How to Make Your Produce Last Longer  

woman grabbing produce from refridgerator

Food often goes bad before we get around to eating it. By making our food last longer, we add to our diet while taking away from landfills.  

More than 1/3 of the U.S.’s food supply goes to waste.1 The most common category of foods that get thrown out are fruits and vegetables, which account for over 50% of food waste.1 When we throw out produce (fruits and vegetables), we are also wasting all the resources that went into growing, harvesting and transporting the food. When our food ends up in landfills it breaks down and creates a harmful gas called “methane” that worsens climate change.2 Below are some tips and tricks to keep your fruits and vegetables lasting longer, which is ultimately easier on your wallet and the environment.   

General Guidelines: If possible, store your fruits and vegetables whole and unwashed. Excess moisture allows bacteria and mold to grow, which can cause produce to spoil more quickly. Line your produce drawers in your refrigerator with cloth or paper towels to reduce moisture. Store your fruits and vegetables in separate drawers to prevent them from ripening too fast.  

Fresh Vegetables That Should Be Refrigerated 

Firm vegetables are quite hardy and tend to last a long time and store well. Examples of firm vegetables are cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, brussels sprouts, snap peas, bell peppers, radishes and root vegetables. These should last over a week in the refrigerator, ideally in a drawer. 

Leafy green vegetables and herbs can require added attention since they are quicker to spoil. Examples of greens and herbs are kale, spinach, romaine, arugula, chard, mixed greens, basil, sage, and parsley. Whether these come in a plastic bag or a box, insert a folded-up paper towel in the package to maintain freshness. Use a bag clip or rubber band to securely close bags. If they come without packaging, wrap them in a cloth or paper towel and store in the vegetable drawer. 

Fresh Vegetables That Don’t Need Refrigeration 

Some vegetables come in their own natural packaging that allows them to hold up well at room temperature. Examples include thick-skinned squash (such as butternut, acorn, spaghetti and delicata), onions, garlic, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and potatoes. When stored in a cool, dry place they should be able to last a week or longer. 

Fresh Fruits that Don't Need Refrigeration 

Certain fruits benefit from not being stored in the refrigerator right away. This allows them to ripen fully and develop more flavor. Examples include apples, pears, citrus (such as tangerines, oranges, grapefruit), whole melon, bananas, stone fruits (peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots), avocados and mangoes. They can last a week when stored in a cool, dry place. Once ripe, you can transfer them to the refrigerator where they’ll stay good for even longer. 

Frozen and Canned Produce 

Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are a great option to still get the nutritional benefits from fruits and vegetables with a much longer shelf-life. Frozen produce can last up to a year, while canned produce can last between 1-5 years. 

Produce that stands up well to freezing are berries, cherries, banana, grapes, chunks of mango and melon, green beans, broccoli, squash, cauliflower, bell pepper, asparagus, brussels sprouts, peas and okra. You can purchase these already frozen or freeze them yourself before they spoil.  

How to Revive Produce on its Way Out 

If a vegetable or herb on a stalk begins to wilt, cutting off the bottom and sticking it in a cup of cold water for an hour or two should help it perk back up. For example, parsley, broccoli, asparagus, scallions, celery, chard and bok choy can be revived this way.  

These suggestions can help to keep your fruits and vegetables lasting for days, weeks and even months to come! Ultimately keeping you and the planet a bit healthier. For more tips on healthy eating in a sustainable way make an appointment at BCNH with a Dietitian today. Ph: (206) 834-4114. Website: http://bastyrcenter.org/    

Nava Lavine is a dietetic intern at Basytr University in Seattle, WA. She believes that having a holistic view is the most valuable lens through which to support health and wellbeing.  Her interests in nutrition include gut health, life-style related diseases, research and education. 

 

Citations 

  1. Jaglo K, Kenny S, Stephenson J. Www.epa.gov. The Environmental Impacts of U.S. Food Waste. https://www.epa.gov/system/files/documents/2021-11/from-farm-to-kitchen-the-environmental-impacts-of-u.s.-food-waste_508-tagged.pdf. Published November 2021. Accessed January 2022. 

  1. Why should we care about food waste? USDA. https://www.usda.gov/foodlossandwaste/why. Accessed February 2022.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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