It pains me when I have to throw out produce that is past it’s prime and I find that this tends to happen more this time of year when local produce is more abundant. In an attempt to decrease my food waste, I have devised a few tips and tricks to help me use up what’s in the fridge and I sure you have some tips of your own, so please share!
Buy Local and Seasonal
Outside of the fact that I love supporting local farms, local produce is often fresher and tastier! It’s picked at it’s prime and quickly delivered to it’s destination. This means it tends to have a longer shelf-life because it hasn’t been hanging out in a truck or warehouse for weeks on end. Plus, you control what you purchase which helps to reduce your overall food waste as well!
Learn Your Favorite Veggies’ Shelf-life
I plan my meals around the shelf-life of my produce. For example, I know that baby arugula won’t last as long as a hearty romaine, so I use that first. Same goes for tender stone fruit and delicate berries which spoil quicker than an apple. You get the point. Here is a quick cheat sheet that will help you get to know the shelf-life of your fruits and veggies.
|3-5 Day Shelf Life||7-10 Day Shelf Life||14+ Day Shelf Life|
|Okra Onions (cut)||Arugula||Leeks||Artichokes||Onions (whole)|
|Basil||Peaches||Bell Peppers||Lettuces/Mixed Greens||Beets||Parsnips|
|Beans (wax, green)||Pears||Broccoli||Mint||Cabbage (Red and Green)||Potatoes (large)|
|Bok Choy Chives||Radicchio||Cabbage (Napa)||Potatoes (baby(||Celery||Rutabagas|
|Chard (Swiss)||Snow Peas||Cauliflower||Radishes||Ginger||Sweet Potatoes|
|Eggplant||Tomatoes||Eggplant||Winter Squash (cut)||Limes||Winter Squash (whole)|
Bag Em Up
Excess moisture can cause food to spoil more rapidly, especially salad greens. Once you’ve washed and sorted the leaves, you can lay them on a paper towel or clean dish towel, and then roll it up. Place it in a bag, remove all air, seal, and store in the fridge. This keeps moisture off the leaves, keeping them crisp and fresh for about 7 days. You can also store your leafy greens in a plastic bag that is filled with air. Lots of farmers will sell their greens in air-filled bags due to the carbon dioxide that’s in the bag. All you have to do for this method is reuse your produce bag, place the greens inside, and blow a big puff of air into the bag. Seal it as tightly as you can so no air can escape or enter. Store in the fridge, and this can help the greens last 7-10 days!
Use Your Freezer
Frozen vegetables have been shown to have the same (if not more) nutrients than their fresh counterparts. When your produce starts to look weepy, give it a quick blanch in boiling water and then a dip in ice-cold water which stops the cooking process. Pat the veggies dry then freeze then on a baking sheet. Once they are frozen you can transfer them to a freezer-bag for storage.
Speaking of frozen veggies, you don’t always have to buy fresh. Frozen veggies are a great way to reduce food waste and prolong shelf-life as they are good for a few months!! Plus, frozen produce is picked at peak ripeness and flash frozen to lock in all those good nutrients. At the beginning of the week I’ll take a bag of frozen vegetables from my freezer and toss it in the fridge to thaw for use throughout the week.
Another favorite food saving kitchen hack that I love is making herb oil by blending herbs with olive oil and freezing the mixture in an ice cube tray. This way, my herbs are put to good use, and I have a ready-to-go marinade, dressing, or flavor booster to add to any meal!
Bonus Tip: freeze ginger and turmeric and easily grate them into your recipes for added flavor.
Meal Prep and Plan
Hectic weeks can result in lots of grocery trips, and many on-the-go meals. By planning your meals in advance, on Sunday for example, you will know how much of an ingredient you actually need. Planning can also allow you to use the same ingredients in different meals. For example, the kale and broccoli you used in last night’s dinner can be used in an egg frittata for breakfast the next day. Planning at least a couple day’s meals in advance can make your grocery trips more efficient and help you waste less food as you will only buy what you need. Make sure your inventory your fridge and freezer prior to shopping. That way you will be sure to use up what you already have in the house!
Do you have tips and tricks that help you store your produce? Share them below!