We’ve all been there: You load up a cart full of fresh fruits, veggies, and greens with high hopes of a healthy, salad-filled week ahead. But then you needed to treat yourself with takeout after a rough day at work. Or you spotted that bag of Trader Joe’s pasta stashed in your freezer and all memory of vegetables left your brain. All too soon, your once-crisp, fresh produce is now brown, limp, and oozing some sort of strange liquid.
If this feels a little too familiar, I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be this way. Sure, part of the problem comes down to meal planning, but sometimes life just gets in the way. Luckily, there are tons of tricks out there that can help keep your produce fresher for longer. If you’re sick of throwing out fruits and veggies week after week, here are the produce hacks you need to know:
1. Wait to wash your produce until you’re ready to eat it.
I know you’ve seen those fridge-stocking videos of people unpacking their groceries, washing all the produce, and carefully arranging it in aesthetically pleasing containers. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: all that produce is going to go bad so fast. That’s because pre-washing your produce adds excess moisture that could make it spoil faster. Plus, you’ll likely want to rinse it again before eating it anyway to wash off any fridge germs, so you might as well save some water and skip the pre-rinse.
2. Store your produce properly.
If you come home from the grocery store and immediately toss everything in the fridge, you might be doing it wrong. Some fruits and veggies need to stay chilled while others are best kept at room temperature, and it’s important to know the difference. Tomatoes, for example, will go bad fast if you store them in the refrigerator. In general, fruits that ripen over time (like bananas, melons, avocadoes, and peaches) are good on the counter until they’re ripe—then they should go in the fridge.
3. Use your fridge drawers correctly.
Most refrigerators have what are called crisper drawers—usually one for fruits and another for veggies. They’re separate because vegetables tend to prefer high humidity, while most fruits do best in low humidity. These drawers are typically marked accordingly, but if not, make sure the drawer you store your veggies in is closed tightly. You can keep your fruit drawer slightly ajar to lower the humidity inside.
4. Put a paper towel in with your greens.
If you’re tired of taking your spinach on its weekly trip from the fridge to the garbage can, this produce hack is for you. The next time you buy a plastic container of greens, open the lid and place a few paper towels on top. (If you buy bagged greens, empty them out into a separate container, then add the paper towels.) Put the lid back on, flip the container upside-down, and store it like that in the fridge. The paper towels will absorb moisture and help keep the greens fresh. Bonus tip: You can also use paper towels to keep your fresh berries from going mushy too soon!
5. Freeze fresh herbs in oil.
Herbs are a great way to add flavor and freshness to your meals, but it always seems impossible to use them all up before they go bad. Instead of waiting for that extra basil to inevitably perish in your fridge, freeze it in oil so you can use it later. All you have to do is chop up your herbs, spoon them into an ice cube tray, top with olive oil, and pop into the freezer. Later on, you can use your frozen herb cubes to flavor sauces, soups, pasta dishes, and more.
6. Cover banana stems with foil.
Bananas can go from green to brown and mushy in a matter of days. If you’re not looking to whip up some banana bread, you can keep your bananas fresher by covering the stem with a small piece of aluminum foil. This trick works because of a little thing called ethylene—AKA the gas that fruits emit as they ripen. By keeping it contained, you can slow down the ripening process. If your bananas still went brown faster than you wanted, peel, slice, and freeze them—you can use them for smoothies!
7. Revive wilted produce with cold water.
Got some produce that has gone all limp and wilted? You don’t have to throw it away just yet. Since most veggies and greens are porous, you can revive them by soaking them in water. Submerge your wilted produce in a container filled with ice water and place it in the fridge. In about 30 minutes, it should be perky again! For produce with stalks or stems (like broccoli, asparagus, celery, and herbs), treat them like a bouquet of flowers. Trim the ends and stand them up in a container of cold water so they can absorb moisture from the bottom up.
8. Store mushrooms in paper bags.
Mushrooms tend to turn slimy and unappetizing real quick, and the plastic-wrapped container they’re packaged in is often the culprit. Instead of tossing that container straight into your crisper drawer, empty the mushrooms into a paper bag first. The paper bag will absorb moisture, keeping your mushrooms at the right humidity level and slime-free.