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 produce drawers of refrigerator with fruits and vegetables

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. 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.

 

  1. 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.

Fruits

  • Apple       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.

 

  • Avocado  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.

 

  •    banana         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  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.

 

  •     Grapes  Grapes—Store unwashed in a perforated plastic bag such as a Ziploc bag. Will keep for about 4 days.

 

  • lemons and limes  Lemons and Limes—Store separately from other fruits, in a cool and dry place. Good for about 5-6 days.

 

  • Pear  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.

 Vegetables

  •   Artichoke    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    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. 

 

  • broccoli Broccoli—Store unwashed in a perforated bag, and it should keep about 4-5 days.

 

  • Carrot  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.

 

  •  Celery      Celery—Store in a sealed bag in the refrigerator. Will keep for up to 2 weeks.

 

  • Corn       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.

 

  •  Green Bean  Green Beans—Store fresh beans in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator. Use within 2 days.

 

  • green onion  Green Onions—Store in refrigerator in a sealed bag. Will keep up to a week.

 

  • Herbs   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.

 

  • Leeks          Leeks—Store untrimmed in a sealed bag in the refrigerator.  Will keep for about 5-6 days. 

 

  • lettuce spinach   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.

 

  • whie mushrooms  Mushrooms—Store in refrigerator unwashed in a brown paper bag. Will keep about 2-3 days

 

  •  red onion   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.

 

  • mixed bell peppers    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      Potatoes—Store in a cool, dark place. Store separately from onions, as they will absorb their moisture. Good for a couple of weeks.

 

  • Tomatoes Tomatoes—Store at room temperature stem-side down. Will keep about a week.

             

 Foods that will maintain freshness stored in a Ziplock freezer bag in the freezer:

  •  Ginger         Ginger

 

  •  Mixed Nuts    Shelled Mixed Nuts

 

  •  Chocolate Chips     Chocolate Chips

 

  • Coffee Beans      Coffee Beans

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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