The ever frustrating world of produce! We love to eat it and we know how healthy it is but dealing with it is sometimes a job! We walk through the produce section amazed by all the vibrant colors and the great fresh, healthy feeling we get by looking at God’s beautiful bounty all around us. It’s so fun to stop and smell and pick the very best selections of all the varieties we have to choose from. We feel like such healthy “produce pioneers” picking those gorgeous colorful carriers of nutrition to take home to our families and serve in the most beautiful creative ways! Yeah…well….
then everyday life and reality hits. We get the…”Mom! Ewwww! Something stinks in the frig!” When you finally get to it, because you can’t stand it anymore you start your search with the many containers of what you think used to be leftovers. Then when that doesn’t work you open the produce drawer which is packed and you haven’t seen the bottom of for who knows how long. And you begin your search for “the smell”. You start pulling out bags of fruits and vegetables that are now different shades of brown and somewhat unrecognizable. You eventually give up and just bring the garbage can TO the frig. Before you know it the produce drawer is almost empty, except for that one lone grapefruit that still has a breath of life and a couple lemons that you figure can be salvaged for juice. And as you scrape off the sticky gooey remnants of produce from the civil war era (because now it has turned into a project you wish you would have ignored a little longer) you are startled by the 2 rolling grapes that come out of no where that now look like raisins…or maybe they used to be limes?? Who knows???
Ahhhhh…that road of good intention. We just have such great plans for all those beautiful fruits and veggies we bring home. Then at the end of the day when we are tired and cranky and everyone is hungry the last thing you feel like doing is bringing out all that produce to wash, cut, chop and slice and that’s BEFORE you start cooking!
Trust me, I have been there! And even with my new system I have my moments of not wanting to deal with it. But.. I know in the long run I will save money and our family will eat healthier. That’s a pretty good motivator!
*** My grandson nibbling on a “big cold carrot” lol one of my old tips for a teething baby 🙂 Not recommended though once they have teeth but when they don’t it feels so good on their gums!
-TIP #1 Don’t buy more than you can eat! Just because the strawberries are on sale don’t buy more than your family can eat before they go bad. You can usually figure about a week of shelf life give or take for most produce and there are exceptions but produce is perishable so we want to buy it a little at a time. Weekly is a good schedule. Now if you are feeling ambitious and you want to make some awesome recipes with what’s on sale then of course buy more and take advantage of the great prices! Remember though, a sale isn’t a good bargain when it ends up in the garbage!
-TIP #2 Figure out what types of produce you can’t live without and make them a priority. You have a better chance of eating your produce if it’s what you like. For example, in our house grape tomatoes, cucumbers, avocados, pineapples, apples and onions are things we feel we can’t go without. And luckily those are items pretty readily available most times of the year. Then there is lots of produce we love but it’s not always at a good price, available, in season or worth buying so I make my decisions for those items by what I see good in the store that week. Sometimes it’s on sale but I don’t like the way it looks or sometimes it’s not on sale but they got in the most beautiful shipment that week so I will splurge.
-TIP #3 Try to plan your meals around what looks good or is on sale that week. For example… you see yellow squash is in season and on sale and you buy a bunch of it and you are so excited because you got a great deal on it. But, then you take it home and have no clue what to do with it or have no recipes to use it in. That is not a type of produce you just buy and nibble on it has to be used “in” something. So chances are if you buy produce without a plan it will more than likely end up at the bottom of the drawer for too long or in the garbage…and now you are losing money 😦
-TIP #4 When you shop do it on a day you will have time to food prep. I know that sounds challenging. It’s tough enough sometimes to find the time to shop at all but I promise you if you can make this work it makes all the difference in the world. When you come home and you start to put the groceries away DO NOT put the produce away…yet. I put all my produce together on the counter and make it wait for me to dress it up and make it pretty! *If at all possible, before you go to the store or the night before do an inventory of your frig. Get rid of anything old, figure out exactly what you need or don’t need, make room and wash surfaces, drawers and containers. This will make the food prep go much faster after shopping. Well, gee, I guess that was another tip! LOL
-TIP #5 Now is when we wash, cut, organize and store all our produce and make it ready to eat! You will open your frig and won’t be able to resist it! I promise when you take that extra time to prep all that produce BEFORE it goes in the frig you and your family WILL eat it and it won’t go to waste! You will find you are eating so much healthier because the fruits and veggies are right there stacked in a colorful free vending machine in your frig!
Here’s how I prep!
Get yourself some type of stacking containers. Glass or plastic. Snapping lids work the best and have a variety of sizes.
*There is not much prepping to do with root vegetables. Just make sure you store them in a cool dry place and rotate them when you buy new.
I use a colander and a large bowl to wash my produce. You can use a store bought produce wash or use a little vinegar or lemon juice or an organic all natural dish soap diluted with water. I wash one veggie or fruit type at a time. For example…I put my container of strawberries in the colander then put the colander in the bowl and spray it with a little wash. Fill it gently with water and let it soak for a couple minutes. Lift out the colander and rinse gently and well. Then I cut up the produce and put it in the container. I repeat this with all the produce. You will want to cut everything into bite size ready to eat pieces before putting it into the containers.
When I wash delicate berries like blackberries or raspberries I do soak them but rinse them VERY gently and lay them out on a paper towel to dry a little before putting them in the container.
I even prep and put in containers produce like melons and pineapple. Now with apples it is best to wash them and wrap them in plastic wrap so it’s known they have been washed and they stay clean.
-TIP #6 I put small pieces of paper towels in the containers to help absorb excess moisture which is something that molds your produce and shortens it’s freshness time. Some produce I put a piece at the bottom AND one on top but one is better than none. It really does help!
-TIP #7 Any produce whether prepped or still in it’s original container needs to be rotated everyday if possible. What I mean by that is it needs to be jiggled around. The worst thing for produce is that it sits in one position too long… let’s mold grow. If it’s up right flip it to upside down or on it’s side and so on and so forth. For your prepped produce in containers just give them a jiggle or open them up and move the produce around a little. If the paper towel is really wet replace it.
-TIP #8 DO NOT refrigerate tomatoes! Please don’t! It breaks them down and kills their flavor. I always have a washed bowl of some type of tomatoes on my counter to snack on!
-TIP #9 Strawberries and grapes are the dirtiest! Soaking them to me is a must. A quick rinse just doesn’t do it! Go ahead and check out the bottom of your soaking bowl next time you soak them. Ick!!! I mentioned earlier that I cut up strawberries and put them in to a container. Grapes I wash and leave on the stems and put them in a pretty bowl in the frig.
If you can find the time to follow these tips you will surely avoid the produce drawer abyss and get back to enjoying the beauty that God put on this earth for us to eat. The money you will save and the happiness you will feel when you open your frig and see the “fruits of your labor” will make it all worth it! 🙂
Please let me know if you have any questions! I would be happy to answer them!
Created with love by:
Char Head 🙂