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Fridge or Counter? The Best Storage Strategies for Common Produce

One hour grocery shopping, one credit card swipe, ten minute drive home, place 40% of your bounty straight to the trash…because that’s the amount of food waste generated per household in the United States.


Personally, my feelings were hurt by this statistics. I work hard. My husband works hard. So the thought that 40% of my grocery bill is funding the landfill gave me indigestion. I knew something had to change with how we handle food in this household. And it did! These days, our food waste is minimal, thanks in a huge part to properly storing produce.


Join us in the fight against food waste!


Temperature matters


Before we dive into specific fruits and vegetables, let’s take a moment to understand that different produce items have different temperature requirements. Most refrigerators have different sections with adjustable temperature settings. To minimize food waste, here’s a general temperature guideline:


  • The main fridge compartment should be maintained between 35°F and 38°F (1.6°C to 3.3°C)

  • The crisper drawers’ main function is to control humidity inside each drawer. Adjust to slightly higher humidity levels for fruits and lower humidity for vegetables.


It’s time! Let’s get into the details of how to store specific types of produce.


Leafy Greens


Leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, and kale are prone to wilting and becoming slimy if not stored properly. So, how do you store greens?


  • Remove any damaged or yellow leaves

  • Wrap greens in a tea towel to absorb excess moisture and store in the crisper drawer with higher humidity levels.




Berries


Berries like strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries are delicate and can mold quickly. This is because berries naturally have mold spores already on them. To prolong shelf life, follow these steps:


  • Wash in a vinegar bath (1 part vinegar, 2 parts water) to clean off mold spores

  • Rinse & dry

  • Line a container with a tea towel, and place the berries inside.

  • Leave uncovered - berries love air flow!

  • Store in the main section of the refrigerator


Apples


Apples have a tendency to release ethylene gas, which can accelerate the ripening of other fruits and vegetables. Storing them away from other fruits and vegetables is ideal. In a perfect world, apples should be refrigerated in their own drawer. But, this isn’t a perfect world and my fridge (or our appetite for apples) is not large enough to dedicate a whole drawer to the fruit. So, we opt for storing apples in their own basket away from other fruits/vegetables.


Citrus


Oranges, lemons, and limes should be stored as follows:


  • Keep them in a cool, dry place outside of the fridge if you plan to use them within a week.

  • If storing for an extended period, store in the crisper drawer.

  • Pro tip: Allow refrigerated citrus to come to room temperature for maximum juice & flavor.


Root Vegetables




Root vegetables like carrots, beets, and potatoes have their own storage requirements.


  • These veggies feel best in a cool, dark, and dry place (it’s giving underground).

  • Keep them in a breathable bag to maintain airflow


Onions


Like other root vegetables, onions should be stored in a cool, dark, dry place. Do not store with potatoes - they do not play well in the sandbox and will cause potatoes to spoil quicker.


Tomatoes


Tomatoes can lose their flavor and texture if stored in the fridge. Here’s what to do:


  • Keep tomatoes at room temperature until they ripen.

  • Once ripe, place them in the fridge if you need to extend their shelf life, but allow them to return to room temperature before using for optimal flavor.


Herbs


The rule of thumb is to create a cool, humid environment for herbs. Many herbs do well stored like a bouquet of flowers. Simply trim the ends, and place into a jar with some water. Remember to change the water frequently to prevent bacterial overgrowth.


Another option for storing herbs is to place them in airtight containers, or reusable silicone bags, with a tea towel to soak up excess moisture.


Basil is one major exception. Store basil like a bouquet of flowers in a sunny, warm area. A countertop with a window is a perfect spot. Storing basil in the fridge will cause it to turn dark and wilt.


Knowing how to store produce is a simple but effective way to reduce food waste in your household. By following these guidelines, you can extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables, save money, and build a more sustainable world.


Sending high vibrations,

FTL


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