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The following is part of an Organic Journey guest post series, written by Amy a long time helper behind the scenes of Southern Savers.
First off, I want to thank all of you for your great comments. Those of you that aren’t taking a minute to read the comments section are missing out on a real treasure. I am learning tons from this community, and I am grateful for you. I have a feeling that this week, I am going to learn the most yet!
Before we get started though, let me give you a quick budget update. I spent $97 this week. For this first month of tracking my spending, I am averaging about $91/week. It is over my actual goal, and I haven’t made all the baby steps that I want to yet (like switching to organic cheese and butter). My encouragement comes in that I am still in the early stages of learning, and I remember when I first started couponing. I definitely spent more at the beginning of the learning curve. So, I’ll press on, and continue to search for ways to cut costs. Another little update, my husband has been inspired by my girls to start researching what it would take for us to have chickens. A couple of calls to the county taught us that we don’t live on enough acreage and would have to apply for a variance. Applying for that variance would cost over $400 with no guarantee that we would be approved. That is enough for me to buy 133 dozen eggs from my farmer/neighbor!! So yeah, no chickens for us unless our county changes the laws.
My biggest frustration in this journey, though, has been how fast my organic produce has gone bad. After I wrote about buying less and wasting less, I have been more aware of what I am throwing away. I have had two times that I bought organic broccoli where within days of having it home, it had little black spots all over it. I have never had that happen with regular broccoli. My organic cucumbers have spoiled quickly too. All of this has led me to ask two questions. One, what is the proper way to store my fresh produce, and two, are there EASY ways to make it last longer? I figured that I am not the only person to live in ignorance about the best way to store squash!
Step One: Start with a Mold-Free Environment
When talking to my brilliant college roommate, she mentioned that my first problem could be that I have some mold growing in my veggie drawer. No doubt, I have had my share of moldy veggies that I have simply thrown away that left no visible signs of mold in the drawer. Well, that mold didn’t just disappear when I wiped out my shelf with a wet washcloth (and please, please don’t ask me how often I clean my fridge out). She recommended using vinegar, but I abhor the smell of vinegar. Almost as much as I hate cleaning out my fridge. Then she told me that you can make your vinegar smell great by simply adding citrus peels to the vinegar. Now that is doable!
Step Two: Understand Your Refrigerator
I’m not going to lie, I don’t really understand my fruit and veggie drawers in my fridge. I put the fruit in the fruit drawer and the veggies in the veggie drawer, but they have these dials that I can slide according to the humidity that I want. Yeah, I’ve never touched them. Here’s what I have learned. Fruits typically require less humidity to prevent drying out and withering than veggies. So, if you have two drawers, it is best to split up your fruits and veggies. The other thing that I hate is that you have to experiment with your humidity settings in your fridge to figure it out. A dear friend recommended putting a layer of paper towels (or you could use a dish towel) down on the bottom of the drawer. When it gets wet, you’ll know that you erred too far on the humid side. It is a fine balance between keeping things humid so they don’t wither and having too much humidity which causes things to deteriorate prematurely. So yeah, it’s back to at home science experiments! (Maybe I could make it a part of our school!!)
Step Three: Sort your Produce
By the time I get home from the store with all three kiddos, I am normally just trying to get things tossed into the proper places as quickly as possible. A few days later, when I open my bag of apples and discover that there is a rotten one in the midst, it has already had a chance to spread its nastiness to the rest of the bag. Many stores will gladly refund your money if you discover that your produce is rotting when you get home. I always feel more confident in my return if I have noticed the mold within the first day or two of having it home. Then I know it is the store’s fault and not mine.
Step Four: Rinse
Jenny has shared in the past how using a vinegar rinse will help kill bacteria and spores and even some contaminates too. This might be a good step to try out before you put your fresh produce away if you are noticing something spoiling quickly (like my broccoli!) The key to this working for you and not against you is to thoroughly dry your washed produce before you put it away in the fridge because too much humidity causes rapid deterioration.
Next week, I’m going to look at how to store different types of produce and explore if there are any other tricks to making our fruits and veggies last longer.
My baby step for this week, start a batch of citrus vinegar rinse and maybe even clean out my fridge!!