Making produce last is probably one of the most difficult things in the food world. If you’re a healthy eater that consumes lots of produce, often it’s frustrating when the kale you just bought wilts or the berries you recently purchased begin to mold. The key to making produce last is buying fruits and vegetables strategically and at the right time so you can enjoy them and avoid spoilage. If you want to prevent wastage on a regular basis, try these seven techniques for making produce last.
1. Buy in Season
You’re only going to like produce if it tastes good! One of the most efficient ways to making produce last is to buy items in season. Tomatoes will almost always taste better in the summer, while pomegranates will reach their peak in the cooler winter months. If you don’t want to waste produce, buy it when it’s in its prime. This way it’ll be so delicious you won’t let any of it spoil!
2. Wash Your Produce
When you get home from a trip to the grocery store, make a habit of washing your produce before you put it away. I know it takes a little more time than simply throwing bags of lettuce and celery in your vegetable crisper, but washing will make a heck of a difference. This is especially true for herbs like parsley and cilantro. Wash the herbs, then gently pat dry with a paper towel. Store the herbs in a plastic bag or container with a damp paper towel. Instead of wilting after a few days, you’ll have fresh herbs for the whole week.
3. Cut off Rotten Part of Fruits and Veggies
Ever bite into an apple or pear and notice an overripe patch or bruise? Just because part of the fruit is going a little rotten, doesn’t mean you need to throw the entire fruit away. Simply take a paring knife and cut off the spoiled part of the fruit. You can easily save dozens of whole fruits this way. The same applies to vegetables. If I notice that a stalk of celery is starting to spoil, for example, sometimes all it takes is trimming the ends to have a perfectly good piece of celery.
4. Buy Frozen (or Freeze It Yourself)
Frozen fruits and veggies are a great way to make produce last. Picked during their peak, frozen fruits and veggies will taste good year-round! They’re also relatively inexpensive and will last for a while in your freezer, so stock up when your favorites are on sale. Frozen vegetables usually have the same nutritional content of their fresh counterpart, so you don’t need to worry that you’re skimping on vitamins or antioxidants. You can even freeze fruits and vegetables of your own. Simply cut up the produce, place it in a plastic bag, and throw it in the freezer.
5. Plan Meals Strategically
It’s always good to plan meals for the week to save money on your grocery bills and other food expenses. Planning your meals strategically will also help you figure out what fruits and vegetables you need to buy. Planning allows you to buy the exact amount you need for certain meals, ensuring there’s no leftovers that could potentially spoil. If you need the same fruit or vegetable for several meals, you can also figure out exactly how much you need. When buying herbs like parsley, for instance, I always plan on making at least two or three meals with one giant bunch. That way I know that none of it will go to waste.
6. Don’t Buy Fruit That’s Already Ripe
This is one of the biggest mistakes I see food shoppers make. You want to plan your fruit shopping out so that the fruits ripen throughout the week as you eat them. If you eat a pear every day of the week, buying seven super ripe pears is only going to lead to waste and spoilage. Instead, buy 2 fairly ripe pears, 2 firmer pears, and 3 pears that will be moderately ripe in a few days. Eat the riper fruit at the beginning of the week. As the week progresses, the fruit that was firm at the beginning of the week is now perfectly ripe!
7. Make Sure You Eat Your Produce
You can have all the fresh kale, sweet strawberries, and vibrant cabbage in the world, but if you’re not making a conscious effort to cook with it and eat it, the produce will spoil and you’ll end up throwing it away. Try to incorporate produce into as many meals as possible. It’s as simple as eating a veggie-packed omelet for breakfast, salad for lunch, steamed veggies with dinner, and fruits for snacks. Ensuring you incorporate fruits and veggies into your meals is one of the best ways to avoid produce spoilage and make it last.
At the end of the day, it’s not the end of the world if you throw away one bad apple or a wilted leaf of lettuce. But if you’re on a budget and trying to eat healthy, making your produce last is essential to saving money and ensuring you’re making good use out of all the food you buy. What are some unconventional ways you make your produce last?