Looking to reduce your food waste? Here are ten clever tips to help make your fruit and vegetables last longer.
Food waste is a huge issue. In fact, food production is one of the biggest contributors to climate change. So much so, that about one-third of greenhouse emissions globally come from agriculture.
Despite this, both at the household level and at the manufacturing level, we are very wasteful when it comes to food. Around 30% of the food we produce is wasted – about 1.8 billion tonnes of it a year. So much so, that it has been estimated that if food waste was a country, it would be the third-highest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China. Isn’t that terrifying?
Useful Tips To Make Your Fruit & Vegetables Last Longer
The good thing is that there are lots of things we can do at home to reduce food waste – particularly when it comes to fruit and vegetables.
Whilst there’s no single strategy you can employ – all fruits and vegetables are different – understanding a little bit about the characteristics of different types of produce can go a long way in making your fruits and veggies last longer. So let’s grab a reusable shopping bag and see what you can learn!
- Store Your Produce Correctly
- Get The Humidity Right
- Don’t Be Too Quick To Clean
- Inspect Regularly
- Keep It Contained
- Freeze It For Later
- Preservation’s What You Need
- Plan Your Meals
- Revive Wilted Greens
- Ditch The Cling Film
1. Store Your Produce Correctly
When it comes to keeping your fruits and veggies fresh, the way you store them plays a pivotal role. Different fruits and vegetables have different preferences. Whilst some thrive in the fridge, others last longer hanging out in a cool dark cupboard.
The fresh produce that is best stored in the fridge include:
- Beans and peas
- Berries and cherries
- Citrus fruits
- Leafy greens – including bok choy, cabbage, spinach and Brussels sprouts
- Root Vegetables – including carrots, turnips and parsnips
Other fruits like avocados, bananas, peaches, nectarines, pears, plums and tomatoes prefer to hang out at room temperature until they ripen. Tomatoes, for example, taste much better when stored at room temperature.
Then there are the other fruits that are very anti-social, including apples, bananas and avocados. These are all quite gassy by nature, producing a gas called ethylene as they ripen. Many other fresh fruits and vegetables are sensitive to ethylene, and exposure can cause them to ripen too quickly.
And then there are others that like it cool, dry and dark. Onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes and garlic are all best stored in a cupboard rather than your fridge. Onions and potatoes are mortal enemies, however, so it’s best to keep them separate. Onions produce ethylene, which causes potatoes to overripen. While moisture-rich potatoes can cause onions to liquefy. You don’t need to keep them in a separate cupboard – just in separate containers. A loosely covered bag is ideal.
2. Get the Humidity Right
Some fridge crisper drawers allow you to adjust the humidity, with options for low and high humidity. It’s not high-tech – it’s simply a slideable plastic notch that allows you to open or close a window in the drawer. If you need low humidity, make sure the notch is open. And if you need high humidity, make sure the notch is closed.
If your fridge has this clever feature then as a guide the following fruits and vegetables do better when kept in different drawers:
- High Humidity: Leafy greens, herbs, and asparagus prosper in high humidity – keeping them crisp.
- Low Humidity: Berries and cherries prefer things cool and dry in the fridge. Keeping them in a low-humidity drawer prevents excess moisture that can lead to them rotting.
3. Don’t Be Too Quick To Clean
It’s a common myth that you need to wash your fruit and vegetables when you bring them home from the shops. Yet, in most cases, washing can shorten the shelf-life of your produce, as moisture can encourage mould and rot. Instead, most produce should be stored unwashed until you’re ready to eat or cook with them.
There is one exception though. Berries last longer when washed and then thoroughly dried. Try adding a bit of vinegar to help make them last even longer.
4. Inspect Regularly
Keep an eye on your fruits and veggies, and promptly remove any that show signs of spoiling. The saying “one bad apple can spoil the barrel” didn’t come from nowhere after all. This is because rotting or damaged fruit often produces more ethylene – that pesky gas that can cause other fruits and vegetables to go off.
5. Keep It Contained
A little creativity with containers can go a long way in making your fruits and vegetables go the distance.
- Airtight Containers: Perfect for storing chopped vegetables in. The airtight seal helps to keep them fresher for longer. Some people like to add a piece of kitchen roll to absorb any excess moisture.
- Paper Bags: Use paper bags for storing mushrooms in the fridge. As well as being plastic-free, the paper allows for a good airflow, reducing moisture buildup that causes decay.
6. Freeze It for Later
One of the best ways to extend the shelf life of your fruits and veggies is to freeze them – particularly if you’re not going to eat them before they go off.
Some fruit and vegetables are best blanched before freezing, to lock in their flavour and goodness. To blanche your produce, you usually quickly scald it in boiling water, before plunging it into iced water to stop the cooking process. To prevent clumping, you should then lay your fruits and veggies on a baking sheet before popping them in the freezer. Once they’re frozen solid, transfer them to a reusable container or bag.
7. Preservation’s What You Need
If you’re of a certain age – like me – then you’ll know that Roy Castle sang dedication’s what you need. Whilst it’s good advice if you have too much fresh produce – either from your garden or from a good deal at your local shop – then it isn’t dedication, but preservation that you need.
Whether you make pickles, jams, preserves, or opt to dehydrate, either way, you can extend the shelf life of your produce from days to around a year. Just make sure you employ proper jar sterilisation techniques to keep bacteria at bay.
8. Plan Your Meals
One of the simplest ways to make your fruits and vegetables last longer is not to buy more than you can consume. It sounds like a no-brainer, but we often get carried away with good deals at the supermarket and buy more than we need, or lose track of what we have in the fridge.
An easy way to prevent this is to plan your meals for the week ahead. Having an outline for what you are going to eat can help you shop more efficiently, and ensure that you use up your fruits and veggies rather than leaving them languishing at the back of the fridge.
9. Revive Wilted Greens
Even with the best intentions, sometimes we forget about some lettuce or spinach at the bottom of the crisper drawer. If your greens are looking a bit wilted, then all is not lost.
You can submerge wilted greens in a bowl of iced water for around 30 minutes. This crisps them up, restoring their crunch. You should eat these straight away.
10. Ditch The Cling Film
Storing fresh produce in cling film can make it sweaty and cause your food to rot faster. Try ditching the plastic and give natural alternatives a shot. I prefer using beeswax wraps – a sustainable alternative to cling film – as this allows your food to breathe.
What More Can I Do?
I have lots more food waste tips you can follow at home to reduce your food waste. However, the buck shouldn’t just stop with householders. Food manufacturers have a huge part to play in reducing food waste.
The good news is that there is a host of companies out there, making not just one product, but their entire range from surplus food or food waste. Check out my post on the food waste heroes helping to save the planet to be inspired.