Most of us waste food and may not think much about it. But it adds up. The average Canadian family throws away $86 worth of food each month. According to a 2013 survey, we throw out 11 per cent of the vegetables and fruit we buy each week.
We go to the store and load our carts with a rainbow of vegetables and fruit, but if we don’t have specific meal ideas, our busy lives can get in the way of using and enjoying produce. Fast forward to Friday, and we have a crisper rammed full of limp vegetables and a wallet lighter than last week.
Knowing how to keep vegetables and fruit fresh can help you eat more of them, waste less, and save money.
To make sure the produce you buy goes into your mouth (and not the compost):
- Plan your meals. If you have a clear idea of how and when you’ll be eating a vegetable or fruit then it is less likely to be forgotten at the back of your fridge. Having recipe ideas ready before heading to the store can help.
- Buy smaller amounts of vegetables and fruit at a time.
- Separate any vegetables or fruit when they just start to soften or bruise and use them immediately if you can (consider putting them in a soup or sauce or freezing them). If not, compost them.
- Store your vegetables and fruit the way they like to be stored (see below).
Storage tips to keep your vegetables and fruit fresh:
- Wash fresh heads of leafy greens, then dry and wrap them in paper towel. Store in a plastic bag in the fridge. The airtight containers of pre-washed leafy greens can just be placed in the fridge.
- Keep all other vegetables and fruit unwashed until ready to use. Their natural protective coating will help slow down how long they take to go bad.
- Place fresh herbs like cilantro and parsley upright with their stems in a glass of water, cover with a plastic bag and keep them at the front of the fridge. Keep fresh basil upright in a jar of water on the counter or windowsill.
- Store tomatoes on the counter. Putting them in the fridge changes their texture and causes them to lose flavour.
- Store whole cucumbers on the counter. Remove any wrapping, wipe the skin and wrap in a dry paper towel. Place them in a plastic bag with some holes. Once you cut the cucumber, store the bag in the fridge.
- If you know you aren’t going to get through your bananas, wrap the stems of the bunch tightly with plastic wrap. This will slow down the ripening process.
- Keep garlic and onions at room temperature or in a cool place (not in the fridge).
- Store apples in the fridge to keep them crisp.
- Store mushrooms unwashed in the fridge in a paper bag. This will minimize slime producing moisture.
- Loosely pack vegetables and fruit in containers that can breathe. Use mesh bags, reusable produce storage bags or plastic bags with holes poked in them. This will help any trapped moisture (that may make them spoil faster) escape.
- Store cut fruit and vegetables in the fridge and use quickly.
- Potatoes and sweet potatoes like to be kept in a paper bag in a dry, cool and dark location. Keep them away from onions though, as they are sensitive to the ethylene gas onions produce. New potatoes can be kept in the fridge.
- Many vegetables and fruit produce ethylene gas as they ripen. This will cause the foods around them to ripen and then spoil faster. Find out where and how to store the rest of your vegetables and fruit.
Keeping your vegetables and fruit fresh means more nutrition for you and more money in your wallet. Check out Love Food Hate Waste for more ideas on how to make the most out of your food.
Canadian Produce Marketing Association: Home Storage Guide for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Interior Health: Store It! A guide to storing fresh vegetables and fruit
Love Food Hate Waste