Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you make a purchase through my link, at no additional cost to you. Please read the full disclosure here.
There’s something incredibly satisfying about bringing home a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables, bursting with vibrant colors and enticing aromas. But as time passes, that once-pristine produce can lose its luster and succumb to spoilage, resulting in unnecessary food waste.
However, with a little knowledge and a few simple tricks, you can extend the life of your produce, reduce food waste, and make the most of your culinary treasures.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll share with you 19 practical tips on how to properly store produce, from delicate leafy greens to robust root vegetables.
By implementing these strategies into your kitchen routine, you’ll not only enjoy fresher, more flavorful meals but also contribute to the larger mission of reducing food waste and promoting sustainable practices.
Storing your food properly is not only good for your wallet but also for the planet. Every day, about one pound of food per person is wasted in America, equating to 103 million tons of food waste. According to the USDA, 30-40% of the food supply is wasted.
Overall, reducing your waste includes food, and ensuring you properly store your produce is one way to ensure your food doesn’t get tossed in the trash!
Let’s get into it.
- 1. Potatoes
- 2. Onions
- 3. Tomatoes
- 4. Garlic
- 5. Bananas
- 6. Herbs
- 7. Avocados
- 8. Asparagus
- 9. Green Onions
- 10. Nuts & Seeds
- 11. Celery & Carrots
- 12. Cucumbers
- 13. Greens
- 14. Cauliflower & Broccoli
- 15. Ginger
- 16. Berries
- 17. Mushrooms
- 18. Citrus
- 19. Apples
- More Tips for Reducing Food Waste
- How to Use Crisper Drawers
The main thing you need to remember about potatoes is never to store root vegetables (like potatoes and onions) together. They both produce and emit ethylene gas that makes each other rot and spoil faster. It’s best to keep potatoes in a cool, dark area, like on your counter. You can also keep them in a paper bag, cabinet, or drawer.
You should also keep onions in a cool dry place as well. You can store these in a drawer in your fridge, on your counter, or in the pantry. Just make sure to keep them far from your potatoes!
I’ve grown up storing tomatoes in the fridge, so I was surprised to learn that’s actually the wrong way to store them! You should actually store tomatoes on the counter because they will get soft and spoil faster in the fridge. When you keep them out, you’ll notice that they stay firm longer and have a better flavor.
Obviously, once you cut them open, you should store them in the fridge after.
If you buy garlic in a bag, it’s best to remove them from the bag and place it in a bowl. They shouldn’t be stored in the fridge, but you can place them on the counter or in the pantry.
Keep bananas on the counter to ripen. Hanging them from a banana hanger will cause the ripening process to slow down because more air can circulate around the fruit, which removes excess ethylene. However, if you do want them to ripen faster, you can put them in a paper bag with an apple or a few really ripe bananas to help speed the process up.
You should store your herbs (cilantro, parsley, etc.) in water and place them in the fridge. Basil actually doesn’t keep that well in the fridge, so for basil, you can keep it on your counter, placed in some water, at room temperature in indirect light.
The main thing to remember with avocados is that they will ripen when left out, but when placed in the fridge, their ripening process will halt. So usually, what I do if I buy a few avocados at a time and know I’m not going to use all of them right away, I’ll put one or two avocados in my pantry and keep the rest in the fridge. When I’m ready to use the rest, I’ll take them out of the fridge and put those in the pantry.
Once they ripen, I’ll immediately put them in the fridge until I use them because they quickly brown. You can check if they’re ripe by peeling the little button on the top off, and if the inside is green, it’s ready to eat!
When you get your asparagus, cut the ends off and place it in a cup of water, like you would with flowers. Store in the fridge.
9. Green onions
You can keep green onions fresh by placing them in a cup of water at room temperature. Be sure to change the water every couple of days.
10. Nuts & Seeds
While researching this, I also learned that nuts and seeds actually do go bad after some time. If you’ve had them for a while, it’s a good idea to check the expiration date or google how long they are suitable for.
They are best stored in a cool, dry place, like your fridge!
11. Celery & Carrots
A great tip is to cut the celery and carrots into slices and put them in jars of water. Keep them in the fridge, and this will keep them nice and fresh until you’re ready to eat them!
Once you get your cucumbers, wrap them in a towel and put them in a reusable bag. This way, they will stay fresh for longer. Only do this for whole cucumbers!
When you get any greens like lettuce, kale, or spinach, remove them from their bag if they come in one. Rinse, and put them on a towel to dry. Once dry, roll them up in the towel and place them in the fridge. This will retain the moisture so they will keep fresh for longer.
For spinach, since it usually comes in a bag or plastic packaging, you should puncture holes in the bag or container to allow them to breathe. You could also do the same thing as the other greens and line them with a towel.
You’ll want to take them out of the container because they are more susceptible to rotting, so wrapping or lining them with a towel is a great way to keep them fresh!
14. Cauliflower & Broccoli
For cauliflower and broccoli, you’ll want to keep them in a sealable bag. First, line the bag with a towel and then put them into the bag, keeping them fresh longer. Don’t close the bag all the way so that they can breathe a little.
When you get your ginger, the first thing to do is wipe it dry so that there isn’t excess moisture. Then put it into a sealable container. When u cut a piece off, pat that spot dry and put it back in the container.
Wash your berries in a vinegar bath with a 1:5 ratio of vinegar to water to make them last longer. Rinse and transfer to a container lined with a towel so that it absorbs any excess moisture. This process will prevent it from molding quickly. Ensure not to close the container so the moisture doesn’t stay locked in.
You should store mushrooms in the container that they come in. If you’re buying in bulk, store them in a paper or cloth bag to allow them to breathe.
Keep citrus in the fridge until ready to eat. It will start to decompose and dry out if let on the counter, but keeping it in the fridge will slow this process down. Citrus is ideal when enjoyed at room temperature so I suggest removing it from the fridge for a few hours before using.
Apples will stay crisp if they are kept in the fridge and will get soft if left out. Remember that some fruits, like apples, will need to go in the fridge because if they’re left out on the counter, they will begin to deteriorate.
More Tips for Reducing Food Waste:
Vegetable Broth- A great way to reduce food waste is to use leftover food scraps to make vegetable broth. Collect them in a bag or container and store them in the freezer until it’s full. You can easily make the broth by adding all the vegetables into a pot with about 8 cups of water. Let it come to a boil and then simmer for about 45 minutes. You can also add any seasonings of your choice or more vegetables if you want to make it more flavorful. Then remove it from the stove, strain it, and squeeze out all the juice. And voila! You have vegetable broth.
Almond Milk- Another great tip I learned that I thought I should mention is how to store your almond milk! Luckily, it doesn’t spoil nearly as fast as cow milk, but to make it last as long as possible, don’t store almond milk on the fridge door because the temperature fluctuates the most there since you’re opening and closing the door multiple times a day. This is especially helpful if you make homemade milk since that tends to only last for up to a week.
Compost- And, of course, since we are talking about food waste, I must mention composting! It’s the best way to make sure you don’t have any food waste left behind. After you use your scraps to make broth, almond milk, or anything else, place them in your compost bin! you can either make your own compost or use a drop-off/pick-up service. I wrote another post about how to compost in an apartment that goes into all the details about composting!
How to Use Crisper Drawers
Crisper drawers are all the drawers in your fridge. They can be really great for storing produce and, if they are correctly used, really great for protecting your produce from spoiling. I’ve personally never really paid much attention to them and just threw in whatever didn’t fit on the shelves, but despite my past ignorance, I’ve learned that there is actually a right and wrong way to use them.
Some refrigerators come with high and low humidity settings on your crisper drawers, which can usually look like a toggle or small vent with a sliding door. You can change these settings depending on what type of produce you keep in the drawer.
If your fridge doesn’t have these controls for your drawers, they’re still crisper drawers but instead are by default a high-humidity crisper since most of the humidity inside a crisper is made by the produce itself.
High-Humidity: Store ethylene-sensitive fruits and vegetables. Includes asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, citrus, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, greens, lettuce, peppers, strawberries, raspberries, and sweet potatoes.
Low-Humidity: Store ethylene-producing fruits and vegetables. Includes apples, apricots, avocados, ripe bananas, cantaloupes, figs, honeydew, melons, kiwi, nectarines, papayas, peaches, pears, and plums.
An easy way to remember this is to place fruits that rot quicker in the low-humidity drawer while keeping produce that’s likely to wilt in the high-humidity drawer. The reason behind this is that the ethylene that some produce releases that can make other produce (that are sensitive to ethylene) ripen quicker.
And last but not least, lining your crisper drawers with towels helps absorb extra moisture and makes for a much easier clean-up to keep your fridge nice and clean!
I really hope this helped you learn more about how to store your produce properly and how this can overall help you reduce tons of food waste! Let me know in the comments if you have any more tips or tricks you would like to share. I’d love to hear from you!
Thanks for reading,