How to Store Fresh Fruits and Vegetables and Save Money

How to Store Fresh Fruits and Vegetables and Save Money

How often have you had to throw out fruits and vegetables because they went bad so quickly? Here are some helpful tips to help keep your perishables much longer and possibly save you money.

Fruits

Peaches

Ripe peaches need to be eaten right away. If you have more than a single sitting, store them in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days in a loosely sealed plastic.  The cool temperature will slow down the ripening process.  If the peaches need to ripen more, place them in a paper bag for 1-3 days and the ethylene gas emitted from the peaches will hasten the ripening process.  Or, place the peaches in a bowl on the counter at room temperature and they will ripen within 3-5 days.

 

Pears

If the pears are not ripe, store them at room temperature in a single layer until they darken in color.  Once they are ripe, store in in the refrigerator where they can actually last for a few weeks. If you want to speed up the ripening process, put them in a paper bag with a ripe banana or apple.

 

Grapes

Don’t wash the grapes immediately, wait until you decide to eat a couple of grapes.  Also, keep the grapes in an airtight box or plastic bag to keep them fresher longer in the back of the refrigerator because it’s often the chilliest spot. When storing grapes, be sure to store them away from odorous foods, such as onions and leeks, as grapes have the ability to absorb odors.

 

If you don’t buy them organic, you can rinse the grapes with cold water, drain and then put them in a salt scrub consisting of 2 tsps salt and 2 tsps of baking soda.  After rolling the grapes in the salt scrub, rinse them off and refrigerate.  The wax and any residue on the grapes will be removed and they will shine.

 

Berries

Don’t wash berries until you are ready to eat them to minimize any mold growth. If you don’t purchase organic, you can remove any residue on the berries by putting them in a bowl of cold water with ¼ cup vinegar.  For raspberries and blackberries, let sit for 3-4 minutes; strawberries and blueberries let sit 7-10 minutes, then rinse and put in the refrigerator.

 

Fresh berries from your local farm taste amazing at room temperature so it’s the sooner the better for munching.  Store most berries dry and in the container in which you bought them, except for strawberries, which tend to dry out in the fridge.  Store them atop a dry towel after washing (in a single layer, if possible), with a damp towel placed over the top, and eating them within in a day or two.

 

Apples

Apples are not a fan of the warmth, so best to store them in the refrigerator, specifically in the crisper drawer, unless you are planning to eat them within 2-3 days, in which case you can keep them on the counter.   Apples on the counter will ripen much faster than in the refrigerator.

 

Melons

Keep whole melons like watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew on the counter for best flavor.  Once cut, store melon halves in the refrigerator covered tightly with plastic wrap for 3 to 4 days.  Cut pieces of melon should be stored in an air tight container and refrigerate.

 

Avocados

When whole avocados are perfectly ripe, use them immediately or store in the refrigerator in the produce drawer for three to five days.  The refrigeration will slow down the ripening process.  You can also store whole avocados in the freezer.  If you want to speed up the ripening process, put the avocados in a paper bag with a banana.  The ethylene gas emitted from the banana will ripen the avocado.

 

Bananas

If your bananas are green and unripe, the countertop at room temperature is the best place for them to ripen.  You can put plastic wrap on the tip of the bananas (where they are attached to each other) to slow down the ripening process.  You can refrigerate ripe bananas to help them stay fresher for longer, but refrigerating unripe bananas will stop the ripening process and cause the peel to turn black.  If you put bananas in the fridge after they have started to go brown, they will turn to mush even faster.

 

Apricot, Nectarines and Plums

Stone fruit, such as apricots, plums and nectarines, should be refrigerated only once they are fully ripe.  They do best to be stored at room temperature on the counter top.

 

Vegetables

Tomatoes

Ripe tomatoes should be kept at room temperature on the counter away from sunlight.  Make sure they are in a single layer, not touching one another, and stem side up.  Consume within a couple of days. Overripe tomatoes that are soft to touch with very red flesh are best kept in the fridge.

 

Yellow Squash and Zucchini

If storing yellow squash or zucchini in the refrigerator, do not wash the squash before storing to minimize mold growth.  They are best stored in a plastic bag that has had a few holes poked in it for airflow, and then placed in the vegetable crisper drawer. Zucchini stored this way will last approximately 1 week.

Beets

Store beets in the refrigerator placed in a perforated plastic bag in the vegetable crisper drawer.   Beets will keep in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 months.  If there is no room in the refrigerator, beets can also be packed in a container or plastic storage box or cooler–in moist sand, peat moss, or sawdust.

Corn

Corn is best kept if it is kept from drying out.  At home, store the ears wrapped tightly in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.  If you don’t plan on eating your corn within three days—and you should freeze it.

 

Carrots

Trimmed, unpeeled carrots can be refrigerated in the crisper drawer (coldest part of the refrigerator) for about two weeks.  To prevent condensation from forming, wrap the carrots in a paper towel and then place them in a bag, or use a perforated plastic bag.  Excess moisture will cause them to rot.  Trimmed carrots (such as baby-cut carrots or carrot sticks) will last longer when kept submerged in a tightly covered container filled with water.

 

Mushrooms

Store unwashed mushrooms in their original packaging or in a paper bag and fold the top of the bag over for prolonged shelf-life.  Some mushrooms may keep for up to one week in the refrigerator.  Fresh mushrooms should never be frozen, but frozen sautéed mushrooms will keep for up to one month.

 

Celery

To avoid celery going limp, refrigerate as soon as possible.  Wrap in a dry towel and place in a plastic bag or wrap tightly in foil and store in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.  It should keep for up to two weeks.  For long-term storage, celery can be frozen.

 

Peppers

Refrigerate peppers, unwashed, in a plastic bag in the vegetable drawer.   Keep them dry, as moisture will eventually cause them to rot.  Shelf life: red and yellow peppers will last four to five days; green, about a week.

For cut bell peppers, store them in a sealed container or plastic bag with a paper towel to absorb excess moisture.   Keep them in your crisper drawer—just don’t forget about them!  Cut bell peppers will last 2-3 days in the refrigerator.

 

Asparagus

Fresh asparagus should be refrigerated.  Cut ½ inch of the stalk base and keep it wrapped loosely in a breathable plastic from the grocery store and put it in the high-humidity crisper drawer in your refrigerator to last 4-5 days.  Cooked asparagus with last 3-5 days in the refrigerator.

 

Broccoli, Cabbage and Cauliflower

Do not wash broccoli before storing in the refrigerator the water will promote mold production.  Store broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower in open plastic bags. The air will keep them fresher.  They should keep  for about 5 days in the refrigerator whether cooked or raw.

 

Lettuce

Wrap the lettuce head in a dry paper towel and place it in a plastic bag or storage container.  You can reuse the container it came in, as long as you wash it first.  To maintain the proper temperature and moisture level, store your lettuce in the crisper drawer in your fridge.  Pull off leaves or cut off chunks of lettuce as you need them, wrap remaining lettuce in paper towel and return to plastic bag.  Iceberg will keep fresh for a very long time if you store it correctly.

 

Onions and Garlic

Place onion and garlic in separate mesh bags or a clean and dry wooden bin or waxed box.  Don’t wash your onions or garlic before you store them.   Keep them very dry.  Never store them with potatoes, as the onions will cause the potatoes to rot.  While in storage, check them often to make sure the onions and garlic are not sprouting or developing soft spots.  Cut onions should be tightly wrapped and then stored in the refrigerator

 

Hopefully, these tips will help keep your produce longer and be tasty!

Michelle Hanson

Author: Michelle Hanson

Michelle Hanson, MA, RD, LD is Fresh & Natural Food’s Registered Dietitian. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Clinical Dietetics with a minor in Community Health from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. She is a registered dietitian and current member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Michelle has been a nutrition consultant for numerous years as well as a nutrition research director at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.

Michelle is passionate about food and nutrition and believes in helping people find simple, realistic ways to make healthy eating a part of their everyday lifestyle.
If you are interested in meeting Michelle or have questions for her, you can email her at: michelle@fnfoods.com. She will look forward to meeting you!