Food waste is a common complaint from most people and sometimes can be an excuse for not cooking with fresh ingredients or simply not cooking meals at all. Understandably, with all the convenient foods we have packaged and portion-controlled for us there hardly seems a reason to cook for ourselves.
There are, however, two factors that SHOULD make us reconsider some of our choices:
- 1. Cost. There is a price for convenience. Even though we can find fresh, organic food choices that may be perfectly portion-controlled, it is expensive. Shopping smart, storing food properly and finding creative ways to use leftover ingredients will stretch the dollar further.
- 2. Boredom. Who wants to eat the same meals all the time? Microwave cuisine loses its appeal after a while and can lead to poor food choices for the sake of variety and avoiding cooking meals.
Make your fresh produce last longer by storing it properly. Those fortunate to have a farmer’s market with fresh produce for sale most of the year are buying at top-of-the-line in freshness. Produce at the grocery store has been stored much longer than the newly-harvested veggies and fruit sold at the farmer’s market.
A quick guide to storing common produce:
Vegetables and fruit should be stored in separate drawers. The high ethylene produced by apples in particular will ripen your veggies very quickly.
Make a plan to eat the produce that will spoil quickly first. The guide below will give you a general idea of how long your produce will keep if stored properly.
NOTE: Reference to a perforated bag can be as simple as a Ziplock bag in which you poke holes throughout the bag spaced the same as with pre-packaged apples at the grocery store. It takes no time to do this and really does make a big difference.
- Apples—Store them at room temp, in a cool, dry place away from sunlight or in the fridge. They should last a week or more.
- Avocados—Store in a cool, dry place. If green, ripen by placing in a brown bag with an apple. The ethylene from the apple will speed up the ripening process. Once ripe, use within 1-2 days.
- Bananas—Store at room temperature. Purchase them green and you will have them for about 5-6 days. Bought ripe, about 2-3 days.
- Berries—Store in refrigerator as a single layer, loosely covered with Saran wrap. Do not wash until ready to use. Will keep about 2 days.
- Lemons and Limes—Store separately from other fruits, in a cool and dry place. Good for about 5-6 days.
- Pears—(also including peaches, nectarines and plums) can be ripened on the counter. Like apples, they produce higher amounts of ethylene and should be stored separately from ethylene-sensitive fruits. Should keep for about a week.
- Artichokes— Should be stored in refrigerator until ready to use. When selecting an artichoke, look for “leaves” to be tightly shut. Artichokes with leaves that are opened like a flower are old and not good cookin’. Will keep for up to 2 days.
- Asparagus—Cut about an inch off the bottoms and place upright in a container of water in the refrigerator. Use within a couple of days.
- Carrots—Store in refrigerator in a closed plastic bag. Avoid storing near high-ethylene producing fruits as they will turn carrots bitter. Will keep for a week or more.
- Corn—Store in refrigerator with husk until ready to use. Be sure to pull husk back a bit to look for corn kernels that look whole and not shrunken. Break one kernel open, if it is dry (no juice), the corn is old. Fresh husked corn will keep for 2 days…the quicker you use it, though, the better.
- Herbs—Clean and trim ends. Place in a glass of water and cover with a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Will stay fresh 4-6 days.
- Lettuce/Spinach—Store in refrigerator unwashed in a perforated bag with a paper towel to absorb extra moisture. Should keep for up to about 4 days.
- Onions—Store in cool, dry place with good air circulation. Once cut, wrap remainder of onion in plastic wrap and store in fridge or dice it and freeze in a Ziploc freezer bag. Good for a week or more.
- Peppers—Store in refrigerator unwashed. Once cut, wrap in plastic wrap and store in refrigerator or slice it up and freeze for cooking another time. Should store for up to one week.
- Potatoes—Store in a cool, dark place. Store separately from onions, as they will absorb their moisture. Good for a couple of weeks.
Foods that will maintain freshness stored in a Ziplock freezer bag in the freezer:
Got produce ready to go bad? Here are some quick meal ideas that are both low on calories and great on taste!
- Purchase an Amy’s single-serving cheese pizza and add your own fresh toppings of mushroom, peppers, onion and tomato.
- Saute’ extra mushroom, peppers and onion for a few minutes with a bit of olive oil and add your favorite pasta sauce for a quick pasta dish.
- Make a quick stir-fry with any cooked rice, leftover meat, veggies and some soy sauce.
- Extra berries? Puree for a topping on whole grain waffles or add to some plain or vanilla nonfat yogurt for a quick and healthy breakfast.
- Bananas getting old? Freeze them for use later in banana nut bread or muffins.