Oh, the horror! That smell. That putrid, rotting smell assaulting your nostrils as you dig through the fridge at 3 AM searching for a cure for the munchies. How could you have let it come to this?
Only days ago, you loaded up your crisper with a veritable rainbow of fresh fruit and veggies, proud as a peacock at your perceived health and good judgment. So much for that. Now half that produce has transformed into a tangled mush of color, each item clinging to its final vestiges of identity amid the ruin.
Produce these days ain’t cheap, my friends. An apple or avocado is practically a gold coin compared to what it used to cost. And yet they met a quicker demise than George Washington crossing the Delaware, spoiling faster than you can say “foodborne illness.” Their short shelf life may as well be printed on the sticker along with the “best by” date.
Never fear, you penny-pinching produce pros – salvation has arrived in the form of 11 tricks to help your fruits and veggies stick around longer. Use these hacks to thwart the spoilage and keep your hard-earned food dollars from rotting away into an unappetizing pile of waste. Preserve your produce and your budget with these clever little tricks for extending the life of anything from kale to melons.
When saving money and food feels like an Olympic sport, every tip helps. Expand your repertoire and shrink the dumpster with simple solutions for combating spoilage. Your taste buds will thank you and so will your wallet. Now get out there and get cracking! The quest for edible produce awaits!
Choose Ripeness at the Grocery Store Accordingly
Based on when you expect to eat the fruits, selectively choosing the ripeness to match your schedule will help prolong their shelf lives. For fruits that you expect to eat late into the future, pick produce that hasn’t yet ripened. Fruits that continue to ripen are bananas, avocados, peaches, plums, blueberries, and tomatoes.
This hack does not apply to fruits that do not ripen after picking which includes strawberries, pineapples, watermelon, grapes, and citrus-like oranges. For these fruits, it is recommended to pick the ripest selection.
Don’t Wash Grapes until Ready to Eat
Grapes from the store have a waxy coating that increases their shelf life. Before serving the grapes, mix the grapes in a bowl with a couple of teaspoons of baking soda and salt. This acts as an exfoliant for the grapes and removes the waxy coating. Rinse the grapes and serve them promptly.
Wash Berries Before Storing Them
To store berries longer in the fridge, they need to be disinfected of microbes in a 1:3 ratio solution of white vinegar and water. Soak strawberries and blueberries for 8 minutes maximum and raspberries for 4 minutes maximum. After rinsing and thoroughly drying, store the berries in sealed mason jars in the fridge. This hack will substantially lengthen the shelf-life of your berries so you won’t have to worry about mold anymore!
Separate Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits such as apples, bananas, and avocados naturally release ethylene gas, which ripens nearby produce much quicker. Ethylene-sensitive vegetables such as cabbages, lettuce, broccoli, and leafy greens should be kept in separate containers in the fridge from ethylene-releasing fruits.
Trim Leafy Greens and the Green Tops of Roots
Trim the ends of leafy greens and place them in an airtight container with a dry paper towel to absorb moisture and extend the shelf-life. For roots such as carrots, beets, radishes, and turnips, the green tops draw moisture away from the root portion and should be promptly trimmed before storing.
Revive Wilted Greens
Do your greens look a little limp and wimpy after storing them? For wilted greens, you can shock them in a 10-minute ice water bath to perk them back up.
Leftover Apple slices
Apple slices turn brown quickly. If you want to keep the apple slices for a few more days, soak the leftover apple slices in cold water with half a teaspoon of salt for five minutes.
Refrigeration or Room Temperature?
Not all fruits and vegetables are meant to go in the fridge. This may come as a surprise to most: tomatoes actually degrade in texture and flavor when stored in the fridge. It is best to store tomatoes at room temperature with the stem side down as this is the last part to ripen. With each product having its own specific rules, it can be difficult to remember them all. A great guide by Michigan State University on where to store specific fruits and vegetables.
Store Nuts in the Freezer instead of the Pantry
Nuts which are high in unsaturated fats are actually sensitive to exposure to air, light, moisture, and heat. Place your nuts in an air-tight container inside the fridge.
Natural Antimicrobial Washes
These washes contain herb, spice, or plant extracts that help prevent spoilage and extend the shelf life of your produce while killing bacteria that cause food poisoning like E. coli, salmonella, staph, and listeria.
Separate Browning Bananas
Do your bananas turn brown faster than you can eat them? Try separating each banana from the bunch when you bring them home so their ethylene content does not affect each other.