Fruits and vegetables
Produce is the usual suspect when it comes to food that spoils. In the average Canadian household, one in four produce items get thrown in the garbage. That’s like throwing away $600 a year! By sharpening your food storage skills, you’ll save both food and money.
Fruits and vegetables are still breathing even after they’ve been pulled out of the earth or off the tree or vine. In general, warmth speeds up respiration and cold slows it down—that’s why refrigeration makes some foods last longer. Here are some basics tips to preserve your produce:
- Take produce out of plastic bags. Airtight wrappings suffocate fresh produce and speed up the decay process.
- Don’t wash produce until you’re ready to eat it. Moisture encourages decomposition and mould growth.
- Don’t rip off fruit stems. Once living cells are broken, microorganisms start to grow. Keep produce whole as long as possible.
- Eat the most perishable items first—raspberries last a few days; potatoes can hang around for about a month.
Organize the fridge
It’s important to understand how your fridge works and where best to store certain items. Here’s what you need to know:
- Read your fridge’s instruction manual to learn how to adjust the temperature and humidity levels. The temperature should be set to 4 degrees Celsius or lower. The adjustable levers on the crisper drawers change humidity levels. If your fridge has these, set one to high humidity (closed, less air coming in) and one to low for the gas-emitting produce (open, more air coming in).
- Store leftovers, drinks and ready-to-eat foods on the top shelf.
- Store milk, eggs and dairy on the middle shelves, which are the coldest part of the fridge.
- Store raw meat and seafood on the bottom of shelves, which prevents drips from contaminating food below.
- The door is the warmest part of the fridge so be cautious of what items you store in the door.
All fruits and vegetables emit ethylene, a gas that stimulates ripening. Some emit high levels of ethylene, and others are sensitive to it so you will want to keep them away from each other. Most refrigerators have two crispers so you can separate the gas emitters from the non-gas emitters. Here’s an example of how you should organize your drawers:
|Drawer 1 (gas emitters)
||Drawer 2 (non-gas emitters)
|Apples, cantaloupes, honeydews, apricots, figs
||Bananas (ripe), cucumbers, peas, broccoli, eggplants, peppers, Brussel sprouts, kiwis, summer squash, cabbages, leafy greens, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsley, watermelons, cauliflower
For more information: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/publications/downloads/2010/endfoodwaste1.pdf
Use the freezer
Freezing is a great way to buy in bulk, extend the life of food and prepare meals in advance. Freezing is also a great way to preserve the nutrition of fruits and vegetables.
How to freeze food safely:
- Very hot items can first be cooled at room temperature. Refrigerate once steaming stops. Within two hours, cooked foods should be refrigerated or frozen.
- Cool food quickly in uncovered shallow dishes or in small amounts in the fridge.
- Leave some space between packages for cool air to move.
- When freezing liquids, make sure to leave some space at the top of the jar. This is called “headroom” and allows the liquids to expand as they freeze.
Preventing the dreaded freezer burn:
When frozen food has not been wrapped properly or has been frozen for too long, it can become freezer burnt. This happens when air comes in contact with the food. Freezer burn looks like white or greyish-brown spots on the food. It can make foods dry and less tasty; however, the food is still safe to eat. You can cut away the parts of the food that have freezer burn and then use the rest.
To prevent freezer burn, you need to stop air from coming in contact with the frozen food. Use heavy foil, freezer bags or containers designed for freezing food. Make sure to squeeze all the air out of freezer bags before sealing.
Check out Metro Vancouver’s Love Food Hate Waste Campaign’s Freezer Guide to learn more about freezing certain items.
Ever wonder how long food can stay in the fridge or freezer? Check out this refrigerator/freezer storage chart to find out.