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How To Keep Fruits And Vegetables Fresh

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In my house, there's always the sad day when I need to empty out what's dwindling in the crisper drawers: shriveled, soggy, or moldy produce. I decided it was time to figure out what I was doing wrong so that I could enjoy every last bite of the pricey organic foods I was buying. If you're wondering how to keep fruits and vegetables fresh, let this be your comprehensive guide. From everyday lettuce and herbs to stone fruits, berries, and beyond, once you know how to properly store your produce, it's game-changing (and cost-saving!).

I've rounded up some super useful products below to get you on your way to storing fruits and veg correctly. While some items may seem a little pricey upfront, not squandering uneaten produce is actually going to save you money in the long run. In fact, the average family of four wastes at least $1,500 in wasted food each year. Plus, extending the life of your produce means less trips to the store which is always a win.

And if you're ever in doubt about what to do with a certain kind of produce not listed below, this list from the American Heart Association is a great one to bookmark.

1

Extend The Life Of Your Lettuce

Whether you buy heads of lettuce, romaine hearts, or bunches of kale, the best way to keep those healthy greens fresh is this quick two-part process (and don't worry: it actually doesn't take much time at all). First, wash your greens. This can be done manually or with a handy salad spinner. Then once the leaves are dry, place them in an airtight container. If you buy pre-washed greens, you can proceed straight to the airtight container. To go the extra mile, place a paper towel on the bottom of the container, as well as on top of your greens to help pick up any extra moisture.

Start With A Salad Spinner

A salad spinner might seem like a bit of a space-zapper, but this smartly designed model from Oxo is actually incredibly versatile. The basket can be used as a colander, and the clear bowl can be used for serving. Assembled, it quickly rinses your greens with a simple, one-handed pump operation. The non-slip ring at the base prevents the bowl from sliding all over your countertop and it even comes with a button to stop the spinning in seconds. All parts are safe to throw in the dishwasher (top shelf only) and when you're ready to store it, the lid collapses flat. One fan even noted, "You can also store the left over salad right in the spinner by placing the top back on and engaging the locking mechanism and then placing the entire device right into your refrigerator."

Store Washed Greens In An Airtight Container

This large, rectangular BPA-free food storage container is airtight thanks to its proprietary locking system and silicone seal. Its total capacity is 236 ounces, which means it's large enough to store plenty of greens for a week's worth of salads — and it's versatile too. It's freezer- and microwave-safe (without lid), and dishwasher-safe too on the top shelf. You can also opt to get a multi-piece set, ranging from a 4-piece set to an 8-piece set, within the same listing if you’re in the mood for stocking up.

2

Use Countertop Storage For Produce That Needs To Ripen

Some fruits and veggies — like bananas, avocados, tomatoes, and stone fruits (like peaches)— need to ripen at room temperature to achieve maximum flavor. For this reason, you need a good fruit bowl on your countertop so the produce can reach optimal ripeness. Once it has, then you can move it into the fridge to help preserve them. Interestingly, fruit baskets with banana hangers serve a very important purpose. Bananas release ethylene gas which can speed up the ripening process of other produce. Keeping the 'nanas away from the other fruits can prevent them from getting over-ripe. You'll want to do the same with avocados since they also produce ethylene gas.

Invest In A Pretty-Yet-Practical Fruit Bowl

This stylish rose gold fruit basket comes backed by an impressive 4.7-star Amazon rating. The fruit basket is fairly large, measuring 11.6 inches in diameter, so there's room for a "family's worth" of fruit. Plus, the geometric design looks on-trend to fit with your kitchen decor. The banana hanger can be disassembled if you prefer a more low-profile design. One shopper noted, "Rose gold color is gorgeous. I was worried how much fruit this would hold my other fruit baskets have been 2 tier, but this holds a lot! I put in a 3lb bag of apples, 4 oranges, a couple lemons, a pomegranate and a pineapple! Very happy with my purchase!"

Or, Go For Space-Saving Stackable Baskets

If you prefer a basket for fruits and another for veggies (peppers, onions, and potatoes are just a few vegetables that are best stored out of the fridge), then this two basket set is for you. The stackable wire market baskets come with adorable metal labels that you can customize with chalk. The dimensions of one basket are 13.25 by 10.5 by 8 inches (width by depth by height). One shopper noted, "Perfect storage solution for kitchen counters. A basket can hold a full Costco bag of potatoes or can hold a Costco bag of both Onions and Avocados together...with room to spare for things such as shallots and garlic."

3

Prevent Strawberries From Getting Moldy

One of the most useful pieces of kitchen advice I ever received was to wash strawberries in a white vinegar rinse (use a ratio of 1/4 cup vinegar to 1 1/2 cups water). It's a smart way of killing bacteria, rinsing away pesticides, and reducing mold spores. Let the berries dry completely and then place them in a single layer in storage container lined with paper towels and place in the fridge. This can buy you about two weeks of freshness.

Have Vinegar On Hand

Stock up on cleaning solution with this large gallon jug of Lucy's Distilled White Vinegar. Not only can you use this 100% natural vinegar for berry rinses, it's also ideal for other household cleaning tasks, and it makes yummy vinaigrettes.

Place Rinsed Berries In Sealed Container

For storing strawberries (and so much more), you can't go wrong with this airtight storage container set from Rubbermaid. You get two rectangular containers, each with a 9.6-cup capacity. The containers feature a flat base, which means you can fit in lots of berries in a single layer, and they’re conveniently safe for use in the dishwasher, microwave, and freezer. The high-quality Tritan plastic set is BPA-free and designed to resist odors, and if you want to use the containers for tasks beyond berry storage, know that each container comes with a lid with built-in latches that vent for safe use in the microwave.

4

Try Food Covers For Half-Eaten Produce

For anyone who regularly finds themselves only using half an onion, avocado, banana, or tomato, a reliable cover is worth every penny. Skip the hassle of plastic wrap, and go with more eco-friendly reusable options like ones made of stretchy, durable silicone or pretty, patterned beeswax.

These genius little Food Huggers come in a set of five. The different sized (and colored) caps are designed to fit different produce, from small bananas to large tomatoes. The BPA-free, 100% FDA-approved silicone "huggers" are dishwasher safe and are great at reducing food waste. Plus, they can be used to cap cans or jars too. Choose from several different color combos, like 'fresh green' and 'ice blue.' One satisfied shopper commented, "I bought these in early November and have been using them ever since (3 months). I've used them for red onions, cucumber, bell peppers, tomatoes - large and small and the occasional banana. I LOVE them."

5

Keep Herbs Fresh In The Freezer

I love cooking with fresh herbs like basil and cilantro but the bunches I buy usually ended up shriveled in the back of my fridge. To prevent wasting tender herbs like parsley, dill, mint, chives, you can actually chop them up, place in an ice cube tray, fill the cubes with water, and freeze. When you're ready to use, pop a cube or two out for your recipe.

This set of four silicone ice cube trays is made with a sturdy plastic frame for easy carrying, but the 14 cubes in each are made of silicone so you can easily pop out an individual cube of herbs when a recipe calls for it. The matching lids keep odors out and allow for easy stacking to maximize storage space. Plus, they're dishwasher safe for easy cleanup. Several reviewers noted how great they were for herbs, with one raving: "[Use] for extra chopped herbs and greens. The herb cubes are small enough to use for making an omelet or use several to add to soups. Less waste of food and time, as well as space in the freezer. A most valuable tool."

6

Utilize Your Pantry For Vegetables That Like It Dark & Dry

For certain root vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and squash, as well as onions and garlic, it’s best to store them in a cool, dark place. These handy mesh bags come in an affordable pack of three and can be mounted in your pantry for easy storage right from the store. The bags are washable, though hand-washing and line drying is recommended to keep them looking like new. “Bought for storing potatoes, onions, and garlic in pantry, perfect. Holds its weight, durable,” one fan raved, adding, “Everyone should have these! Surprisingly enough, this would also be a perfect little gift for a housewarming. So useful! Can use for grocery shopping, and farmers market too.”

7

Use Green Bags To Keep Fruits & Veggies Fresher Longer

For storing vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, zucchini, summer squash, and cabbage, it's best to place them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator — ideally in a crisper drawer.

Some home cooks swear by the ability of green bags that contain zeolite to extend the life of their produce. These bags do absorb ethylene — however, it's best to use them only with produce that is recommended for plastic bag storage, since many fruits and veggies are best in open-air environments.

These green vegetable storage bags come backed by more than 13,000 glowing Amazon reviews, with the vast majority being five stars. The BPA-free bags are made with a natural mineral called Oya (a kind of zeolite) that promises to extend the life of your produce by up to 30 days, and each bag can be rinsed and reused several times. The set includes eight medium, eight large, and four extra-large bags. One reviewer raved, "These bags are great. I am single so don't always use up my fruits and veggies very fast. These bags definitely keep them fresh for a noticeably longer time. I actually rinse them out and reuse them multiple times..."

8

Consider Reusable Cartons

Certain fruits, like cherries and blueberries, are best stored unwashed in the fridge. In fact, cherries can lose a ton of taste from sitting out just one hour in room temperature. To make your life easier, invest in one of these handy reusable fruit baskets that pull double duty as a colander (simply remove the inner basket when you’re ready to rinse). This highly rated one from Chef’n is made of strong, BPA-free plastic that’s top-shelf dishwasher safe, and it even comes with a lid for easy stacking. One fan gushed, “This little basket is terrific - berries stay fresh and last so much longer than ever before.”