Updated: Jan 9, 2022
Food water bugs the hell out of me. I was raised in a household of six where there wasn't much spare cash in our early years. And if we didn't eat all of our dinner one night, it would get wrapped and refrigerated for the following night.
When I was a kid, I used to hate this. But it's a value that has bled into my adult life and that I cherish the concept of now. Why waste good food? It doesn't just cost the money from your wallet, it costs the earth for the growing / production / manufacture and yet we throw it away so easily. Why? Because we know there is an abundance awaiting us at the supermarket.
This consumerism conditioning leads us not just to waste food, but to waste money too. What if we only purchased what we needed before foods perished? And what if we stored them properly so they took longer to perish?
To do this, it's worth understanding a bit about perishable foods.
Some fruit and vegetables produce a gas called ethylene. This is naturally occurring and helps produce ripen. And some foods are ethylene sensitive, meaning we have to keep certain fruit and veggies separated or the ethylene sensitive group will ripen waaaaaay too quickly and perish quickly. We also need to consider that some fruits and veggies need different temperatures to others when storing.
How to store fruit and vegetables to prevent food waste:
In cool, dry places (like the pantry!):
Ripe bananas - Banana's ripen faster with heat, and slower with cooler temperatures. So if you want to ripen your bananas store them at room temperature, but then transfer them to a cool, dry area to slow down the ripening until you get a chance to eat them!
Onions, Garlic, Potato's - If these are exposed to light, they think they are outside and start to sprout! So dark, cool places dramatically slows down this process!
Eggs - Eggs don't need to be refrigerated in New Zealand or Australia which is why they aren't found in the chiller section in our supermarkets too! The exception to this, unless your kitchen is hotter than about 15 degrees Celsius, or, they are cooked and you are saving leftovers. Uncracked eggs are fine in the pantry
At room temperature:
Avocado's - These are ethylene sensitive. If they haven't ripened yet, store them at room temperature. Once they are ripe pop it in the fridge to slow down the ripening process. Two tips for avo's - 1. to ripen faster put a high ethylene fruit like an apple next to it in a dish on the countertop for a day. 2. when you need to save half an avo, leave the stone in the centre. This prevents oxygen from getting to it. Wrapping it in a small beeswax wrap in the fridge helps to stop it spoiling and going brown!
Tomato's - Yep that's right. You might be tempted to throw them in the fridge with the rest of your salad stuff, but the fridge will actually make your tomato go grainy or wrinkly!
Melon - Putting melon in the fridge can actually dry it out and make it lose some of its juiciness and lose some of its natural antioxidants. Whether it's melon, watermelon or cantaloupe, store it at room temperature.
Citrus fruits - these tend to be high ethylene producers, so you'll want to keep them away from fruits that ripen / spoil quickly like bananas and avo's. Putting citrus fruits in the fridge can actually dehydrate them and remove some of their juicy taste.
In the fridge:
Let's just mention the compartments of a fridge for a sec before we jump into food. Most fridges have been designed, not just for space and convenience, but also with a special feature called a crisper drawer to help keep certain veggies....crisp. This drawer usually has a little vent on it which you can slide open and close. Basically, if it's closed it creates more humidity in the drawer. If it's open there's less humidity. Some veggies love humidity and some are less so. Knowing which veggies you are storing helps you decide how to use the vent. If in doubt.....leave it half open, half-closed.
Also, don't wash these foods before putting them in the fridge - you'll just end up with soggy food! Wash before use instead.
Lettuce - It loves humidity! This is best placed in the crisper drawer or pre-chopped in a container. I love to keep the full lettuce head in the crisper drawer, but also wrap a tea towel around it to create its own microenvironment for humidity. This means I can also store less-humid-lovin' veggies in the crisper drawer too with the vent still open.
Kale - Moisture will make your kale wilt and go soggy. No one wants that. Storing kale in a cotton veggie bag in the crisper drawer will help your kale live for up to 2 weeks!
Bok choy - My favourite asian vegetable! Ridiculously versatile.....also ridiculously easy for the leaves to turn brown if not stored correctly. The same as kale, moisture will ruin Bok Choy. Store it uncut in a cotton vegetable bag in the crisper drawer.
Mushrooms - If you do use plastic bags....be warned, that's the worst way you could store mushrooms. They produce their own fluid, so putting them in their own little greenhouse plastic bag will make them slimy. These should be kept in a paper bag or cotton bag in the fridge (not the crisper drawer!) to stop them from drying out.
In the fridge, in water:
Celery & asparagus - Store in a glass of water stood upright if you have the space. If not, chop the stalks and place them into a container or glass jar, then cover with water to keep them fresh and crunchy.
Carrots - Chop this up into long thinnish slices and store it in a jar of water to keep it hydrated and crunchy! Did you know, if you have a limp carrot, it's not off, it's just thirsty? Before you throw it away follow the same method mentioned here, leave it for 24 hours in the water-filled jar, and you'll be surprised to find a fresh, crunchy carrot brought back to life!
Cucumber - Slice into thin sticks (think hummus dipping sized), store in a jar with water and close the lid to make your cucumbers last.
Here are three bonus tips to reduce your household food waste:
Pre-plan your meals for the week.
Buy loose vegetables and fruit and only buy the amount you need. This helps reduce the volume of food wasted and the amount of plastic waste you bring home.
If you do end up with extra that you won't use......try making your own pickles, or do a really basic pickle in white vinegar (I love this for leftover cabbage!)
Our reusable cotton vegetable bags come in a pack of three large bags and work a treat for collecting your shop and storing your food!
Are you ready to start making your food last longer?