Did you know that almost half of all the municipal waste in the United States comes from food waste?
Crazy, right? Especially when you consider that there are around 50 million people also suffering from food insecurity at the same time.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency, around 40 million tons of food is discarded from American households each year — that’s equivalent to the weight of the Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building in Dubai, UAE) 80 times over!
That’s a lot of food that’s going to waste (and money, too!). Most of the time, the majority of food waste comes from four sources:
- Crops being left in fields because it’s either not worth harvesting them, or there is not enough demand.
- Issues in the manufacturing, production and transportation stages of food products, like contamination or damage.
- Unwanted food thrown out in restaurants, grocery stores or households.
- Food not looking fresh or pretty enough to sell to retailer’s standards.
Now, unless you’re a farmer, a store owner, a green-grocer or the head of the FDA, there’s not too much you can do about food waste in the agricultural and commercial sectors. Thankfully, though, we can absolutely control how much food waste comes out of our own homes — especially when it comes to fresh produce.
Here’s how you can keep your produce fresher for longer which, as a result, can help you use it up before it needs to be thrown out!
Tips for storing fruits and vegetables properly
Prepare your herbs for storage by removing any string, rubber bands or twist ties holding them together. If they’re fresh off the farm, give them a quick wash, too!
Line a plastic Tupperware with a clean damp cloth or a piece of damp paper towel. Arrange the dry herbs in a single layer on the damp towel, then cover with another damp towel and repeat the layering process until all your herbs are covered. Seal the container with the lid and keep in the refrigerator.
Potatoes will last a good long while on their own, but once they start sprouting eyes and stalks, the clock starts ticking real fast.
Keep these tubers fresh and firm for longer by storing them in a cool, dry place far away from any ethylene-emitting foods (like apples, bananas, onions etc.).
Roots and tubers
For produce like carrots, turnips, beets, radishes and other green-topped tubers, it’s best to store these in sealed containers
Keep whole heads of cabbage loose in the fridge, then seal it in a container after it’s cut to prevent browning.
We already know banana bread is a great option for the bananas too far gone for your bowl of morning oatmeal, but there’s only so much banana bread one can make before monkeys start flocking to your neighborhood. Or, at least until you’re just tired of banana bread.
Bananas contain high levels of ethylene — a hydrocarbon and gas that many foods release to speed up the ripening process. Higher levels of this gas means that the fruit will ripen faster, but you can slow the process down by reducing the concentration of the gas around the fruit.
A great way to do this with bananas is to hang them up on a hook or stand to encourage air circulation. Also, keep them away from other foods high in ethylene so they don’t create an ethylene sauna in which your produce goes to die.
Squashes are thick-skinned (literally and figuratively) and will do just fine in the open air until you’re ready to use them. Just make sure to keep them somewhere cool, dry and far away from potatoes, onions and other high-ethylene foods!
Ah, greens. The first piece of produce to fall by the wayside along a path of soggy foods.
Avoid those brown, squishy leaves by storing your greens in the crisper drawers of your fridge lined with paper towels or reusable terry cloths. These towels will absorb any moisture around the greens and can keep the produce fresher for far longer!
Apples, like bananas, contain high levels of ethylene, and therefore need to be stored in the fridge, separate from other produce and with plenty of air circulation.
Onions and garlic
Again, these have high levels of ethylene, so keep these stored loosely in the open air to maintain maximum freshness.
These fruits will ripen out in the open air, but will stop ripening once transferred into the fridge. If your mangoes are ripening too fast, pop them in the fridge to maintain their current ripeness for longer!
The general rule of thumb when it comes to storing citrus is to keep the fruits loose in the fridge, though lemons and limes can last in the open air for a little longer than oranges and grapefruits can before heading into the fridge.
The reason berries usually end up in the trash is mold, which can sprout up seemingly overnight.
You can prevent mold growth on your fresh berries by washing them in warm water for a few seconds and drying them off completely before storing them in the fridge. If you don’t need the berries to be fresh, you can also chuck them in the freezer where they will last for months!
Mushrooms tend to go slimy after a while, but you can avoid this by storing your mushies in a paper bag in the fridge, rather than a plastic one. Mushrooms react quickly to moisture, so they need to be stored in a material that will keep them dry and aerated. In a pinch, you can just poke holes in the plastic packaging you buy them in.
It’s a lot to remember, definitely, but you can print out this handy food storage chart that can go straight on your fridge and guide your food-storing future!
Featured photo courtesy Pixabay/rperucho