Storage Solutions: How to Keep Your Produce Fresh for Longer

Fruits and vegetables are vital for a healthy lifestyle, but keeping them fresh can be a challenge. Follow these 10 tips to avoid food waste!

Published on
April 3, 2024
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Storage Solutions: How to Keep Your Produce Fresh for Longer


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Fruits and vegetables are essential for a healthy diet, providing nutrients and energy to get us through the day and boost our immune health. However, it can be a struggle to keep these delicious foods fresh for long enough to eat them, leading to food waste and needless spending. 

In the United States, each household wastes an average of $1,500 worth of food yearly, 39% of which goes towards fruits and vegetables (Gold, 2023). To help you avoid unnecessary food waste, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 tips and tricks to lengthen the life of your favorite fruits and vegetables! 

  1. Regulate Moisture Levels

While moisture can help keep fruits and veggies crisp and fresh, excess moisture can cause your produce to become mushy or even moldy. Therefore, it’s generally best practice to dry off your produce before storing it (Lange, 2020). 

Lettuce and other leafy greens tend to get brown and soggy when left in the fridge for too long. Store them with a paper towel in a plastic bag or sealed container to combat this. The paper towel will absorb any excess moisture, keeping your greens fresh for longer (Kloss, 2023). 

Mushrooms also don’t do well with excess water. If they’re too moist, mushrooms will develop brown spots and rot after only a few days. Thus, don’t store your mushrooms in a container made to trap moisture; instead, put them in a brown paper bag lined with paper towels and store them in the fridge for maximum freshness (Jenkins, n.d.; Kloss, 2023). 

There are some exceptions to this rule, however, as certain produce items keep longer when stored with or in water. Herbs like basil and cilantro can survive much longer when placed in water. To keep your herbs fresh, fill a cup or jar with an inch or so of water and immerse the herb’s stalks. Then, simply keep them in the refrigerator or on the counter until they’re ready to use (Castro-Sloboda, 2022; Jenkins, n.d.). 

Asparagus is another produce item that does better when stored in water. To keep fresh, trim the ends of your asparagus slightly and then put them in a mug, cup, jar, or vase with a few inches of water. They can be stored on the countertop but last longer in the fridge. Don’t forget to change the water if you notice it getting foggy! (Gold, 2023). 

Additionally, to prevent dry carrots, cut the leafy tops off and place them in a container filled with water. Cover the container with plastic wrap and store it in the fridge until they’re ready to use them (Kloss, 2023). 

  1. Space Out Your Produce

We all need room to breathe sometimes and your fruits and veggies are no exception. A fridge’s crisper drawers can get pretty packed, especially if you only go to the store every week or two. Cramming your produce close together impedes proper air circulation, allowing moisture to build up and creating the perfect mold environment. 

To avoid moldy, spoiled produce, try buying no more than what you know you’ll need for the next week or so. That way, your crisper drawers will be less stuffed, giving your produce room to breathe (Lange, 2020). 

  1. Temperature Control

One thing that is sure to rot your produce quicker is temperature irregularities. This is something to look for when storing your fruits and veggies in the fridge. If possible, keep your produce in the crisper drawer, as it’s usually in the middle or bottom of the fridge where the temperature is fairly stable. 

The top of the fridge may also be subject to random temperature changes, which could cause top-shelf items to freeze and thaw repeatedly. While this might not be an issue for items like juice or milk, it is slightly problematic for delicate fruits and veggies such as lettuce, which will decay faster under these circumstances (Lange, 2020). 

Exposure to heat can also cause produce to ripen at a faster rate. Thus, when storing your fruits and vegetables on the countertop, keep them away from any heating element such as the oven, stove, toaster, or air fryer (Jenkins, n.d.). 

  1. Wash Produce Before Storing and Keep Your Fridge Clean

As fruits and vegetables are quite susceptible to mold, it’s important to take precautions to prevent mold buildup. The first step is to wash your fruits and veggies thoroughly before storage. Instead of washing with just water, use a vinegar-water solution (one part white vinegar, three parts water) to clean your produce. Vinegar helps prevent rotting and mold growth while removing pesticides and killing bacteria. After washing with the solution, rinse your produce well and dry it before storage (Jenkins, n.d.). 

Another important element to prevent mold buildup is to keep your fridge clean. Most of us don’t clean our fridges as often as we should, which can allow mold and bacteria to grow. When produce comes into contact with this bacteria, it can become contaminated, causing it to rot faster. Every once in a while, wipe the inside of your fridge with warm, soapy water. Remember to rinse the soap and allow your fridge to dry completely before storing food items again. 

  1. Store Produce Whole

When fruit and veggies are cut, they often spoil faster than whole produce. Many fruits, like apples or peaches, can be eaten at once and therefore don’t need to be kept in slices in the fridge. 

However, for larger produce items like melons, produce for meal-prepping, and produce you may not use all in one sitting, like avocados or lemons, it isn’t always possible to store uncut. In these cases, store your fruits and veggies in an air-tight container to prevent accelerated rot and spoilage (Jenkins, n.d.). 

To stop avocados from browning as soon as they’re cut, squirt some lemon juice over their flesh. This can prolong the life of your avocado for at least a day (Kloss, 2023).

  1. Know Which Produce to Keep Separate 

Unfortunately, not all fruits and veggies get along. Some produce items — pears, apples, and bananas, among others — emit ethylene gas, which speeds up the rate at which other fruits and vegetables rot. This can be helpful when you want to ripen something quickly, but for the most part, it means your produce may spoil before you can use it (Lange, 2020). 

Learning which fruits and veggies should be stored apart can help prevent early spoilage. For example, onions and potatoes should be stored separately, as onions can cause potatoes to rot quickly. Potatoes are best stored in a cool, dark place or a paper bag — essentially, anywhere moisture can’t build up and cause mushy potatoes (Conklin, 2023; Jenkins, n.d.). 

However, while potatoes and onions might not be friends, apples pair well with spuds. The ethylene gas given off by apples prevents potatoes from sprouting, potentially keeping them fresh for over eight weeks (Jenkins, n.d.; Kloss, 2023). 

  1. Store Ripe Fruit in the Refrigerator 

When kept out on the countertop, produce often ripens faster, which can be good if you have some super green bananas or rock-solid avocados. But once these fruits are ripe, place them in the fridge to slow the ripening cycle and buy a few extra days of freshness before they spoil (Lange, 2020). 

To stop some of your bananas from ripening, leave some on the counter and store the rest in the fridge. This will delay the ripening process, giving you time to finish the first bunch of bananas before the others go bad (Conklin, 2023). 

  1. Prioritize Soft Produce

Some fruits and vegetables have shorter shelf lives than others. When planning your meals for the week, make sure you’re using up softer produce, such as spinach, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers, before reaching for more resilient produce items like hardy greens, cabbage, sweet potatoes, carrots, and fennel. This helps ensure that none of your fruits and veggies will spoil before you can eat them (Lange, 2020). 

  1. Freeze Produce

Putting certain produce items in the fridge can slow the ripening process for a few days, but if you want to preserve your fruits and veggies for longer, put them in the freezer! First, let your produce reach the desired level of ripeness; then, peel or cut it into pieces and store it in a resealable bag or freezer-safe container (Lange, 2020). 

Remember, different fruits and veggies will remain fresh for varying periods, even in the freezer, and some produce items freeze better than others. For instance, while asparagus can last nearly a year in the freezer, mushrooms will only last about two months (Gold, 2023). 

  1.  Get to Know Your Produce

Fruits and vegetables can be high maintenance, requiring different conditions to preserve their freshness, which can be inconvenient to keep track of. However, once you regularly take note of your produce, you’ll begin to learn about each fruit and vegetable’s quirks. It may take some time, but through trial and error, you’ll eventually develop your best practices for keeping produce fresh based on your unique kitchen setup and lifestyle.

Fruits and vegetables are a delicious and vital element to maintaining mental and physical health. However, buying fresh fruits and veggies can drain your wallet if they spoil before you can eat them. Luckily, these tips will help you prolong the freshness of your produce and live a happier, healthier life without unnecessary waste or expenses! 

For more storage and household tips, check out our blog!


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