This post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure here.
The following is part of an Organic Journey guest post series, written by Amy a long time helper behind the scenes of Southern Savers.
I got sucked into a great deal and blew $15 of my grocery on soda and chips. Yeah, it’s a holiday, and I just wanted to have fun. Amazing how even a good deal on the junk still eats away at my budget. The funniest part is that while my husband and I were enjoying our high fructose laden beverages with a late dinner last night, I started reading the ingredients of my salad dressing. And yeah, it had high fructose corn syrup in it too. Just when you think you are making headway by eating salad….oh well! We’ll keep taking baby steps. Maybe I need to learn to make salad dressing next. All in all, we kept it right at $80 this week, and that was with 3 dozen of my delicious fresh eggs (and four 12 pks of my delicious sodas!) Just keepin’ it real folks lest you begin to think I am someone that I am not.
Last week, I learned about getting my fridge and produce ready to be stored. I started the process with my vinegar citrus cleaner (it takes two weeks before it is ready!) Now, it is time to learn where does all this fresh produce go?
Step Four: Put it in the Right Place
Here is where I think I make the most mistakes. What are you supposed to leave out on the counter and what goes in the fridge? What do you leave in the plastic produce bags and what comes out? How do you store things once you have cut them open? I thought it would be helpful to just run through the most commonly purchased fruits and veggies and see how to best store them.
There is a good bit of diversity with the best way to store cucumbers. The general consensus is that they don’t last long, 5-7 days at most. According to a UC Davis study, cucumbers are actually damaged by temperatures less than 50º F (your fridge should be colder than 40º F). The damage will show up 1-3 days after it has been exposed to the cold. There is a fascinating photo showing the decay that happens at different temperatures. The best place for the cucumbers is on the counter, which is news to me. Also, cucumbers are negatively affected by the ethylene gas put off by melons, tomatoes and bananas. So, keep them away from those. One idea if you are low on counter space is to put the cucumbers in the door of your fridge which is actually the warmest part.
Last year, when I was making baby food in huge batches, I bought around 30 lbs of sweet potatoes when they hit rock bottom near Thanksgiving. Naively, I left them in the plastic produce bags I put them in at the store. When I went to make the baby food the next week, they were rotten. All 30 lbs. That was lesson number one in potato storage for me. Potatoes need to breathe. “Cooperative research by University of Idaho Extension scientists and College of Southern Idaho students has confirmed that the optimum sites for home-stored potatoes are cool, dark, and ventilated rooms, closets, cabinets, and garages.” The study also revealed that under the sink and in the refrigerator are bad storage options. I’m guessing in my laundry room isn’t the best place (seeing as it is the hottest room in my house!) Time to relocate!
Did you know that there is a National Onion Association? Well, according to them, it is best to store onions in a cool, dry, well ventilated place. This makes it sound like it would be ideal to store with potatoes. There is a good bit of buzz though that onions and potatoes both release gases that cause the other to deteriorate more rapidly. So, in actuality, it is better not to store them together. How far apart they need to be was info that I couldn’t find. Does anybody know? Once an onion is cut, store it in the fridge, where it will last up to a week. One of my favorite things to do with onions is store the extra diced onion in the freezer, then it is ready for me whenever I need it.
Have you ever made it home from running errands on a hot day only to discover that your lettuce had wilted? Here’s a fun tip! You can actually rehydrate lettuce by soaking it cold water. It is amazing to watch. Now, slimy lettuce can’t be resuscitated and that’s what we are trying to avoid. Lettuce needs to be stored in the fridge and it needs to be able to breathe. I typically leave my lettuce in the produce bag with the bag opened so that it can breathe. If you notice that water is pooling in the bottom of the bag, you need to drain it, or else, the slime will occur. After I cut and wash it, I will leave the leftover lettuce in my salad spinner with a wet paper towel on the top of the lettuce. This keeps the lettuce from drying out and still allows it to breathe and not get soggy.
Zucchini and other Summer Squash
The general consensus is to store summer squash in a plastic bag making sure that there is no water on the squash and as little air in the bag as possible. Then, put the squash in the crisper drawer of your fridge.
Winter squash is actually harvested in the fall, but it is called winter squash because it will last several months if properly stored. Pumpkins, acorn squash, and butternut squash fall into this category. These need to be stored in a cool, dry place, and they don’t need to be put into the fridge per the LA Times.
Did you know that green bell peppers actually last longer than the other colors? I had a vague recollection of my husband telling me something about how they change colors when he planted them this spring, but here’s the scoop. Bell peppers start out green, as they ripen, they turn yellow, orange or red. So, that’s why I like the way that red bell peppers taste more; they are the ripe peppers! It is best to store peppers in the fridge and to keep them dry. They should last about a week. Some people recommend putting them in plastic bags, but not all.
Store them on the counter, not in the fridge!! When you put tomatoes in the fridge, it greatly decreases the goodness of their flavor. I typically leave my tomatoes on the counter until they peak at ripeness. At that point, if I am not ready to use them, they go in the fridge. I know I am compromising on taste and texture, but it is better than it sitting on the counter and beginning to spoil.
I love it when somebody explains why something does or doesn’t work. Tipbusters did just that for celery storage. Check out their whole post here, but the bottom line is that they recommend either wrapping it in a paper towel and putting it in a plastic bag or perforated plastic bag in the veggie drawer in your fridge.
And who on earth knew that there is a World Carrot Museum!? If anybody should know how to store carrots, surely they would! They recommend cutting off the top 2 inches of green stubble to prevent the carrot from rotting, then store in the refrigerator. Carrots last a long time and are one of the last veggies I use when going through my produce for the week.
One of my great failures in wasting less has been green beans. Now I know why. Green beans need to be stored in a plastic bag or container in the fridge, but they last only about five days. I was storing them the right way, I just wasn’t using them fast enough.
Apparently, mushrooms are super sensitive to too much moisture. In light of that, it is best not to store it in your veggie drawer (because we are adding moisture there, right?) If it comes in a styrofoam package with plastic wrap on it, it is perfectly good to store it in that container somewhere else in your fridge.
There is a great tutorial here on how to store asparagus. To shuck it all down, you are going to put the ends in a glass jar and store it in your fridge. Not everyone recommends putting the plastic bag over the top. If only I liked asparagus, I might be willing to experiment with it. :)
Unripe avocados are like tomatoes. Leave them on the counter until they are ripe. After that, you can store them in the fridge, but only for 2-3 days. Once you have cut the avocado, you want to limit the exposure to air. So, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and store it in the fridge. It will only keep for a day once it has been cut opened. For more tips, check out Hass’ site.
Corn doesn’t last long at all. A day or two at most before the sugars, that make it oh so sweet and delicious, turn into starch. For optimal goodness, plan on consuming your corn the day you purchase it. If you need to store it, it will keep a day or two in the fridge uncovered.
Stay tuned next week when we learn more about fruit, now I’m off to find a new home for my potatoes and onions!
What works for you in storing your veggies? Have you found a different method that works wonders for any of the veggies we talked about? Is there a favorite vegetable I didn’t mention that you want to know how to store?