Spring is finally here, fresh local produce is starting to roll in, and I’m so excited to cook and eat it all. But guess what I’m not excited about. Seeing herbs, greens and veggies wilt and die a slow, painful death in my refrigerator.
Just this week I had to part ways with a bunch of ramps I misplaced and forgot about. Ramps! Like I can just waste money like that.
So we asked Jeanette Pavini, Coupons.com savings expert, for some advice on avoiding food waste. She suggests labeling your pantry foods with the expiration date using a black permanent marker as soon as you bring it home from the grocery store. Also, instead of storing leftovers in the refrigerator, freeze them immediately.
One of the best ways to avoid wasting food, though, is to store your produce so it lasts. Here are Pavini’s tips.
To begin with, don’t expect your strawberries to last forever. But for longer life, arrange your berries on a paper towel, cover with plastic, and store in the refrigerator. For maximum nutrition, buy berries that are uniformly red and that don’t have green or white tips. Keep the stems on while you wash them, and don’t wash them until you’re ready to eat them.
Apples can last three weeks if they are stored in a refrigerator drawer, unwrapped.
Look for tightly closed tips when you pick out asparagus. Whether you like thick or thin stalks (either can be tender), make sure the bunch you pick is uniform in thickness so all the stalks cook uniformly. Best storage is to keep the stems in a jar of water, with the rest loosely wrapped in a plastic bag.
Pick out artichokes that feel heavy, are mostly blemish-free and that have tightly closed leaves. Store in plastic wrap in the refrigerator, and don’t wash until you’re ready to cook them.
Greens and lettuce
Wrap your greens in paper towels and then in a plastic bag in your refrigerator crisper drawer. Wash only what you plan to use right away. Greens like spinach lose their nutritional value the older they get.
Keep unripe mangoes at room temperature. When/if they’re ripe, store them in the refrigerator. Keep in mind that color isn’t the best indicator of ripeness. Instead, do the squeeze test. “The skin should give a little but not leave an impression,” Pavini says.
As with mangoes, you’ll want to ripen avocados at room temperature. You can speed up that process by keeping them in a paper bag. Once you open an avocado, you can still store it by sprinkling some lemon or lime juice on the flesh, putting the halves back together (if you still have both), wrapping them tightly in plastic and keeping it in your refrigerator.
Keep fresh peas in their pods in a plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper. While that will help your peas last longer, keep in mind that they lose their sweetness and start going starchy the older they get.
You don’t have to keep uncut onions in the refrigerator. Store them in a cool, dry place, not in plastic bags or containers. When you pick them out, feel to make sure there are no soft spots. Keep in mind that springtime onions have a higher water content and therefore a shorter shelf life than do onions from other seasons.
You can keep citrus at room temperature for a couple of days. Otherwise, keep in the refrigerator, and then remove and bring back to room temperature before eating or juicing.