How to Store Fruits and Vegetables to Keep Them Fresh

We’re in fruit and veggie mode around here. You are too, right? I mean, I’m just assuming that while you’re reading this, you’ve got a slice of pear hanging out of your mouth.  That’s what I thought. Okay, let’s continue.

How to Store Produce and Keep it Fresh

As I’m encouraging you to always have a great supply of fruits and vegetables on hand to eat and serve, many of you are asking questions about how to store them to keep them fresh. I’ll share what I do, then everyone leave a comment to share what works best for you, too!

1. Eat them.

First, I want to say that once you fill your cart and get home with loads of fruits and veggies, don’t hold back on eating them. The surest way for produce to go bad is for it to get stuffed into the back corner of the fridge and forgotten. Chow down. Don’t hold back. Ration if you must, but make eating this good stuff a priority.

2. Don’t wash it until you’re ready to eat it.

While there are some exceptions that I’ll share below, this is particularly important with berries and lettuce. As soon as I wash raspberries, strawberries, or blueberries – the countdown to mold and squish begins. I try to only wash what we will eat for that particular meal or snack. If we don’t eat all of the berries I’ve washed, I get them back out for the next meal or snack so that we can finish them off quickly.

Lettuce is best washed and prepared immediately before serving. Don’t want to spend much time making salads before a meal? Do what I do and let everybody tear their own lettuce while fixing a plate for dinner. It’s fun, easy, fresh, and crispy.

3. When you come home from the store with a variety of produce, serve the most delicate fruits and vegetables first.

Apples, oranges, and pears will stay good for several days if not weeks. I always set out our supply of berries, peaches, and grapes first – saving our apples, pineapple, clementines, and the like until later in the week when the rest is gone.

4. The refrigerator is your friend.

While apples, pears, oranges, and kiwi will be fine for a while on the countertop or table, refrigerating them will help them last even longer.

5. However, the top shelf of your refrigerator is your enemy.

Never store produce on the top shelf of your fridge. It gets too cold up there, causing these dainty beauties to freeze and get wilty. The bottom shelf or the crisper drawer works best.

6. Store prepared fruits and veggies in glass so you can see what you have.

There are some vegetables that will store well for a few days if you’d like to prepare them ahead of time (slicing cucumbers, carrots, or peppers; chopping onion or broccoli). But be sure they are dry and air tight. I love storing prepared veggies in glass dishes with tight lids. (These are my favorite.)  That way I can see what I have, know how much I have left, and they stay dry and fresh.

What to do when produce starts to go bad?

1. Eat it quickly.
2. Make it into a fruit salad or tossed salad.
3. Freeze it. Berries, peaches, pineapple, mangos, and bananas can be washed, dried, sliced, and placed directly into a freezer bag for smoothies. Vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and green beans need to be blanched first. Read how to blanch vegetables here. It takes two minutes.
4. Make bread. Here are recipes for Banana Bread, Blueberry Muffins, Strawberry Bread, Zucchini Bread, and Apple Bread. If only you could make Broccoli Bread. Eew, just kidding.
5. Scramble it into some eggs. Mushrooms, zucchini, broccoli, onions, peppers getting soft? Chop them up and sauté them in butter. Add eggs, scramble, and you’ve got a delicious way to eat veggies.
6. Throw it into soup. Make it into fajitas. Toss it into stir fry.

What are your greatest tips for keeping produce fresh and using it up before it goes bad?

Comments

  1. mandy collins says

    Do you only buy organic fruits?

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    Laura Reply:

    No, that’s not really possible where I live. I feel okay now about buying non-organic when I have to, otherwise we go without too many fruit and veggie varieties!

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  2. says

    This may sound like a dumb question, but… what happens if you don’t blanch those veggies first?

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    Nia Hanna Reply:

    My veggies turned to mush because I didn’t blanch first. I think it might help preserve flavor too.

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  3. Christina says

    My father in law taught me this one. Wrap produce in a paper towel (without washing) & put it back into the plastic bag. Something about the paper towel absorbs moisture keeping the produce crisper. Supposedly works w things like lettuce and other leafy greens, broccoli, baby carrots, zucchini and berries. I think my FIL even does it w Grape tomatoes…..grapes……whatever goes into the fridge!

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    Rochelle Reply:

    I do this with leaf lettuce. Wash it, dry it and put it in a Plastic bag with paper towels. It keeps two weeks like this. I squeeze all the air out of the bag before closing it.

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  4. Nia Hanna says

    It’s so funny you mention broccoli bread because I have been researching the very thing in order to use stalks for something other than stock/broth. I read that if you peel the tough outer part, the inside of the broccoli stalk can be shredded and used in bread (like zucchini) or diced and added to the pot with florets to be eaten as desired. I found a new recipe for coconut lime zucchini bread and due to the lack of zucchini I totally wanted to try using broccoli in its place. I however, didn’t blanch my stalks before throwing into the freezer and they were all mushy, not sure they would have shredded well.

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    Teresa yb. Reply:

    I do peel the broccoli stems and use them with the rest of the broccoli, either cooked or in a salad.

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    Kellie Reply:

    Yes! Peel the stems and use them! Less waste and they taste great. I roast them and tell my kids they are broccoli fries, and they love them.

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  5. Lana says

    Keep your tomatoes on the counter and not in the fridge! I buy the 2 pound pkg of grape tomatoes at Sam’s and they keep on the counter for up to 2 weeks. Tomatoes get mushy in the refrigerator. Also, salad greens need to stay dry so add a paper towel to the pkg after you open them and replace it when it feels wet. The huge cartons of spring mix from Sam’s keep until we can finish it by putting a paper towel in the container and we are only 2 here at our house.

    Last night I put a bit of bacon grease in a cast iron skillet and cooked all of the small amounts of veggies left in the crisper drawer. None of them were enough for a meal but cooked all together they were absolutely delicious.

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    Kristin Reply:

    I second the no tomatoes in the fridge as the fridge turns them mealy. I store counter safe produce in the unfinished part of our basement to delay ripening. It is the coldest room in our house year round (we have the heat vents closed in winter). When I buy our weekly produce, I put things like grape tomatoes, avocados, bananas, squash and cantaloupe down there and bring up to the kitchen as needed. (I make sure to space everything out well, especially bananas). It allows me to save some of the items for use midweek, when I actually need them and I can get bananas to last through Friday for use in my husband’s lunch.

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  6. Laura A says

    I’ve done the vinegar-water bath (from pinterest) for berries and grapes and they last longer than not washing.
    In our fridge, we have a bottom freezer and middle drawer refrigerator section. I put carrots in the back of the drawer and they froze! Now I know, keep things from the back left, unless I don’t mind them freezing. :)

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  7. Angie says

    I buy my apples from a local fruit farm. The apples I buy here are so much tastier than those I used to buy from the grocery store…much cheaper also.

    I’ve always wondered how this fruit farm keeps apples for so long. They harvest in October and are still selling their apples sometimes into March and April.

    A year and a half ago, my family and I bought a house that has mature fruit trees on the property. So, fall 2013 was my first harvest of our apples. I tried keeping the apples in the fridge and they did last a few weeks. Not nearly as long as the fruit farm apples though.

    A couple of weeks ago, I went to the fruit farm to stock up on apples. When I was checking out, I asked the owner how much longer they expected to have apples for sale. She replied that their fall 2013 harvest was plentiful and they should have apples through April. She explained to me how they are able to store their apples for so long…temperature control and cold water. They store their apples at a constant 36 degrees F. They store the apples in wooden crates in a room with a concrete floor. Every 2 – 3 days, they spray the apples with very cold water. Apparently the cold water is the secret.

    I was telling the owner that I tried to store the apples from my trees in the fridge and they only lasted a few weeks. She asked what they were doing when I decided they weren’t keeping well. I told her they were wrinkling and shriveling up. She smiled and said again “They need cold water every few days…they were dehydrating!” She said next harvest I should try taking them out of the fridge every few days and putting them in a sink with very cold water for a few minutes.

    Wow! Who knew?

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    Lana Reply:

    Interesting! I am glad to know this because I have shriveled apples that I have been making into applesauce and they are still fine that way or for other cooking but I wish they were still good for fresh eating. A friend’s family are commercial apple growers in Idaho and he told us that they put apples in a huge warehouse and take out all of the oxygen to keep the apples fresh.

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  8. says

    I wash all my fruit (except berries) in vinegar water before putting in the fridge – they are ready to eat whenever we are. I have heard it helps berries last longer, but have never tried it. We usually eat berries right away. Produce in general is not very good where we live (WY) and I am very picky about my produce. Love when we can make it to Costco – once every month or so. I always stock up.

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  9. Kelly says

    Putting a wet paper towel on celery stalks helps them to last longer.

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    Lana Reply:

    I put a twistie on the bag when I bring it home from the store and it keep for 4-5 weeks that way.

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  10. Heidi says

    I am drinking a fresh green fruit/veggie juice as I read this! Haha. It’s an excellent way to pack in extra fruits & veggies & kids love it! Watch the documentary Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead & check out rebootwithjoe.com. I also just pulled the Oatmeal a Breakfast Cake out of the oven, because it’s not only good for breakfast, but anytime!!! Thank you for all the great info on your site! God bless you!

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  11. Lesley says

    Cornbread (made with organic corn meal) with finely diced sauteed onions, shredded cheddar cheese and blanched chopped broccoli is delicious. Just use your favorite cornbread recipe and bake a little longer since you have added extra things. Yummy! I’m sure you could also make it into muffins.

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  12. Theresa says

    I do make a broccoli bread which is delicious. It uses jiffy cornbread mix, cheese, broccoli, etc. While it is different than other breads it is still a way to use broccoli – just a thought.

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  13. Joan says

    I have been using Debbie Meyer’s green bags for about a year now. They are fabulous. Honestly they keep produce fresh for weeks. They can be reused up to 10 times. A fabulous investment (I do not work for them or receive anything for my comments; I am just a satisfied customer). I bought on line from one of the shopping channels but they are available lots of places.

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