If someone were to ask me what I waste the most money on, on a monthly basis, I ain't gonna lie; I'd have to say produce would definitely top the list. I think a part of the reason is because, as grandma used to say, while shopping, "My eyes are bigger than my stomach" and I end up getting more than I need. Also, it wasn't until last year sometime that I really started to pay attention to what the shelf life for various fruits and vegetables actually are (if you'd like to learn more about that, click here). Plus, it wasn't until a few months ago that I became aware of some of the produce-related hacks that I'm about to share with you; ones that can make your foods easily last double their regular amount of time.
Fresh fruits and veggies are definitely better for your health than anything that is processed. But there's no point in buying produce if you're gonna toss everything out (due to them rotting) before you get around to actually enjoying them (le sigh). If that's the pattern you tend to find yourself in, these 12 hacks for making produce last longer may be an answer to your grocery shopping and budget-related prayers.
1. Prep Your Own Guacamole (Kinda)
Although I'm not exactly sure what the rhyme or reason is for this particular hack, what I do know is I hate the texture of a slimy avocado. The way to keep that from happening is to 1) store it into a plastic container that has a lid and 2) to place a slice of onion in there with it. If you're worried that the smell (or even taste) of the onion will transfer onto the avocado, no worries—miraculously, it won't.
2. Place Mushrooms in a Brown Paper Bag
If you don't plan on eating your mushrooms for a few days, rather than washing them off as soon as you buy them, take them out of their original packaging and then place them into a brown paper bag.
The bag has a way of absorbing any excess moisture that the mushrooms may have so that they don't mold so quickly.
Another tip? Keep the bag away from any foods that naturally have strong odors or flavors (like garlic). Mushrooms tend to absorb whatever it is closest too. (Oh, and yes, you can—and should—rinse off the mushrooms, right before eating them.)
3. Create Olive Oil Ice Cubes
Want a lot of flavor in your food but don't feel like always having to do a ton of prepping? As far as seasoning goes, something you can try is creating ice cubes out of olive oil, some of your favorite seasonings and fresh herbs. That way, once you're ready to cook, you can just take a couple of cubes out and throw them into your pot or pan. Speaking of seasoning your food, if you use ginger root and fresh turmeric a lot, you might want to store both of them in your freezer; they typically last longer if/when you do.
4. Store Potatoes and Apples Together
Another hack that I can't really explain, I can just tell you that it works, is to put potatoes and apples together. Why in the world would you possibly do that? Well, it's a pretty surefire way to keep your potatoes from sprouting before you actually get around to eating them.
5. Keep Ethylene-Emitting Produce Away from the Rest
Ethylene is a lot of things. As it relates to what we're touching on today, it's the kind of gas that causes certain foods to ripen at a faster pace. While this can be cool for foods with this type of gas in them (tomatoes, avocados, bananas and honeydew top the list), it totally wreaks havoc on apples, broccoli, cabbage and carrots. That's why it's imperative that you never store these foods together.
6. Don’t Store Tomatoes in the Fridge
When tomatoes no longer have their stems attached to them, it is much easier for air to get in and moisture to get out. That's why it's a good idea to store them at room temperature (out of the sunlight) instead of placing them into your refrigerator.
Also, keep the tomatoes from touching each other as much as possible. Something about them being stacked on top of each other affects their original taste and texture.
7. Put Asparagus in Water
I don't know about you, but I really enjoy baked asparagus spears. Problem is, sometimes they go bad before I get around to preparing them. A cool way to keep your own asparagus spears fresh for at least 10 days is to cut ¼ in. off of the bottom of the stalks, place them in a cup of water and then put them into the refrigerator. There's something about the extra oxygen and fluid from the water that extends this veggie's shelf life when you do.
Speaking of water, if you put chopped up dried onions and chives in an empty water bottle and then place the bottle into your freezer, that is one way to keep them extra fresh for a longer period of time as well.
8. Keep Nuts and Seeds in the Refrigerator
I'm willing to bet that you probably store your nuts and seeds in your pantry. Problem with that is, the combination of light and heat can result in both getting moldy and stale. You can avoid this by putting both into some airtight containers and placing them into your fridge. Your nuts and seeds will taste so much fresher (and last longer) if you do.
9. Soak Strawberries in Vinegar
First off, let me just say that, even if you happen to see strawberries in your store year-round, they are really only in season during the summer; more specifically, the entire month of June. That's important to keep in mind because when fruit is sold during its off season, you might be surprised by how many additives, preservatives and artificial coloring are added to them (yuck). That said, if you can't wait until summertime rolls around, just so that you can dig into a bowl of fresh strawberries, but you hate that they seem to go bad within a couple of days, do this. Put 2 ½ cups of water into a bowl, along with a ½ cup of white vinegar. If you soak your berries in this mixture, you'll get about an extra week of time before you'll need to eat them. (This hack typically goes for all berries, by the way.)
10. Dismantle Your Lettuce
Want your lettuce to last longer than 2-3 days? Separate its leaves, place a paper towel between each one, put them into a plastic bag and then store the leaves in the fridge. It'll earn you 5-8 extra days if you do because the paper towels will absorb the moisture that could cause the lettuce to mold.
11. Sprinkle a Little Lemon Juice on a Few Things
If you want to extend the life of your avocados or you want to keep chopped fruits like apples and bananas from going brown for at least 3-4 hours, sprinkle some fresh lemon juice on them. Long story short, the acid from the lemon keeps the oxidation (browning) of these types of food from happening. Pretty great, right?
12. Keep Fruits and Veggies at 40 Degrees
It's basically a science lesson, why a lot of produce needs to be kept at 40 degrees (there's a full breakdown on the logic behind it here). Bottom line is, in order for your fruits and veggies to stay fresh and delicious, it's important that your fridge is no higher than 40 degrees and no lower than 32 degrees. If you do that—along with the rest of this—you won't have to make a salad as big as your house in under 24 hours, just to make your produce run make sense. Awesome.
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