Shelf Life Guide: For storing your fruits + vegetables

Things are a bit out of control and that’s putting it mildly. Many of us are at home and that means things aren’t being done in the same old ways as it’s usually done. All restaurants have been mandated to offer takeout and delivery ONLY which means I’m not trying a different restaurant each day of the week and I’m cooking more at home. Don’t get me wrong I’m still very much supporting my favorite restaurants at least two to three times weekly however I am having more home-cooked meals.

How I shop for groceries

Pre-coronavirus I shopped once a week and that was for fresh fruits, veggies and herbs that I use either for daily smoothies, juicing or weekend meals — and any pantry items I’m out of that week. I’ve kept the tradition of always having the basics on hand as my mom taught me, although I’ve modified what the basics are for me over the years to accommodate my specific diet and lifestyle needs.

I shop for seafood biweekly — I clean, season, portion and freeze. I only buy meat when I’m in the mood for it and I don’t eat chicken and eggs. Fresh fruits vegetables and herbs I purchase weekly because they have a shorter lifespan. With our current normal my goal is to spend less, extend the lifespan of my fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs while decreasing waste.

My mom begged me to stock up on groceries and I reluctantly did. Stocking up on fresh fruits and vegetables were definitely a challenge I didn’t know where I would store everything. My refrigerator is tall and sleek to complement my decor style however that meant I had to sacrificed storage space.

I went old school

Originally from South America and when I was a child there was a time many people didn’t have refrigerators including my family. I started thinking about the ways my mom shopped and stored our fruits and vegetables. While our current climate doesn’t permit daily trips to the market, a luxury my mom had I have still been able to work with my times and two weeks later my fruits and vegetables are still fresh. I am due for a trip to replenish some of the items that I’ve used daily, however, I’ve had zero waste over the last two weeks and counting.

Suggestions

  • Don’t overbuy because of hysteria
  • Purchase items that you and your family will actually eat it’s a waste to buy things you don’t like or your family won’t eat
  • Make your list as concise as possible
  • Don’t go shopping without a list
  • Try to find a grocery store, markets, and fruits and veggie stand that offer fresh items (shouldn’t be a problem now but who know)
My list

As you can see my list isn’t that long and only includes things I love to eat. I did purchase some items frozen as a backup or fresh items that were only available in small quantities (Blueberries, raspberries, pineapple, mangoes, carrots, and cauliflower). Some of the items although I purchased fresh they can be repurposed.

  • Let’s say I’m not eating my bananas as often as I’d liked or it gets overly ripe  — I can wash, peel and freeze for smoothies or pancakes.
  • I can freeze my berries and pineapple for smoothies
  • Carrots, squash, pumpkin, and cauliflower can be freeze as well. I can use them for soups, as a base for my stews and curries and to make pasta sauce.
  • My sweet potatoes, golden potatoes, and eddoes can be all be boiled and freeze to use in the future. It’s important to make sure it’s cooked but not overcooked if you’re planning on freezing them.
  • Beets can be boiled and freeze as well.
  • Sweet peppers can be washed, remove seeds, cut and freeze.

Please note some vegetables must be blanched (Slightly boiled) before they can be frozen. While some vegetables needs to be fully cooked — here is a list and instructions on how to do this. It’s pretty simple and makes things easy. I sometimes do this during the holidays to prep vegetables ahead of time.

Instructions

Pretty much any fruit or vegetable can be frozen however to not sacrifice taste — you should make sure you’re doing this the correct way.

Storing Vegetables

  • Winter Squash (Including Pumpkin, acorn and butternut squash)

I used a dry cloth to wipe off the squash then placed it in a wire basket in my kitchen for seven days — after the seven days I moved it to the space I made in my office for extra storage. It’s cooler in there and I placed them in a similar open wire basket. Only uncut items.

Winter Squash
  • Carrots

Cutaway any greens, wash and place carrots a glass container with water, cover container then place in the refrigerator. This is how I always stored carrots over the years and they have lasted a month or more.  Be sure to change the water every five days.

  • Cauliflower

leave unwashed, place in a damp cloth or paper towel and store in perforated plastic bags. I’m almost plastic-free so I use these.

@willowcreative
  • Eggplant + Cabbage

Eggplant

Individually wrap in a damp paper towel or cloth then place in a perforated plastic bag or reusable container. I then put them in the crisper in my fridge. My eggplant lasts about two to three weeks and my cabbage a month.

@doctors_kitchen
  • Beets

Remove the greenery, wipe them off with a dry cloth — most times when I buy beets they are already wet. I usually dry them off and let them sit for a bit, I then place in a perforated plastic bag or ziplock bag and store in crisper in the fridge. I sometimes use this but when they are all used up with other things I simply use Ziploc bags.

Beet
  • Sweet Pepper + Hot Peppers

I always purchase sweet peppers or bell peppers but never use as often as I’d like however the way I store them to give them a lifespan of a month. I wash and dry thoroughly, place in a Ziploc bag or my storage containers. My hot peppers the same way however they last three weeks to a month.

Peppers
  • Golden Potatoes + Sweet Potatoes + Eddoes

Eddoes

I store these my open my wire basket lined with paper, which is placed in the darkest corner of my kitchen. My potatoes start sprouting at about three weeks after purchase. Since I purchased more than I usually do I have stored the excess in wire baskets in the storage space I created in my office (it’s a cooler space) and will make them last longer. An older woman once told me years ago to keep potatoes in a brown bag when they begin to sprout along with an apple. NEVER store onions with your potatoes EVER.

Getty Images
  • Plantain

I purchase plantains green most times I don’t use them until they are half-riped or fully ripened. They are store in my open wire baskets when they begin to ripe I either cook them or place in an extra-large Ziploc bag and place in the fridge for an extended life of up to three weeks.

Plantain
  • Onions

are stored in my kitchen in my stackable wire baskets and last two to three months. If I cut an onion and don’t use the entire onion I place cut side down in here this will allow it to last at least three to four days.

@myvintagecooking
  • Asparagus

are a bit tricky and have a very short lifespan of two to four days. But I love them and I have figured out a way to make them last a little over two weeks. I usually purchase slender stems, while they are still in rubber bands I cut approx. half an inch off the bottom, stand them up in a wide mouth mason jar. Add one to two inches of water and loosely cover the top with a Ziploc bag. Place tiny holes in the bag to give the asparagus some air.

Asparagus
  • Spinach

I usually wash spinach several times in cold water with a dash of baking soda. Once washed I make sure they are thoroughly dry — I then wrap them in a cloth and place in Ziploc bag or place in these than in the drawer in my fridge. Don’t overpack the bags or containers. This allows my spinach to last three weeks.

Spinach
  • Tomatoes

There are many ways to store tomatoes.  You can freeze them, however, I only do this if I know I am making pasta sauce and I find really nice juicy ones I can’t leave behind. For normal storage. I purchase unripe and ripe tomatoes which I place stem down in my wire baskets — if they become super-ripe I usually place them in my fridge until I am ready to use them. Placing them in the fridge allows me about a full week more. If I use half of my tomato then I store the other half in this.

  • Ginger Root

is placed in Ziploc bags or my storage containers in the crisper. I use a lot of ginger and purchase a lot at once. Storing it this way gives me a full two months of freshness, no wrinkled skin, and full ginger flavor.

Ginger Root
  • Turmeric

I usually dry them thoroughly, wrap them in a cloth or paper towel and place them a Ziploc bag or glass storage container. My turmeric last me three weeks stored this way. If I have a lot and know I won’t be able to use it all I freeze them after having them for one week.

Turmeric
  • Garlic

I store my garlic in my wire basket in the darkest area of my kitchen since I broke my stoneware garlic keeper. I keep the head whole and they last three months — once it’s broken apart the lifespan decreased to about ten days.

  • Scallion or Spring Onions

is very delicate and it took me a while to learn how to store it effectively. Nothing worked until I tried placing them standing up in two inches of water in a wide mouth mason jar. I then cover the entire thing with a Ziploc bag and place in the fridge. Sometimes when I am being lazy I towel dry the scallion removing any moisture and store in a glass container lined with a piece of paper towel or cloth. I make sure I put another piece of towel or cloth on top before covering the container. The first option gives me three weeks and the second two weeks.

Scallion
  • Thyme + Rosemary

Thyme

storing these took a lot of experimenting over the years until I found the best way to do it. After purchase, I wash them thoroughly and air dry for a bit. It is then wrapped in a cloth or paper towel and it is placed in a Ziploc bag or storage container. It lasts me well over a month. I sometimes use my Herb container.

Rosemary

Storing Fruits

  • Blueberries + Blackberries +Raspberries

my blueberries last they longest — they are the sturdiest and are very slow to deteriorate. My berries are washed in water, vinegar, and baking soda or I would be walking around with swollen lips for hours.

They are washed as soon as I get home. They are then drained and place under cool running water. A piece of cloth or paper towels is placed on a large serving platter so that my berries can dry completely. Once they are dried I line my glass storage container with a piece of paper towel or cloth and transfer my berries. My blueberries last a full month however the blackberries and raspberries last a little over three weeks.

Blackberry + Blueberry + Raspberry
  • Golden Berries

are pretty sturdy — they last a long time. I wash them in the same solution I used for my other berries and I place in my glass storage container no need to line with a paper towel or cloth and they will last over a month.

Golden Berries
  • Bananas

my bananas are purchased half-ripe and store in a fruit dish on my countertop. I use a lot of bananas and purchase a lot at once.  When they become too ripe I freeze them and use for my smoothie or pancakes. It’s also important to wash your bananas I use my berry washing solution.

Bananas
  • Pineapple

I buy for pineapples that have a vibrant crown without soft spots and I always smell the bottom for the sweetness. I keep it on my countertop for a week if I don’t feel like having it after a week I peel it and freeze it which extends its life for more than a month. When you peel your pineapple, be sure to massage it with salt, wash it off, slice your pineapple and place in the fridge for a bit for a deliciousness.

Daniel Pereira / EyeEm / Getty Images
  • Lemons + Limes + Oranges

for Lemon and limes, I wash in my berry washing solution (didn’t have a name until now). They are then dried and left out for a bit before being placed in a glass storage container with water. You can also place them in freezer bags with water. For both options, you must store them in the fridge. Oranges can be stored at room temperature for about a week and a half. I prefer to wash, dry and bag them in a mesh bag and store them in the fridge. If you are going to juice your oranges — be sure to remove from the fridge and allow the fruit to return to room temperature for best taste.

Lemons + Limes

There are so many fruits and vegetables — many of them have several varieties. If you’re interested in learning how to store something that isn’t listed here feel free to email me.

I try to keep my list as simple as possible, everything on my list isn’t a necessity however I try to buy the things I Like. When I buy things I like I don’t waste them. I don’t always use my fruits and vegetables in the traditional way sometimes I juice them or make smoothies or I blend them to use as a base for my stews or curry.

These are tried and true ways of storing — it will prolong the life of your fruits and vegetables. I simply went back to basics — things I’ve learned from watching my mom. I know several people prefer to buy frozen vegetables because it lasts longer but this is the time you want the best nutrition for yourself and your family.

Don’t panic or buy in hysteria — have a plan and make a list of what you need, just in case we aren’t able to leave our homes for a while. It’s best to have at least two week’s worth of food and water. Be sure to buy fresh fruits and vegetables however non-perishable are a must as well.

Clean your fruits and vegetables

It’s important to wash your fruits and vegetables properly. While there is no evidence or documented cases of anyone being infected with the coronavirus through food. Experts think if someone infected sneezed or coughed on an item you purchase there a chance you can get sick.

You can use my little Concoction vinegar, baking soda, and water — if you don’t have vinegar used the baking soda and water. Places like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods sells vegetable wash – it never worked for me. The fruits still itch my mouth after washing with both however you may have a different experience. There are also several other brands that I have not tried.

I will list the items I use for storage below in the resources section of this article — I don’t use plastic containers in my home and I look for bags I can reuse. If I didn’t list something let me know and I will.

As always I’m sending love — stay safe.

Cheers

XXOO

Nat

Articles like this one are written to offer practical advice, provide some entertainment, foster a sense of social cohesion, and remind to us that life is still wonderful during these strange and isolating times.

This article contains affiliate links for some products I HAVE purchased and use from Amazon if you make a purchase I will earn a small commission.

**As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases**

Resources

Reusable plastic bags 

Reusable bags

Storage bags

Onion and tomato stay fresh storage container

Stackable wire basket

Glass storage container with covers (1) and (2)  (similar to what I use)

Garlic Keeper

Air purifying bag

Herb Keeper

Produce Keeper 

 

More from Nat

How to Care for your Over-Washed hands

I’m washing my hands maybe an average of 20 times a day,...
Read More

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.