How To Make Produce Last Longer & Reduce Waste

One of the most common questions and concerns when people start adopting a more plant-based lifestyle is “how do I store my produce” or “how can I keep my produce fresh longer?”  This is something that I swear we battle with every single week and it definitely has a learning curve! But once you figure out what works for your family, things will start to get easier and less frustrating.  I want to make sure you know how to make produce last longer so you can enjoy the delicious plant foods you spent your hard-earned money on. 

Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.

There are a few things you will want to make your produce last longer; 

  • Jars or glasses
  • Sealable plastic or reusable bags
  • Kitchen towels
  • Variety of storage containers

Once you have the items you need you can start to make some simple changes to make your produce last longer. 

How To Make Produce Last Longer


As you go down the list I will address important tips for different produce and how you should store it to make it last longer.  Some of these tips will be incredibly simple while others may be a little more work.  However, the goal of all of these tips is to help you understand the best way to keep produce so it doesn’t go bad before you get to enjoy it and in turn save you money in the long run!

1. Keep Avocado On The Counter To Ripen 

This is important because we all know that the life of an avocado is quick.  If your avocado is still firm, leave it on the counter. If the avocado is already ripe but you aren’t ready to use it, put it in the fridge.  The cold will slow down the ripening process of the avocado to allow it to last a few more days but don’t forget about it! An avocado will still ripen when you’re not looking so be ready to make some delicious avocado toast at any moment. 

If you only use half an avocado, it is best to store it in the fridge in an airtight container. (And leave the pit in if you can!) Oxygen will cause the avocado to turn brown quickly so it’s best to store with something like this Avocado Hugger or even just a baggie. We find our reusable bags work great to keep our uneaten avocado good for a few extra days!

RELATED: Try These For The Perfect Avocado Toast


2. Wash and Dry Greens Before Storing

Nothing is worse than going to grab lettuce to make a salad and finding something slimy in its place. We’ve all been there before which is why I want to share this tip.  So how do you make your produce, including lettuce, last longer? As soon as you get home from the store, wash and dry your lettuce then gently wrap it in a towel before placing it in the fridge.  If your lettuce is in a container, place a towel at the bottom and then store in the fridge.  The towel will absorb extra moisture allowing your lettuce to last longer.

I find that if I use my salad spinner and then store it in that container in the fridge, my greens last much longer and stay crispy. 

RELATEDCaesar Salad with Crispy Garlic Chickpeas {Plant-Based Vegan}


3. Tomatoes Should Stand Alone

For some reason, I always store tomatoes incorrectly BUT sometimes it’s because it’s easier.  Tomatoes do best on the counter however you need to keep them away from high ethylene-producing fruits like bananas. Ethylene is the gas that allows the fruit to ripen and some fruits and veggies are more sensitive to the gas. 

With tomatoes, you will also find that room temperature tomatoes are more flavorful and delicious. What’s even better though is warm tomatoes growing on the vine! Seriously, so good – just my small nudge for you to consider growing your own tomatoes if you can! 😉 

AMAZON FIND: Countertop Food Storage by Rubbermaid (perfect for tomato storage!)


4. Herbs Are Plants And Thrive In A Cup

Grab your small cup or jar and treat your herbs just like you would flowers.  Many herbs will start wilting almost instantly if you don’t store them in a cup of water in the fridge. (They like a cool climate once they are picked) I know it’s not always the most convenient way to store them but I promise you they will stay crispier, more flavorful, and be more enjoyable to use. 

Another great option is growing them in the house.  We’ve had small basil plants before which worked great until we fell behind on using the basil and in turn had to plant it outside. You can also do an indoor aerogarden type set up.  We have an older version of this AeroGarden and it is fantastic especially if you live in a cold climate. For us, we plant it in the winter and it lasts us until midsummer when we can transfer the plants still producing outdoors. 

AMAZON FIND: Herb Saver for Freshest Produce


5. Take Potatoes Out Of Plastic

You would think that potatoes are easy to care for but to be honest, they can be quite picky! Have you ever had a potato grow eyes or even sprout? Maybe it turned green or got soft and bendy?

The key to keeping your potatoes in tip-top shape is to take them OUT of the plastic bag they may have arrived in and store them in a cool, dry, and dark place. No, you don’t need to keep them in a cupboard if you don’t have space but in a dark corner of your counter, in a bowl or paper or mesh bag, will work perfectly.

If you are storing potatoes for long-term storage, remove from any plastic they may be in, place the potatoes in a cardboard box, and put them in a cool, dark, and dry place in your basement. They should stay good down there for a while but definitely check on them regularly to be sure.


6. Wash and Dry Berries To Extend Their Life

Nothing is more annoying than buying fresh berries and then in 2 days seeing they are moldy. We’ve all been there! I’m here to tell you that there is something that can be done about this. 

As soon as you get home from the grocery store, give your berries, like strawberries, a vinegar bath.  It’s super simple and will help extend their life. 


DIY VINEGAR FRUIT WASH
1 part vinegar
3 parts water

Add to a bowl, drop in fruit, and let sit for a few minutes.  Rinse in a colander then lay the fruit on a towel to dry.  After this, you can either store back in the fridge whole OR what we like to do is cut it all and store in a covered container for quick access. 


To be honest, some people claim you don’t need to wash your fruits first but I find that they absolutely last longer.  We do the same process for our grapes and it works wonders. 


7. Water Is Carrot and Celery’s Best Friend

Nobody likes floppy and wilting carrots or celery. If you want your carrots and celery to stay crisp, your best bet is to clean them, cut them, and store them in water. This will absolutely extend the life and quality of your carrots and celery. 

My favorite way to store carrots or celery this way is in glass jars or containers. I recently tried putting them in my Chop Chop containers from Yumbox and it worked out really well especially for my toddlers! But if you don’t have separate containers to use, mason jars with lids (we prefer plastic reusable ones over the metal ones that come with the jars) work perfectly.

AMAZON FIND: Mason Jar Plastic Lids


8. Keep Your Nuts and Seeds Where They Belong

I know nuts and seeds are necessarily produce but this tip totally surprised me when I heard about it. Did you know that many nuts will stay good longer if stored in the fridge or freezer? Many seeds also should be refrigerated once opened.

Hemp Seeds – Keep in the fridge in an airtight container after the bag is open. They will be fine on the counter or in a cabinet if kept in an airtight container for many months without risking going rancid.
Almonds – For long term storage, keep in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer (depending on the length of time). For quick use, keep airtight in the cupboard but you can keep it in the fridge too if you need the counter space.

Bag of raw cashews heading into the freezer for longterm storage.
An extra bag of raw cashews heading into the freezer for longterm storage.

Cashews – Similarly to almonds, if you are using them quickly, choose either option. For long term storage, throw them in the freezer.
Flax Seeds – Store in the fridge in an airtight container to maintain freshness but like hemp hearts, they can be stored in a cupboard for many months even a year before signs of going rancid.

Why do nuts and seeds spoil? Due to the high oil content, nuts will go rancid after some point. It’s important that wherever you choose to keep them, they stay in an airtight container and out of direct sunlight.


9. Crispy Apples Like The Fridge

To keep your apples crispy, store them in the fridge because apples will ripen very quickly in warmth. If you plan to eat your apples within a few days, the counter is fine. However, they will last much longer in the fridge and you will be less likely to get mushy brown spots.

If you do keep them in your fridge, keep them in the crisper drawer, and take them out to get to room temperature before eating them.


Fridge Vs. Counter For Storage

You will likely notice that many fruits and vegetables can be stored on the counter or in the fridge. Temperature plays a big role in the ripening of fruits and vegetables. A general rule of thumb I go by is if you want it to slow down ripening, keep it in the fridge, and to speed up the ripening process, leave them on the counter.

This works really well for us when we pick the pears in our yard. They will last a VERY long time in the fridge so the majority of the ones we pick live there for a while (in the crisper drawer). When we want to eat them, we put them on the counter and within a few days, they are soft and ready to eat.

These tips are all relatively easy to implement but don’t get discouraged if they don’t go your way the first time.  We’ve had many times where we’ve tried these and the produce still goes bad. Learning how to make your produce last longer is definitely a process but sometimes you just don’t win, and that’s okay.

Keep your eye on your produce and make sure to eat the oldest items first that way you can hopefully avoid spoiling. 

What other produce are you curious about storage tips for? Do you do anything else with your produce other than what I mentioned above? Let me know in the comments!


MORE FROM REALISTIC PLANT-BASED MAMA:

Produce Grocery List (and tips!) For Plant-Based Families

6 Incredible Benefits Of A Plant-Based Diet

How To Use Chia Seeds + 10 Easy Recipes!

5 Tips and Tools For Transitioning Family to a Plant-Based Diet

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