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8 Ways To Save Money By Keeping Produce Fresh

By Kira Botkin

Closeup of cherry tomatoesYou can take a big chunk out of your food budget by making your perishables last longer. Americans throw out about 40% of all the food they buy, so even a small dent can mean big savings.

Here are some great tips to follow to help you keep your produce fresh and save a ton of money:

1. Berries. If you’re up for a few extra steps, Cook’s Illustrated says berries can be rinsed with a 3:1 water-vinegar solution to remove any bacteria or spores and then carefully dried to extend their lifespan. If you’re not up for the extra steps, keeping them dry until you’re ready to use them will keep them from going mushy and moldy. Make sure to take out any that are already going bad first to prevent the spread of any disease or mold.

2. Lettuce. Don’t bother buying bagged lettuce. Buy whole heads, and only take off what you want as you need it. Wrap the rest of the head in paper towels and then place in a plastic grocery bag. Wrap it pretty loosely in the plastic bag and it will stay good for up to two weeks. I do this all the time, and it is such a money saver because it allows one head of lettuce to go a long way.

3. Tomatoes, pears, plums, apricots, and other soft fruits. While tomatoes will keep longer in the fridge, they will lose their taste. If you want them to keep their taste, they will stay good for several days on the counter. If you put them on something soft, such as a towel in a bowl, this will help to prevent them from getting squishy spots. Also, make sure to keep out of direct sunlight in order to preserve as much as possible. Other soft fruits like pears, plums, and apricots should not be refrigerated to avoid browning from the inside and to preserve taste.

4. Potatoes, onions, garlic, squash. Potatoes and onions should never be refrigerated. If you keep them out of the light and in a basket with ventilation, they’ll keep for quite some time. Never eat a potato that has sprouts, though, since that means it will be bitter. Garlic and squash can also be kept at room temperature away from light in order to last a long time.

5. Bananas. Bananas produce ethylene as they ripen, which will cause other fruits to also prematurely ripen and go bad. Keep bananas separate from other fruits, and use a hanger to keep them suspended to avoid bruising. They can be refrigerated once they are ripe to keep them fresh for a longer period of time.

6. Herbs, asparagus, broccoli, celery. Herbs can be placed in a jar with a little water at the bottom to keep them fresh longer. You can also do the same thing with asparagus, broccoli, and celery to keep them from getting limp.

7. Apples. Apples are prone to spoilage if exposed to other fruits and vegetables, so keep them separate in a cool, dark place. While apples will last for several months, I don’t recommend waiting that long!

8. Corn. Corn should also be wrapped, but in a wet paper towel or paper bag and then in a grocery bag. Don’t leave it out on the counter or it will gradually become less sweet.

And if all else fails, there are lots of neat recipes that you can use to put your limp vegetables to good use! Check them out here and here.

Do you have any other tips to keep your produce fresh?

(photo credit: flickr)

Kira Botkin
Kira is a longtime blogger and serial entrepreneur who enjoys gardening, garage sales, and finding stray animals. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, where football is a distinct season, and by day runs a research study for people with multiple sclerosis. She hopes that the MoneyCrashers team can help you achieve your goals and live a great life.

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  • http://www.retireby40.org Joe

    Wow, thanks for the tips. I never knew there are so many ways to store produce. :)

  • http://www.savings.com/blog/blog.html Stella

    Great tips. Bananas are a staple for breakfast for me so I have a couple tricks from keeping them from going bad too soon including buying just a few days worth at a time throughout the week (especially if the weather’s warm which makes them ripen faster…), buying a mixture of ripe and green bananas and, as a last resort, putting them in the refrigerator to slow the ripening process.

    • Kira Botkin

      Buying some green and some yellow is a good idea, I hadn’t thought of that. That way you have some for now and some for a few days later.

  • http://thecollegeinvestor.com Robert

    Also, buy Bananas as green as possible, that way you get the longest shelf life!

  • Theresa B

    Thanks for the tips on the produce. It was refreshing to learn a few new technique like the soft fruits that should not be refrigerated.

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