or cut ends) in a glass of water, like fresh flowers, and placed in the fridge. Alternatively, the Hutzler Herb Saver provides a dust-free and spill-free way to keep these fresh.
Photo by Tomasz Olszewski
6. Herbalicious -
There are a few different ways to properly store fresh herbs. First, remove the rubber band or plastic ties from the store. Rinse the herbs clean and remove any mushy leaves. Now you have 3 choices:
1. Store them like fresh flowers in a glass of water and place in the fridge;
2. Pat them dry and wrap them in a damp paper towel and place them in a plastic bag in the fridge;
3. Use the Hutzler Herb Saver in the fridge to keep them at the proper humidity. We'll admit that we are biased, but the Herb Saver really does keep them fresh the longest of all 3 methods.
Did you know that all herbs should be stored in the fridge, with the exception of Basil. Fresh basil should be kept on the countertop at room temperature.
If you find that you aren’t going to use all of the herbs that you have purchased, freeze them! The herb's essential oils freeze well and defrost intact, which means that they will impart the same delicious aromas and flavors to your recipes, even after freezing. For preparing and storing herbs try the Herb-Eze, an herb stripper tool and freezer-safe storage container.
7. Super Soups -
Cut the leafy green tops off carrots, beets, turnips, etc. and store them separately. This will help to prevent mold. These hearty root vegetables can last 1-2 weeks in the fridge. We suggest storing the greens in the freezer to be used for soup stock at a later date.
8. Citrus Satisfaction -
While a big bowl of oranges, lemons, and limes make an elegant kitchen centerpiece, it is better to use fake fruit for that purpose. Citrus will spoil quickly on the countertop. Best to store them in the refrigerator for extra longevity. And if you have a half-used lemon or lime, swap out a disposable bag for the reusable and more sustainable Lemon/Lime Saver®.
9. Berry Good -
Berries are expensive, so we treat them very carefully. You may think that they won't last long, but with proper storage, they can. The fridge typically removes moisture in the process of keeping cool, which is why fruit often shrivels after some time. The crisper section does a better job of keeping the moisture in, so be sure to place your strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries in the crisper with the humidity set to "fruit". Better yet, use the Hutzler Berry Box for serious berry storage. When using the Berry Box, you can even prewash your berries to have a snack that's washed and ready to be eaten. It is specially designed to prevent berries from drying out while keeping them at the ideal humidity so that they stay fresh longer.
10. Keep ‘Em Separated -
Some foods just don’t play nicely with others. Apples, bananas, and onions are all gas producers. The gas that they release speeds up the ripening of other fruits and vegetables, so don’t mix these in a bowl with others because everything will ripen too quickly. Instead, store each of these in its own place. Hang bananas, if possible. Keep apples & pears in their own crisper drawer in the fridge. And store onions in a cool dark place where they can get plenty of air circulation. We love these very pretty and transportable Pantry Baskets for that purpose.
11. Countertop Only! -
So what should NOT go in the fridge? Well, quite a bit. Here's the list and here's why:
• Tomatoes - uncut tomatoes should be placed on the countertop in a sunny spot, if possible. If stored in the fridge, tomatoes will often become mealy. However, always store a cut tomato in the fridge. We suggest the reusable Pro-Line Tomato Saver® for this purpose.
• Squash like butternut squash and acorn squash - these should be stored on the countertop. They could go in the fridge, but they don't need to. Why take up all that valuable space? But... zucchini squash needs to be stored in the fridge!
• Garlic, onions, shallots - discard any bag they came in and store them loose in a cool dark place with plenty of air circulation. Don't let them share a basket with potatoes or other veggies.
• Potatoes and sweet potatoes - like onions, these should be stored separately in a cool dry place to prevent sprouting.
• Stone fruits like peaches, plums, nectarines - these usually become mealy in the fridge. They will taste best when stored on the countertop. Move them to the fridge if they become too ripe.
• Melons should go in the fridge only when they are fully ripe, to prevent over-ripening.
• Avocados should be left on the countertop to fully ripen. Only when they are ripe should they go in the fridge to prevent over-ripening.
Sometimes, even the best meal plans and grocery lists don’t match up to our eating habits. But don't let your produce go to waste! If you see that something isn’t going to get eaten before it begins to turn, freeze it!
Most fruits and vegetables will freeze quite well. For foods such as broccoli or cauliflower, wash, blanch, chop, and then freeze in a freezer safe bag or container. Berries should be washed and then air dried before freezing. Overripe bananas can be frozen with their skins on or off. A super ripe banana is great for frozen smoothies or baked into banana bread. And you can always squeeze lemons and limes into ice trays to store their juice for recipes and beverages. And, as you now know from #6, herbs freeze & defrost beautifully.
So, whether you are stocking up on produce from the supermarket or you get a CSA delivery, you will prevent a lot of food waste and you will save money by selecting the best methods to store each different fruit and vegetable.
Hope this helps you after your next shopping visit.
Please share with your friends and loved ones.