Fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t cheap! And they spoil so much faster than most other things you buy at the store. They’re like a ticking time bomb. One minute they’re crispy, crunchy, sweet, and oh so delicious and the next they’re wilted, tasteless, mushy, and rotten.
Billions of dollars of food are wasted every year because of spoilage. I’m definitely guilty of throwing away more fruits and veggies than I’d like to even admit. How about you? When was the last time you threw away sad looking lettuce, a bad avocado (they get so soft so fast!), or a container of fuzzy berries? Unfortunately, it happens to the best of us.
But did you know that your fresh fruits and vegetables could stay fresher longer if you follow some simple storage tips and tricks? I’m talking days, weeks, and even months longer!
Who knew that there was a “proper” way to store produce. I surely didn’t. I would leave onions, potatoes, and most fruits on the counter. Then throw everything else in the fridge, plastic bag and all. It never crossed my mind that there was a proper way to do all of this.
Do you know which fruits should be stored at room temperature until ripened and then stored in the fridge? Do you know which fruits and veggies produce gas that will cause your other produce to ripen and spoil even quicker?
I didn’t know all the answers to those questions! If I had, it would have made a huge difference in prolonging the life and quality of my produce. Knowing how to properly store produce will drastically reduce how much you waste and will save you thousands of dollars in the long run.
I hope you enjoy the list I’ve put together with the best tips and tricks to help you get the longest life out of your produce. I’m currently testing some of these myself so stay tuned for the results in an upcoming article! If you’d like to read this entire article but you don’t have time right now, make sure to save it to Pinterest and read it later.
As a General Rule
If you don’t do anything else, follow these five simple tips and you’ll definitely get more life out of your fruits and veggies. But if you’re really looking to make your fruits and veggies last even longer you’ll want to continue reading.
- Keep the refrigerator temperature at or below 40° F (4° C). The freezer temperature should be 0° F (-18° C). A lot of refrigerators and freezers display the temperature but if yours doesn’t then invest in a refrigerator/freezer thermometer. It’s only a few dollars
- Many fruits and veggies don’t play nice together so store them separately
- Take fruits and vegetables out of the plastic produce bags when you get home
- Avoid washing or cutting your produce until just before you eat or use them. Pre-washing will drastically speed up deterioration. If you need to wash or cut your fruit, make sure to store it in the refrigerator and use it within the next day or two
- Discard spoiled, damaged, or moldy fruits before storing to prevent the rest of the batch/bunch from going bad
Keep certain fruits and vegetables separated
A number of fruits and veggies release a gas called ethylene as they ripen and it will cause other produce to prematurely ripen and spoil sooner.
In order to enjoy them for a longer period of time, store ethylene-producing produce separate from the ones that emit the gas. Also, keep the ethylene-producing produce separate from one another. So avoid keeping your bananas and apples in the same fruit bowl unless you’re trying to make your bananas ripen quicker.
Give Bluapple a try. It absorbs the ethylene gas to keep your fruits and veggies stay fresh longer.
More Helpful Tips
Wrap celery in foil
Celery usually only lasts 1-2 weeks if you leave it in the plastic wrap it came in; however, by ditching the plastic and wrapping it tightly in foil, you can enjoy your celery for a month or even longer!
Don’t store onions with potatoes
Although onions and potatoes can be great together in certain recipes, they shouldn’t be stored together. Storing onions near potatoes will decrease both of their shelf life.
Onions can last 6-8 months if stored in tights/pantyhose
This trick is a little wild but worth trying if you have an old pair of pantyhose lying around. Put the onions in a pair of pantyhose and tie knots between each one. Then hang it up in a cool, dark, and dry place. If you don’t happen to have a pair of pantyhose then make sure you’re keeping your onions in a cool, dark, and dry pantry or closet away from potatoes!
Store apples with potatoes
This will magically keep the potatoes from sprouting.
Line your crisper drawers with a few sheets of paper towel
The paper towel will absorb excess condensation which will help keep your produce fresher.
Cut off carrot tops before storing
Cutting the green tops off of carrots will prolong its life and nutrients. Store the carrots in a perforated plastic bag for ultimate freshness.
Store cucumbers in room temperature
Most people store cucumbers in the refrigerator. I know I did! But according to the researchers at the University of California at Davis, cucumbers don’t like being in temperatures under 50 degrees so leave them on the counter. Cucumbers are also very sensitive to ethylene so make sure to store them away from fruits and veggies that produce a lot of gas like apples, bananas, melons, and tomatoes. If you still prefer chilled cucumbers, I have good news! They can tolerate up to 3 days of cold storage as long as you use them as soon as you take them out of the fridge.
Tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers should also be stored at room temperature
Just like cucumbers, these fruits and veggies are damaged by the cold. They taste the freshest and last the longest when stored at room temperature.
Vegetables need to breathe
Vegetables like air so make sure the bag you store them in is perforated to allow good airflow. If the bag doesn’t have holes then make a few yourself. An airtight plastic bag is the worst choice for storing vegetables, according to Barry Swanson, professor emeritus of food science at Washington State University. Also, pack vegetables loosely as the closer they are, the quicker they will rot.
Store delicate herbs and asparagus like flowers
If you’ve never arranged flowers, don’t worry! All you need to do is snip off the bottom of the stems and place the herbs (stem ends down) in a jar filled partially with cool water. Make sure the leaves are dry and don’t go in the water. Herbs like basil and mint do best in room temperature so keep them on a windowsill or somewhere with sunlight.
Herbs like cilantro, dill, and parsley should be covered loosely with a plastic bag and kept in the refrigerator. Asparagus should also be stored in the fridge.
Trim the stems and change the water every couple of days to preserve the herbs as long as possible.
Don’t separate bananas and wrap the stems in plastic wrap
This will help prevent ethylene gas from escaping as quickly which means it’ll keep your bananas from turning soft as quickly. I know some people who swear by this and others who have tried and said that they can’t tell the difference.
There are a bunch of other ways people claim that slows down the ripening process for bananas (hanging them, separating them, separating them and wrapping them in plastic wrap). So go on and test it out for yourself. But when you do, make sure you don’t put the bananas around any fruits that emit high levels of ethylene. Otherwise, you’ll definitely be left with overripe bananas in no time.
Keep these veggies in a cool and dry place
Store garlic, onions, potatoes, squash, and pumpkins in a cool and dry place. But remember to keep the onions away from the potatoes!
Keep these fruits at room temperature until ripe and then store in the fridge
Avocados, kiwifruit, mangoes, nectarines, peaches, pears, and plums should be kept at room temperature until ripe. As soon as they get to your liking, put them in the refrigerator in order to slow down the ripening process. I’ve thrown away more fruits on this list than any others because I always just left them on the counter.
Keep mushrooms in a paper bag
Mushrooms don’t like moisture. So if you ever noticed that your mushrooms were slimy and gross it’s probably because they weren’t properly stored. Keep mushrooms in a paper bag and it’ll help keep them clean and dry until you’re ready to use them.
Fresh produce isn’t cheap. Nor does it have an extremely long shelf life. This combination probably means that you’re wasting a lot of fruits and veggies along with the money that you spent on them. However, learning ways to properly store produce (and actually implementing them) will have you enjoying your fruits and veggies for days, weeks, and even months longer than before. Which means you’ll save thousands of dollars in the long run and reduce the amount of food you waste. Start testing some of these simple tips with the things you buy regularly and let us know what worked (and didn’t work) for you.