Healthy food is expensive, and most of us can’t afford to waste it (the money or the food)! This is real life ya’ll! How many of you have bought a cart full of fruits and veggies only to have ⅔ of it go to waste because it went bad before you could eat it!?

Be honest, you know it’s happened to you!

Sometimes, despite our best intentions, we just don’t eat the food in time. Maybe you bought something new to try and then had no clue how to cook it or what to pair it with so it just sat there until it went bad. Maybe it went bad so fast there was never a hope of getting to it in time.

There are several important factors to take into consideration, from storage options to menu planning, you can use to help the fruits and vegetables you buy stay fresh longer.

It ’s important to know the shelf life of the food you’re buying. That will depend on several factors:

1)  how long the food has been at the grocery store

2)  how ripe the food was when it was purchased

3) how long has it been since that food was picked by the growers.

An example of that would be buying a green banana versus a banana that has started to accumulate brown spots on the peel. The green banana is going to take longer to ripen. Knowing how long the food has been at the store is a bit difficult, but you as the consumer know how ripe an avocado is or whether or not the head of lettuce you grabbed has brown spots on it already. Another factor outside of your control is knowing how long ago that food was harvested. This issue can be mitigated by buying produce from local growers either in your local grocery store or at a local Farmer’s Market. Most of the time the locally grown produce at your grocery store will be clearly labeled so that you are aware.

Know which fruits and vegetables should NOT be stored together. This is absolutely a thing and it can make all the difference! All fruits and vegetables produce ethylene after they are picked. This is completely normal and safe within the lifecycle of the food, but some fruits and vegetables produce more ethylene than others which can actually cause other fruits and vegetables to ripen and go bad faster along with them!

Ethylene Producing Produce

  • Cantaloupe
  • Kiwi
  • Avocado
  • Pears  
  • Bananas   
  • Mangoes
  • Plums
  • Tomatoes
  • Nectaries  

Storing those foods separately from ethylene-sensitive foods will keep the sensitive ones fresh longer.

Ethylene- Sensitive Produce

  • Apples  
  • Asparagus  
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplants  
  • Green beans
  • Lettuce   
  • Other leafy greens
  • Potatoes
  • Summer Squash    
  • Watermelons

Potatoes, onions, and tomatoes should be stored in a cool, dry place, but NOT in the fridge. The cold ruins their flavor. Citrus fruits are fine in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight for up to a week, but when kept in the fridge their shelf life can be extended significantly. Avoid washing berries until you are ready to eat them. Getting them wet will cause faster spoiling. Leafy greens, carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, and peppers begin to spoil as soon as their picked. Getting them out of the plastic containers and bags they come in from the store and storing them instead in brown paper bags or mesh produce bags can help extend shelf life. You can purchase reusable mesh produce bags from Amazon and Thrive Market.

Shopping with a weekly menu in hand will enable you to only purchase what your family will need and will consume within that weekly period.

  • Create a weekly menu
  • Make a list of the items you don’t already have and any staple items you’ve run out of
  • Shop to that list
  • Come home and start prepping those foods for the week so they are either already cooked and can be heated up easily or washed and prepped so they are ready to go

This will help reduce the food waste in your household greatly, and when coupled with the storage tips above, may help you never have to throw away food that’s gone bad ever again!