Does your cucumber go mushy in the fridge before you can use it? Does your spinach go bad before you get to eating it? Do berries go mouldy too quickly for you? Keeping fresh produce good long enough for us to eat it can seem impossible. I, however, am one that rarely admits defeat. By learning a few simple skills, I now keep most food from going bad in our house.
Here are three things that make a big difference in our house to keeping food fresh:
1) I make a meal plan. I used to be so guilty of buying a mish-mash of produce each week, and not all of it survived well. Now that I make a weekly meal plan (and that plan includes using up things that we already have) much less is wasted. I know exactly what I need to buy and how much, so I’m not left with orphaned produce to wilt or go mouldy.
2) I freeze a lot of things. If it is possible to freeze a food, I generally do, like ripe bananas, summer peaches, and backyard raspberries. Freezing is a great way to extend the life of fruits and some veggies. I also made the habit of freezing bread when we buy it, so we don’t lose half of it to mould.
It’s worth mentioning that freezing and meal planning go really well together. Based on my plan, I know when to take meals or ingredients out to thaw. I purposefully plan double batches of food, so I can freeze half for later.
I also buy many things frozen in the first place, such as meat, peas, corn, and fruit/berries. The meat we get from local farmers already frozen and never have the issue of it going bad. Frozen peas and corn cook quickly, and if you don’t overcook them, they are quite fresh tasting. Frozen fruit and berries are perfect for smoothies in the morning.
3) I learned how to store each kind of produce that I buy. Every type of fruit and vegetable has certain conditions that help preserve its life. Keep in mind that how a grocery store displays food is not always the best way to keep it fresh in your own home and putting everything in the fridge is not always the best answer either.
My favorite example: Cucumbers. We buy local cucumbers from Grandora gardens at the farmers market. They gave me the hot tip to store them on the counter in their airtight plastic sleeve instead of in the refrigerator. I haven’t had a slimy fridge cucumber since! I roll back the plastic, cut off what I need, then flip the plastic back over the open end to store for the next use – works like a charm.
Another good one: Cilantro (or any other fresh, bunched herb). Remove the twist tie they are sold with and separate the stems so the herb gets better air circulation. Store them in an airtight container in the fridge, with a small, clean rag underneath to help regulate the moisture level in the container. I’ve had cilantro last for two weeks this way if not longer. Leaving it bunched and in a plastic bag seems to be a recipe for slime!
There are so many more examples I could share with you…but you’d probably prefer to look up exactly which foods you have the most trouble with. For a simple start, I recommend the produce guide on the Love Food Hate Waste website. If you want a physical book, check out Dana Gunders: Waste Free Kitchen Handbook.
What about you? Have you found a great trick for keeping a certain kind of produce fresh for a long time? Comment below to share your experience.