If you’re going to meal plan well, one bonus is that you should only have to make the grocery store run once a week (or even once every two weeks). Knowing how to keep your fresh produce is vital, then, for the system to be a success.
You know how I hate wasting food. As part of our good stewardship of our time, money AND the earth, let’s commit to buying what we can use, preparing what we need, and consuming what we’ve prepared. This definitely takes planning, forethought, organization, and a little knowledge. This is the knowledge post!
I am definitely not a food storage expert, but I’ve dabbled enough to know a thing or two. I’m hoping this can be a dynamic post as people chime in to add to these lists or correct any errors I may make. If you have something to contribute, please share!
Foods for the Countertop OR the Refrigerator
- apples, oranges, grapefruit, other citrus (will last longer in cold storage)
- room temp to ripen, cool temps after ripened
- pears, avocado, kiwi, peaches, nectarines, plums, melons, pineapples
- zucchini, peppers, grapes, blueberries, cherries (they last much longer in the fridge)
- Onions (Some people say you don’t “cry” if the onion is cold.)
- Hot peppers (will lose some heat/spicy-ness if kept cold)
- Whole Grains (oatmeal, whole spelt, barley, etc, should be fine at room temp. I do keep my brown rice in the fridge.)
Foods Only for Room Temperature
- Bananas (UPDATE: frozen for smoothies and bread great too, see comments!)
- Garlic (UPDATE: actually very best stored at 30-32 degrees F, but most refrigerators are too warm. Keep in the coolest possible dry place otherwise, dark, well-ventilated like a mesh bag)
Foods that Should be Stored Cold
- Cucumbers – in or out of a bag
- Lettuce – with as little moisture as possible (put a paper towel, rag, or Skoy cloth in a bag with cut greens. (How to cut lettuce that will last a few days.)
- Mushrooms – in a brown paper sack once opened
- Celery – tightly wrapped is best
- Cut fruit of any kind
- Asparagus – stand up in a large glass with water in the bottom
- Cauliflower and Broccoli
- Any Whole Grain flour (if the seed has been compromised, i.e. smashed to bits, nutrients begin to be lost.) Freezing most of your whole grain flour except perhaps a small container that you use regularly in the fridge is recommended.
- Crispy Nuts, Sunflower Seeds, Flax meal or oil
- Don’t wash fruit ahead of time if you can help it, especially berries.
- Cutting veggies ahead of time allows them to lose nutrients, but if it’s either that or not eating veggies, cut them ahead and toss them in a zippered plastic bag for convenience.
- Speed up ripening of peaches, pears, etc by placing them inside a brown paper bag on the counter.
- Many people like Mrs. Meyer’s Green Bags. They say they’re non-toxic, but I haven’t looked into them very deeply. They do seem to keep the produce fresher longer, as long as you keep most of the moisture out.
Weird Food Relationships
Don’t store together:
- Potatoes and onions
- Onions and apples
- Bananas and pears, apples (the bananas make the other fruit brown faster)
- Apples, pears with lettuce
Can I Freeze…?
Some foods can be frozen well without doing anything special, some need to be blanched (cooked briefly in boiling water or steamed, not to the point of cooking completely, then hit with cold water to stop the cooking process), and some cannot be frozen without disastrous consequences. Most fruits can just be used raw, even eaten frozen, but vegetables always need to be cooked after they come out of the freezer.
You may also be interested in one of my favorite posts, 10 Easy Prep Foods I Always Have in my Freezer.
|Food||Freeze it?||Blanch it?|
|Peppers||Y, diced or sliced||N|
|Celery||Y, diced or in chunks||N|
|Blueberries, Rasp-berries||Y, don’t wash or dry thoroughly is best||N|
|Zucchini||Y, shredded or diced||N|
|Any fully cooked veggie||Y|
|Tomatoes||Only for cooking||N|
|Lettuce, Greens||For cooking, smoothies|
|Avocado||possible, tightly sealed||N|
|Apples||Y, sliced for baking||N|
|Peaches||Y, sliced in juices||N|
*Strawberries can be frozen 3 ways: (1) sliced and sweetened in their juices, (2)whole and frozen on a wax papered cookie sheet, and sliced and frozen on a flat surface.
I use my ice cube trays a LOT to keep things in small sections for easy thawing and so I can get just the amount I want. Even for sliced peaches for yogurt, homemade pesto, and pumpkin puree, I use ice cube trays. Now if I could only keep my freezer from vomiting ziploc bags at me every time I try to get in there for something, I would be feeling pretty savvy about all this! 😉
What am I missing? Where would perishables in your house go different than mine?