Food Storage Tips for Longer Lasting Produce

June 9, 2020

Produce shelf life can be a bit finicky, but with some wise food storage tips from Howard’s you can make your produce last longer and keep your fridge stocked.



We're living in a time when it is more important than ever to make sure your food stays fresh. Replenishing, fresh produce is finding itself back into kitchens and refrigerators with increased weight. Having a great refrigerator is an excellent start, but wise food storage and a little know-how will help your produce, and your fridge, live up to its potential while cutting down on food waste and trips to the grocery store.

Howard's wants to share some food storage tips that cover topics from how to use crisper drawers to maximize shelf life to the best way to store your produce so it can stay fresh for longer.

1. Learn the crisper drawer controls

Whether it's a traditional top mount or a high-tech French door refrigerator, you'll find crisper drawers toward the bottom of the unit. Crisper drawers possess a slider that controls humidity and temperature within the drawer to keep produce fresh longer and cut back on food waste. This guide shows you which drawer to store fruits and which is better for vegetables.

As a general rule:

  • Store fruits that can rot in the low humidity drawer. A low humidity drawer controls the levels of naturally produced ethylene gas. The open drawer allows ethylene gas to escape and helps keep fruits and vegetables from rotting quickly.
  • Store your produce that wilts in the high-humidity drawer. Leafy greens like spinach, cabbage, and herbs work well in this environment. The added moisture keeps the veggies crisp and will prolong their shelf life.

If you walk away with any wise food storage knowledge, let this be the one.

2. Store produce while it's dry

Produce fresh from the store often gets misted to keep the fruits and veggies ready to eat. However, while some humidity will keep produce fresh, too much moisture promotes mold and wilting. Thoroughly dry any produce with a paper towel before putting it away. Dry food storage is wise food storage.

There are a few exceptions to this wise food storage rule:

  • Store whole carrots, or halved celery stalks, in a covered container with water to keep them firm. Change water every two or three days.
  • Trim asparagus ends and set in a glass of water like a bouquet, and refrigerate until ready to eat.
  • Basil, parsley, cilantro, and other fresh herbs can be treated like flowers. Trim the stems at an angle and place them in a jar at room temperature. Change the water frequently. As a bonus, they make for charming decor.

3. Bag your produce

Reusable bags help prevent the moisture in your vegetables from evaporating, netting you a few days of extra shelf life. For hardy greens: remove the stems, then put them into a reusable container. Mushrooms are best kept dry and in brown paper bags, where the moisture is wicked away.

4. Unlikely roommates

Here's a bit of an odd but wise food storage tip -- consider storing your produce with a friend.

These unlikely duos make great produce storage buddies:

  • Apples prevent potatoes from sprouting
  • A slice of onion stops a cut avocado from going slimy in the fridge.

5. Refrigerate ripe fruit

Some fruit is best kept out at room temperature so that it can adequately ripen like avocados, pineapple, bananas. Once ripe, moving these fruits into the refrigerator essentially pauses the ripening process (banana peels will get brown, but the fruit itself will stay firm). This is a short-term solution, but it can buy you an extra two or three days to figure out your meal plans.

6. Freeze things

A wise food storage idea is to freeze fruit and vegetables before they start to turn. Peel your produce, cut into desired pieces (blanch most veggies), and place them in a single layer on a parchment-lined sheet tray, a place in the freezer until solid. Break up the frozen produce and store them in a freezer-safe container or bag for up to three months. Now you can have a specialty freezer full of long term emergency foods.

7. Keep citrus and roots in the fridge

You've likely often seen stock photos of kitchens with a bowl of lemons out on the counter. While they look beautiful, those lemons are not going to last as long as they could. Citrus (lemons, oranges, grapefruit) will stay firm, juicy, and not shrivel up in the fridge for ages. The same goes for roots like ginger and fresh turmeric.


8. FIFO - First In First Out

The FIFO method is used in restaurants and grocery stores throughout the world to ensure proper inventory rotation. Be sure to eat the food you've had longer first. The produce fresh from the market will last longer than the ones you've had for a week.

Another thing to keep in mind is which produce has the shortest life. Prioritize soft greens like lettuce and spinach as well as other veggies like cucumbers, peppers, broccoli, and cauliflower that are notorious for shorter shelf life. Save your firm vegetables like potatoes, cabbage, carrots, and even hardy greens like kale for later in the week.

9. Don't overstock your drawers

Have your produce practice social distancing too, and try your best not to cram your crisper drawers. That added space allows for better air circulation around the produce and moisture evaporation. Better airflow and efficiency are the best things to keep mold at bay. Even if you own an Energy Star refrigerator, improved efficiency will go a long way.

10. Only buy what you need.

The final and most crucial wise food storage tip: only buy what you’re going to use. Plan your meals ahead of time, so you only buy what you know you'll use. Then you won't have to worry about food waste, overfilling your refrigerator or freezer, and the supermarket stays stocked longer.

With this wise food storage know-how, you're sure to maximize your produce shelf life and keep your refrigerator stocked with fresh, healthy food.

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