I hear this one a lot. You buy the veggies, plan to cook, then life happens, cooking doesn’t, and a week later those same veggies are all wilty and in the trash.
It feels like you might as well be throwing your money in the garbage. You do that a few times and it’s enough to swear yourself to a life of delivery and frozen dinners.
Today I want to help you out with a few tips that can help make sure those veggies don’t go to waste, or at least not as fast or easily… and help you cook and eat them before it comes to that, too.
Over the years, as I’ve gotten the hang of the whole “plan, shop, prep, cook, repeat” thing I’ve figured out a few strategies and tricks to get the most out of our groceries, make produce last, how to store vegetables better and not waste so much food… and money.
Here are my biggest tips so you can do the same:
Plan then shop.
It sounds obvious, I know, but a little a bit of planning and strategizing for the week before you hit the store goes a long way. If you know you’re going to be home 4 out of the 5 nights of the week, plan for those nights. That doesn’t mean you have to cook every single night (read: cook once eat two, three times), of course. Not totally sure? Plan a meal or two that uses frozen veggies that won’t go bad if you have to stand them up. And rely on pantry staples like whole grain pasta or sweet potatoes that will last longer than that week, too. And if planning’s just too much… check out Dinner in 10.
Shop then chop.
When veggies are prepped and ready to go, you’re more likely to use them up than if you have to go to the trouble. This extra step between shopping and putting your groceries away can dramatically up your produce usage and keep you from ordering takeout because you don’t feel like cooking. My Dinner in 10 program helps you turn this into a habit, too. No more wasted veggies!
Ditch the plastic.
Even if you don’t chop and prep everything before storing your produce, at the very least remove any plastic wrapping or bags and store produce wrapped in paper towels or breathable containers – like GreenSavers. Think the plastic wrapped head of cauliflower, the kale you put in one of those plastic produce bags at the store, and so on. Get rid of the plastic and wrap your greens in paper towels instead, they’ll absorb moisture and help keep them crisp and fresher longer.
Put herbs and asparagus in water.
Ever notice some stores store herbs and asparagus upright in water? To keep these items fresher longer, store them the same way at home. Put your parsley and cilantro in a small mason jar with water in the fridge. Stand your asparagus up in a small bowl with a little water. Your produce is a living thing so give it what it needs to keep it alive and it will last so much longer, taste fresher and maintain it’s nutritional quality better too.
Wash with ACV.
Most rapid food spoilage happens because of bacteria. To get rid of any harmful bacteria, wash your produce with an apple cider vinegar wash. All you need is about 1 part ACV to 10 parts water. It doesn’t have to be exact – I usually just add a splash to a bowl of water in the sink and then add whatever it is I’m washing. This is especially great for berries that are prone to rapid spoilage. Let them soak a few minutes – about 5 or so, then drain and rinse. Don’t worry they won’t taste vinegary and will last a whole lot longer.
Store in the right spot.
Your fridge may be set to one temperature, but not every section of your fridge will read the same degree. So you have to be strategic about where you store items in your fridge to maximize freshness. The top and back of the fridge is usually the coldest spot so it’s a good place to keep meats or anything else that’s particularly sensitive to spoilage. The door is the least cold so it’s storage space should be reserved for less sensitive items like condiments. The drawers help keep out moisture so they’re ideal for produce – fruit and veggies.
Clean out the fridge meals.
Have a few veggies that are looking a little peaked? By this I mean veggies that look like if you don’t use them today, tomorrow they’re going to be in the trash. Use them up in a “clean out of the fridge” meal. Dishes like stir fries, curries, soups and stews are designed for getting rid of, using up and preventing wastage. And these types of recipes can be easily adapted to use what you have on hand. Once cooked, you can freeze part or all of it and save for later. You’ll learn this strategy in Dinner in 10 too.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with using frozen vegetables or anything frozen for that matter (as long as it’s healthy to begin with). Frozen can sometimes even be a healthier choice as the produce is frozen at the peak of freshness. The beauty of using frozen veggies and fruits is you don’t have to worry at all about spoilage and you can keep them on hand to use in a pinch. Frozen fruit is great to keep stocked for smoothies and with frozen veggies you can quickly throw them in a pan on the stove for a simple sauté or stir fry, or add them to a soup or dish.
I hope these tips are do-able and helpful for you. And most of all I hope you end up wasting less food and saving more money, because we all feel better when we can do that. #savetheveg
What else do you do to cut down on food waste/spoilage or to make your produce last longer? I’d love to hear. Share with us in the comments below…
P.S. My new Dinner in 10 program helps you become a zero-waste pro in the kitchen. If you’re tired of throwing away wilty lettuce… or just tired of doing the whole “What’s for dinner?” “I don’t know…” thing… this helps you get a system in place that makes healthy do-able, sustainable (and not to mention, delicious), without needing a kit or subscription service. Get all the deets here.
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Megan Adams Brown, CHC, helps families find healthy routines that work, with no more “what’s for dinner?” stress, and a lot better food. Her family meal plans help moms take charge of their kitchen and their own health, leading to more vegetables and less junk all around. Megan also shares kid-approved, allergy-friendly recipes on her blog. To learn more click here.