How to Stop Tossing Out Rotten Produce and Reduce Food Waste
We’ve all done it. We’ve had good intentions of using the beautiful fruits and veggies we’ve purchased at the store, only to find ourselves tossing these out when we just didn’t get to preparing them before they went rotten.
We can all do better to make sure we are not wasting food especially since approximately an astounding 40% of food produced in Canada is wasted. One way to do this is to buy and use our veggies and fruit when they are fresh and crisp (and so much more appealing).
Here are three strategies that can help make your fruits and vegetables last longer to reduce food waste:
Listen to part 1 of my previous radio interview here:
Listen to part 2 of my previous radio interview here:
3 Ways to Make Your Produce Last Longer
1. Make a supper meal plan starting with the veggies
Often when I ask people what they are having for supper later today they don’t have an answer and if they do they often don’t mention the veggie. Usually the response is that they are having “steak, chicken or pasta.”
One of the most important questions to ask yourself before your go to bed is what is for supper tomorrow? As you begin thinking of this idea be sure to check your fridge inventory to determine what produce needs used first.
Let the vegetables drive the dinner menu. Then pair a protein and a grain or starch to balance the meal.
For example if your red peppers need used then you might decide to do black bean quesadillas, grilled peppers and chicken on a bun with a side salad, or alternatively make a veggie frittata.
2. Buy enough for one-week maximum
Although there are some exceptions to this rule of thumb for produce that has a long shelf life such as root veggies, squash, potatoes, onions and citrus fruits, most produce is best when purchased and eaten within a few days.
Just because a large bag of pears or colossal bag of potatoes is a good deal doesn’t mean it is necessarily best. In fact you may experience what researchers call sensory specific satiety, which can be summarized as the more variety for our senses, the more we eat. You may find your family consumes more veggies and fruit when there is more variety than the same volume of produce with little selection.
3. Store produce properly
- Some fruits ripen further once harvested because they produce a natural gas called ethylene. To ripen items such as apples, tomatoes and banana place in a brown bag at room temperature away from light.
- Plastic bags do not work to ripen fruit and instead trap moisture and air which can lead to quicker spoilage.
- To slow ripening place in the refrigerator and or keep away from other veggies and fruit that are already ripe.
- Fresh fruits and veggies (except some lettuce and spinach) have a natural protective coating and therefore produce should not be washed until you are planning on eating it. Washing in advance even if you will be removing the peel or skin leads to faster spoilage.
- Whole heads of lettuce such as Romaine, leaf lettuce and spinach will keep fresher (about a week) if you wash them first, dry in a salad spinner or with paper towel and the store whole un-torn leaves in a sealed container or plastic bag.
- Collards, kale and chard as well as salad mixes purchased in an airtight container should be refrigerated as is and washed when ready for use.
To be sure your veggies and fruit are stored for maximum freshness try some of these tips:
- Tomatoes – store on the counter (not in the fridge since cold temperatures reduce flavor and stops ripening).
- Asparagus – store in the fridge standing up in a mug or measuring cup with some water.
- Corn – keep in the husks for 2-3 days since once husked it needs to be consumed quicker. The sooner you eat corn once picked the better since natural sugars turn to starch.
- Garlic – store at room temperature in a cool, dry and dark place (refrigeration causes sprouting).
- Apples – store refrigerated as they soften 10 times faster when at room temperature. Apples can last 2 or more weeks and sometimes for months in perforated plastic bags in crispers.
- Avocados – to maximize flavor store avocados on the counter until ripe and then they can be stored in the refrigerator 2-5 days.
- Potatoes – only new potatoes should be stored in the fridge. For mature potatoes store in a paper bag in a dark, dry and cool place (refrigeration causes dark spots and an unpleasant sweet flavor when cooked). For all potatoes keep away from heat since this can cause sprouting and keep away from light, which can cause green spots to occur that must be cut away before consuming.
- Onions – store in a dark, dry and cool place or refrigerate and keep away from other fruits and veggies (especially carrots, apples, grapes,) since they can impart their flavor easily especially once cut.
- Herbs – place stems in water and cover with a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a week. Fresh basil is cold sensitive so keep at the front of the fridge.
Need more support from our Calgary Nutritionist / Online Dietitian team?
As Registered Dietitians that specialize in meal planning, weight concerns, emotional eating, eating disorders, digestive health, heart health, diabetes, pediatric nutrition and sports nutrition we can see you in our local Calgary Nutritionist office or as an Online Dietitian by phone or video conferencing for virtual nutrition counseling. Find out more about our Dietitian Nutrition Counseling Programs here.
Join the waiting list for our next Online Nutrition Course The Pursuit of Healthiness.
As university trained Registered Dietitians, you can count on us for credible advice and practical meal planning so you don’t have to stress about food anymore. You can achieve a healthy and joyous relationship with food and your body. Let’s talk about what this can look like for you. CONTACT US.