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How To Store 40+ Fruits & Veggies So They Last Longer — Without Using Plastic

By Lily Cameron Image by Tatjana Zlatkovic / Stocksy

For many people, grocery shopping happens once, maybe twice, a week and the time between buying and consuming purchases can stretch for days and sometimes weeks. Before I went zero waste, I thought plastic was the only way to keep foods fresh at home. But as I started eliminating plastic from grocery trips, I discovered more sustainable ways to maintain freshness and prevent food waste. Here are some simple guidelines for storing produce without plastic:

  • Apples: Refrigerate loose in a bowl or the crisper.

  • Arugula: Refrigerate in a damp cloth bag or towel and place in the crisper.

  • Asparagus: Trim woody ends and refrigerate stalks in a jar of water.

  • Avocado: Store on the counter until ripe, then refrigerate.

  • Bananas: Store on the counter, away from ethylene-sensitive produce like apples and potatoes.

  • Basil: Trim the stem ends and store in a jar of water on the counter. The stems will sprout roots after a few days, and you can even transplant them into your garden.

  • Beets: Separate the greens from the roots. Refrigerate the roots loose in the crisper and the greens in a damp cloth bag or towel (they're great in a smoothie or stir-fry).

  • Bell peppers: Refrigerate loose in the crisper.

  • Berries: Refrigerate in a glass container; don't wash them until you're ready to use them.

  • Bok choy: Refrigerate in a damp cloth bag or towel in the crisper.

  • Broccoli: Refrigerate loose in the crisper.

  • Brussels sprouts: Refrigerate in a cloth bag or loose in the crisper.

  • Cabbage: Refrigerate loose in the crisper.

  • Carrots: Separate the greens from the roots. Refrigerate carrots in an airtight container or in a jar of water with the roots pointed down. Greens can be composted or repurposed into pesto.

  • Cauliflower: Refrigerate in the crisper.

  • Celery: Refrigerate loose in the crisper.

  • Chard: Refrigerate in a damp cloth bag or towel in the crisper.

  • Citrus: Refrigerate loose in the crisper or a bowl.

  • Corn: Refrigerate, in its husk, loose in the crisper.

  • Cucumber: Refrigerate loose in the crisper.

  • Eggplant: Refrigerate loose in the crisper.

  • Figs: Refrigerate in a single layer on a plate.

  • Garlic: store on the counter.

  • Grapes: Refrigerate in a cloth bag in the crisper or loose in a bowl.

  • Green beans: Refrigerate in a damp cloth bag or towel in the crisper.

  • Herbs (except basil): Refrigerate in a damp cloth bag or towel in the crisper.

  • Kiwi: Store on the counter until ripe, then place in the crisper.

  • Leeks: Wrap in a damp cloth bag or towel, and place in the crisper. Stalks can be trimmed and saved for stock.

  • Lettuce: Refrigerate whole heads in a damp cloth bag or towel. Chopped or loose-leaf lettuces can be refrigerated in a glass container.

  • Melon: Store on the counter until ripe, then refrigerate.

  • Mushrooms: Refrigerate in a glass container.

  • Onions: Store on the counter.

  • Pears: Store on the counter until ripe, then refrigerate.

  • Persimmons: Store on the counter until ripe, then refrigerate.

  • Pineapple: Store on the counter until ripe—when you can easily pull out a leaf. Then, eat immediately or cut into slices and refrigerate in a container.

  • Pomegranate: Store on the counter or remove the seeds (arils) and refrigerate them in a jar.

  • Potatoes: Store in a dark drawer or cupboard.

  • Radishes: Separate the greens from the roots. Rinse the radishes and refrigerate in a jar of water. Change the water every few days. The greens can be eaten raw with salad or turned into pesto.

  • Scallions: Place in a jar of water and keep on the counter.

  • Spinach: Wrap in a damp cloth bag or towel and place in the crisper.

  • Stone fruit: Store on the counter until ripe, then transfer to the crisper.


Jars

Glass jars are the workhorses of a zero-waste kitchen. They can be used to buy food in bulk, store pantry essentials, and transport meals on the go. Glass jars can also be used to freeze leftover sauces and soups, but be sure to leave an inch or two of empty space at the top to allow for expansion so the jars don't crack. It's also good to have a set of glass storage containers. Most come with plastic or rubber lids, but there are now options made from bamboo, stainless steel, and even glass.

Produce bags

Believe it or not, produce can be kept fresh without plastic bags. If you've ever discovered a bag of slimy greens in the fridge, you know it's a depressing sight. It turns out delicate greens such as lettuce, arugula, and fresh herbs prefer being stored in breathable cotton and thrive in a humid environment.

I like to keep a water-filled spray bottle in the kitchen to give greens and herbs a quick spritz before they go into the bag.

A damp cotton storage bag or tea towel hydrates greens while wicking away moisture and keeps them crisp for weeks—preventing food waste and saving money. I like to keep a water-filled spray bottle in the kitchen to give greens and herbs a quick spritz before they go into the bag and every few days afterward if they start to dry out.

Sandwich bags and food wrap

If you want to keep things light, especially for school lunches and travel, use reusable silicone bags to pack snacks and sandwiches and ditch the plastic waste. You can even write your kid's name or a special note on the bags with a chalk pen. Instead of plastic cling wrap, try beeswax cloths to preserve half an avocado or wedge of cheese, or use it to cover a bowl of leftovers. The warmth from your fingertips easily shapes and seals the cloth, and unlike plastic wrap, it can be washed and reused again and again. Many last up to a year and can be composted at the end of their useful life (and they smell like honey, yum). There are also vegan versions made from candelilla wax. Reprinted from Simply Sustainable. Copyright © 2020 by Lily Cameron. Photographs copyright © 2020 by Aubrie Pick. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House.

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