(Writer’s note: Please read the following sentences in the voice of an infomercial announcer.) Rotten fruits and vegetables. Dinners ruined by produce gone wrong. Grocery budget ballooning. Has this ever happened to you? Produce rots and it can rot fast, leaving you without key ingredients for your dinners and wasting money. But with this new patent food-fresh system, you’ll never be left in a puddle of what used to be asparagus ever again!
(Writer’s note: You can stop reading the sentences in the voice of an infomercial announcer, but if it feels more natural to you, you do not have to stop.) One of the most surprising things I learned when I got my own place was how quickly food spoils. In my first two years of college, everyone was required to have a meal plan and access to a kitchen was limited. With access to quick, pre-made meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I had no opportunity to buy food and watch it spoil. And before college, I lived with my parents and sibling and you’d be surprised how quickly four people can get through produce. That shit doesn’t even have time to spoil! It goes from grocery store to fruit basket to stomach/colon in sixty seconds, give or take a few minutes depending on traffic. So figuring out how to store fresh produce and when to eat it by was a little bit of a challenge.
It gets more challenging as I work to expand my culinary knowledge – trying out new fruits and vegetables has always been a race against time. After all, once it ripens, who knows how long I’ve got before the ticking time bomb that is putrefaction goes off? Fortunately for me (and you if you’re facing some of the same issues), the Internet sure has a lot of resources and I’ve got some ideas, too. Here’s the plan:
- Make a weekly or biweekly food plan. When I plan my meals down to the recipes, I find that not only do I keep my grocery store visits more on track, I’m also more likely to use up all of the produce I buy. Sometimes, it’s so tempting to see a nice bunch of chard and think, “Oh I’ll definitely use that.” Well, for me without a plan, that “definitely” becomes a “definitely not.”
- Keep track. I have a whiteboard in my kitchen and while I sometimes use it to draw pictures or write long messages explaining my feelings on the crisis facing the European Union, I usually use it to keep track of what needs to be eaten and what needs to be replaced at the next grocery trip. Writing “SALAD GREENS: SITUATION CRITICAL” in large letters sure helps me remember to make a salad with/for my next meal.
- Online shelf life guides have shown me the proper way to store fruits and vegetables and have given me guidelines on how long I can wait to eat those properly stored fruits and vegetables. I’ve included links to two separate guides here – one that assumes that your produce is from the grocery store and one that talks about produce from farmer’s markets. One note, though, the grocery store guide tells you what refrigeration can do for basically everything, but not all produce should be refrigerated. If you know you’ll be eating that fruit or veggie that night or if you’re dealing with delicately temperamental fruits or vegetables like tomatoes, stay away from the fridge and just make the cooking and eating a priority.
So there it is – some more resources on making the most of your produce purchases. Even though all of the suggestions here are just total common sense, I know that personally I did not start applying this common sense until I saw it neatly written out. I won’t lie – sometimes I still end up with liquefying cilantro (they sell the bunches here so big that you cannot reasonably use the whole damn thing in one meal! It is a trap!! A cilantro trap!!). Produce is such a vital part of anyone’s food lifestyle and it can be especially crucial for those who eschew animal products. Making sure you’re not wasting money with rotting produce and that you’re getting the maximum freshness and deliciousness can make a big difference.
Do you have any tips or suggestions?