Produce Storage Guide: Tips from a Dietitian

The right storage methods can help extend the shelf life of your fruits and vegetables and improve their quality. Over the years I have researched and tested tons of ways to store produce to figure out what works best. I have picked up on tips during my career as a dietitian and through my years in the restaurant industry to determine the best approach. This Produce Storage Guide will help maximize the shelf life of your groceries and reduce food waste which is good for the environment and your wallet. 
I have included short explanations for why each item should be stored in the suggested method but if you have any questions, leave them in the comments! 
Produce Storage Tips

Fridge Storage

Within your fridge the temperature varies. For example, the back of the fridge is going to be cooler than the shelves on the door. This means you need to be mindful of where in the firdge you are storing foods as well as how you are storing them. 
  • Fruit

    • Strawberries /Blackberries/Raspberries: These fruits are delicate and sensitive to moisture so do not wash before storing them. They can be stored in a ventilated container lined with a paper towel to absorb moisture. The container you purchase them in will usually work fine! 
    • Blueberries, grapes, apples, and plums: These fruits contain a bloom, the waxy/powder looking coating seen on the fruits exterior. This coating helps preserve the fruit and reduce evaporation, so washing it off may cause the produce to spoil more quickly. 
    • Citrus fruits: While citrus fruits can be stored at room temperature in a fruit bowl if you use them regularly, their shelf life will be greatly extended by storing them in the fridge
      • Note the citrus will be juicier at room temp so if you choose to store it in the fridge try and bring it to room temp before using. 
  • Vegetables

    • In general most vegetables can be stored loose in the crisper drawer. 
    • Leafy greens: Store these in a large tupperware container with lined with a linen towel or paper towels. The towels will absorb excess moisture to keep the lettuce from getting soggy and using a tupperware container will keep them from getting squished by the other fridge contents. 
    • Mushrooms: store mushrooms in the fridge in an open paper bag 
    • Asparagus : cut an inch off the bottom and store in a glass filled with water 
    • Carrots/ celery: Remove the green tops from the carrots. Carrots can be stored in the crisper drawer un-trimmed. If carrots are peeled and sliced store in a tupperware submerged in water. Celery should be chopped and stored submerged in water. 
  • Herbs
    • Herbs should be kept moist. When you arrive home from the grocery store trim the stems and either stand them in a small glass with a little bit of water or wrap them in a damp towel. Herbs with woody stems like thyme and rosemary do not need to be stored in water. 
    • Basil is an exception and should be stored at room temp

Room Temperature Storage

When it comes to storing produce at room temperature it is important to consider the importance of ethylene. What is ethylene you ask? Well, it is a gas produced by some fruits and vegetables that causes certain types of produce to ripen or spoil more quickly. So, storing produce that produces ethylene near foods that are sensitive to it can cause fruits and vegetables to go bad more quickly. I have included a link here to help you determine which foods should and should not be stored near each other.
Just on thing to note, choose a fruit basket with holes in it (as pictured) to help provide ventilation so that moisture and gas has room to escape and does not cause food to spoil more quickly. 
Fruit Basket
  • Bananas: Bananas should always be stored at room temp. If you see they are going bad, peel and chop them and store them in the freezer in an airtight container for later use in banana bread or smoothies. 
  • Onions/shallots/garlic: These veggies can be stored in a basket that allows for circulation (preferably one with holes). Do not remove the papery outsides before storing. 
  • Potatoes: Potatoes should be stored at room temperature in a cool dark place, preferably away from onions and garlic which will encourage sprouting. 
  • Tomatoes: Tomatoes must be stored out on the counter, if they are refrigerated they texture changes and they become mealy. 
  • Avocados: Avocados can be stored in the fruit basket until ripe. If your avocado reaches its desired ripeness before you are ready to use it, move it to the fridge to extend its shelf life. 
    • Tip: If you need an avocado to ripen more quickly place it in a paper bag with an apple and roll up the top, this will help trap the ethylene gases and increase the ripening speed. 
  • Peaches, nectarines, plums, mangos, and kiwi: These fruits all should be kept in a fruit basket on the counter. Like tomatoes, refrigeration will change the texture of these fruits. If these fruits ripen before you are ready to use them, peel and chop them and then store them in the freezer for future smoothies and baked goods. Like avocados they can also be stored in the refrigerator once ripe, but they will lose some juiciness and change texture. 
  • Winter squash: winter squash will last months on the counter and it even makes for cute decor. 
  • Bread: If you go through bread regularly it is fine to store it on the counter or in the pantry in a bread box or paper bag. Do not store bread in a plastic bag as moisture will build up and cause the bread to spoil. If you do not go through bread regularly I recommend storing it in the freezer rather than the fridge. Refrigerating bread causes it to go stale more quickly as the moisture will be pulled out of it. 
If you have any other produce saving tips leave them in the comments below and please share your fridge re-organization photos with me by using the #lettucethrive on instagram.

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