5 Tips to Prevent Food Waste at Home
Learn how to properly store foods so that you get to enjoy them before they go bad
Are you tired of throwing out perfectly good fruits and vegetables that you bought at the store but didn’t get to eat in time and now they have gone bad?
The average Canadian wastes 79kg of household food each year, equating to roughly $1300.00 annually. That is a lot of food and a lot of money, especially with food costs rising. We often waste food when items aren’t stored properly whether it is in the fridge or in our pantry. A few adjustments to how we keep our foods once we bring them home from the grocery store can save us a lot of food waste and money with a little effort at the beginning.
Here are FIVE tips to keep your fruit and vegetables at their prime:
1. Store them at the right temperature
Some fruits and vegetables do well in the fridge, and some do well at room temperature. Below is a table that will help you know where to store your fruit and vegetables.
Store at Room Temp.
Store in The Fridge
Store at room temp and move to the fridge when ripe
Corn (whole ears in the husk)
Dark leafy greens
2. Store them in the right packaging
Regardless of the bag or container, your produce comes in when you purchase it from the grocery store, not all of them should remain in that packaging. This is due to airflow around the produce. Most fruit and vegetables kept at room temperature require air circulation, they will last longer if you take them out of the plastic bags and let them breathe. While refrigerated produce stays fresher when sealed in air-tight containers. This keeps moisture in with the produce and prevents them from dehydrating.
3. Understand the role of ethylene gas producing fruit
Some fruits such as apples, bananas, avocados, tomatoes and mangos for example, naturally produce ethylene gas. This gas quickens the ripening of certain produce that are ethylene-sensitive and will eventually lead to its decay. It is important to keep ethylene-sensitive fruits and vegetables separate from ethylene gas producing ones.
See the chart below for food storage tips on where and how to store certain fruit and vegetables:
4. How to prepare fruit and vegetables
Keep your greens unwashed until you are ready to consume. Excess moisture causes leafy greens to rot faster in the fridge. You can put paper towel layers in the package to help soak up any excess moisture. Keep in an air-tight container. If you need to keep greens longer try purchasing heartier greens such as kale, iceberg or endive.
Place a damp paper towel around the stems of your herbs and store them upright in a glass or mason jar or cover the base of the stems of the herbs with cool water and store upright in a glass or mason jar. This will keep them hydrated and slow down wilting. Soft herbs like parsley, cilantro, dill, mint and basil can be stored at room temperature where hard herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage and chives do better in the fridge. Place a plastic bag over the jar to keep the moisture in.
Berries will last longer when washed in a diluted vinegar bath, 1 part vinegar 3 parts water. This lowers the pH level on the surface of the berries helps keep the bacteria and mould to a minimum. Once they have been washed they need to dry completely before being put away. Store in a container on a piece of paper towel with the lid slightly open to allow for extra moisture to escape.
Cucumber + bell peppers
Both of these vegetables can be prepared days in advance without going slimy. Wash the outside to remove any dirt, dry with a paper towel or tea towel and slice. Place on a paper towel and pat dry to remove as much moisture as possible (from the cut sides of the pepper as well). Place a paper towel in the bottom of the container to allow for further moisture absorbing. Don’t fully close the lid to allow moisture to escape, if you find they start to dry out close the lid and they will moisten back up.
Potatoes + onion + garlic
You do not need to refrigerate these items. Keep in a cool, dark place in a container that allows for air circulation. Never keep in a plastic bag or air-tight container. Moisture causes them to rot faster. Never store your potatoes in the same container as your onion and garlic. Sprouted potato or garlic is still safe to eat just cut off the sprouts and use as normal. However, if a potato has turned green it is an indicator that a certain level of toxins called glycoalkaloids is present which is harmful to humans and should be thrown out.
5. What you can do with scraps to prevent food waste at home
Once you have properly stored your produce there are often items that don’t get used despite the proper storage methods, such as peels, rinds, shells etc. Here is what you can do with those to further prevent food waste in your home.
- You can make stock with all the off cuts, peels and scraps of most of the vegetables you cut for other meals. Keep a zip lock bag in your freezer where you can add carrot peels, celery tops, onion skins, potato skins, roots of vegetables, wilted greens and floppy vegetables you didn’t get to eat in time. Once the bag is full you can toss into a pot with water some bay leaves and let simmer for a few hours. Strain out the vegetables scraps and your broth is ready to be used as a soup or sauce base.
- Most fruit and vegetables can be frozen. If you find you are unable to get through all of the produce you have before it goes off or you are noticing it is on its last leg, prepare them in freezer bags for later use in items like smoothies, crisps, soups or sauces.
- Wilted greens that are no longer crispy for salads such as kale, spinach or arugula can be used in dishes that would wilt them anyways like omelets, scrambled eggs stir-frys or pasta dishes.
- Crushed egg shells are great additions to any garden, they add natural calcium to the soil that is similar to what can be found in fertilizers. Same goes fro coffee grounds. Acid plants love coffee grounds as compost. Sprinkling some over the soil of your tomatoes, berries, roses, carrots or hydrangeas will help them flourish.
- Once you have zested and juiced your citrus often we discard the peels, however, they make for great natural cleaning products. They are naturally antibacterial and when added to white vinegar act as a cleaner that works great in bathrooms and kitchens. Not to mention they add a great citrusy smell to the room. If you add some salt to your lemon rinds and rub it over your wooden cutting board you will clean and disinfect it.
Even with our green compost bins to reduce the amount of food scraps that goes into the landfill each year, these 5 tips can help you reduce your homes food waste even further and help extend the life of your produce.
Need more support on meal planning, tips on how to prevent food waste and ways to save money on groceries?
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Registered Dietitian & Online Nutritionist - Weight Concerns, Women’s Health, Diabetes & Meal Planning
The first thing you will notice about Shauna is her contagious optimism, energetic personality and zest. Shauna loves teaching and has a heart full of compassion and empathy for helping clients work through health concerns. Shauna specializes in healthy cooking, diabetes, cardiovascular health, weight concerns and womens health. Read more