Fruit and vegetables are healthy, inexpensive and versatile, which is why most of us include a significant number of them in our diets and on our weekly shopping lists. But many of us will have experienced that awful feeling of having to throw away unused vegetables which have gone bad. Sometimes, we just don’t have the time or the opportunity to use everything before it goes off, especially when the window of opportunity is only a few days after purchase.
Fortunately, with a bit of forward planning, combined with some clever tips, you can both plan your meals more effectively and make your fruit and vegetables last longer, leaving with you with more time to make use of them, reducing waste and meaning that no vegetable is destined for the rubbish bin.
Planning your meals for the whole week is one of the best ways to be more economical and eco friendly. This allows you to only buy what you need, calculate when you’ll need it and use it before it goes off. Most of us are used to doing one big food shop a week, but if you have the time, try to buy little and often. This means you can buy exactly what you need for the evening’s meal, meaning your produce is at it’s freshest and you have the amount that you need, which leads to minimal waste.
Store in plain sight
It’s easy to put things in your fridge and forget about them, especially if you use the crisper drawer or other compartments. Where you can, store short-life items in plain sight, so they aren’t forgotten about during the week. If you need to, use labels to organise your fridge so you know approximately how long you have left to use each item. It is also sensible to rotate your fridge’s stock- put newer items at the back and move older ones forward so you are reminded to use them first.
Blanch or wilt, then freeze for a longer life
A little pre-preparation can help you to buy weeks of extra life for your fruit and veg. Spinach is a tasty, healthy and versatile food, but it doesn’t have a long life when bought fresh. Save money and prevent waste by wilting down a large batch of spinach. Separate into freezer bags to create smaller portions and keep in the freezer. In a similar way, carrots, peas, peaches, tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli and plenty of other fruit and vegetables can be blanched and frozen, leaving you with the convenience of frozen produce with all the healthy goodness of fresh, organic fruit and vegetables.
Disregard “sell-by” dates
When deciding on whether or not to use a piece of fruit or a vegetable, the “sell-by” date can only tell you so much. While “best-before” dates give a rough estimate as to when an item is at its optimal quality, “sell-by” dates are simply used to ensure that the item is still useable once it has left the shop. “Best-before” dates can also be overly cautious- by all means, use them, but check your fruit and veg for the following signs:
- wilting or wrinkling
- bad odour
- signs of mould
If your fruit or veg appears to be free of all of these indicators, it is generally considered safe to use. Overly ripe fruit or slightly less firm vegetables are also perfect for use in cooking, even if they are no longer suitable for eating fresh. Finding a new purpose for older items helps you to reduce waste, save money and even try out some new recipes that you might not have thought of!
Try pickling or preserving
Pickling and preserving are great techniques if you want to make your fruit and vegetables last longer, and are especially useful if you grow your own produce at home. Follow some of our tips on preserving fruit and vegetables to make sure that none of your crop goes to waste.
Try fruit bowl liners or ethylene absorbers
A number of products have recently emerged, claiming to help your fruit and vegetables to last longer. They work by absorbing the ethylene gasses which are produced by fruit as they ripen and ultimately, rot. Ever noticed that fresh fruit goes off quicker when it’s stored next to over-ripe items? A build up of ethylene in your fridge or around your fruit bowl can impact the lifespan of fresh fruit and vegetables. The E.G.G (Ethylene Gas Guardian) is one product which works to absorb ethylene gas from your fridge- just keep it inside the door to remove the build up of the gas, helping fruit to last longer. Fresh Paper is also great for lining fruit bowls and wrapping fruit in the fridge. It inhibits the growth of bacteria and fungus, as well as the enzymes which cause over-ripening, helping fruit to stay fresh for at least twice as long.
Different conditions for different produce
While the fridge is often a great way to preserve the life of fruit and vegetables, it should be used with caution. Fruit and vegetables from tropical or sub tropical climates can be easily damaged and their quality compromised by exposure to cold temperatures, often leaving them with a condition known as chilling injury. Symptoms of this can include dark patches, shriveling, inability to ripen and a poor texture and flavour. These should be stored in a cool, dark part of the kitchen rather than a fridge. Produce which requires this kind of care includes:
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