Fact: The United States throws away 150,000 tons of food daily. And on average, around $1,500 worth of food is wasted per year in each household. Out of everything edible we waste, fruits and vegetables account for 39% of America’s total.
The good news is that a few simple tricks to reduce the amount of fresh produce we toss every day could have a massive impact on the environment (and on our grocery expenses).
Step one in wasting less produce is remembering that storing fruits and vegetables too closely together is a common mistake that can lead to food going bad. Buildup of the chemical compound ethylene gas will cause them to go off, so apples, melons, apricots, bananas, tomatoes, avocados, peaches, pears, nectarines, plums, figs and other fruits and vegetables should be kept separate, as these produce the most ethylene.
Here’s a handy guide for storing fresh foods smarter—because the longer your produce, meat and more lasts, the less you trash and repurchase.
Netting for lemons, oranges and limes is very dangerous to sea life and birds, so these types of fruits should always be bought loose. You can keep them out at room temperature, but once citrus fruits are past peak ripeness, storing them in the fridge will help them last longer (same goes for tomatoes and avocados). If your citrus starts to turn, you can slice the fruit up and freeze it: frozen citrus is great as ice cubes for drinks.
Wash and dry loose leafy salad greens in a salad spinner, then wrap them loosely in paper towels and refrigerate in a food-storage container to keep the leaves from going soggy.
Onions and potatoes
Onions, potatoes and shallots should be stored in a cool, dark place to keep them fresh, like a basket in a cupboard or a cellar. Avoid storing these products in plastic bags, as this encourages spoilage. Once cut, onions should be stored in a resealable bag in the fridge where they will last for around a week, or store chopped onion in an airtight container in the freezer.
Wash cucumbers as soon as you bring them home from the grocery store. Make sure they’re thoroughly dry—as excess water will spoil them—then wrap each in a cloth or towel to prevent sogginess. Store in the fridge in a reusable vegetable bag.
Apples and bananas
If you won’t be eating them immediately, buy bananas when they’re still slightly green and store them away from other fruits in the fruit bowl (they release high amounts of ethylene gas, which, as mentioned, can cause other fruits to go off more quickly). Consider using a banana tree to keep them separated and minimize bruising. Keep apples in an uncovered fruit bowl on the countertop and make sure to store them out of direct sunlight.
A great hack for storing fresh basil and other herbs is to chop the leaves in a food processor, place in an ice cube tray with a little olive oil and store in the freezer. When basil is needed for a dish, just pop in a ready-made cube.
Meat and fish
Storing meat and fish in containers in the freezer will save money and food waste. Keep them well-organized (first in, first out) with labels that clearly state the date the items were frozen, as frozen meat should be eaten within three to six months.
© Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved. Used with permission.