How To Never Waste Another Vegetable or Fruit: A 4-Step Plan

by Andrea Norris-McKnight

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Food costs way too much right now to throw any of it in the trash. Fresh produce is especially susceptible to waste. However, these tips can help you never waste another vegetable or fruit again.

The road to food waste is often paved with good intentions.

You load up on fresh fruits and veggies, imagining how healthy you and your family will eat in the coming week. A salad and a vegetable with every dinner. A piece of fruit with lunch and for snacks.

Then life gets busy, and you don’t have time to prepare a few meals. Or you get a craving for pizza rather than those healthy vegetables and order in. Maybe you simply pull out the lettuce or grab a tomato and can’t understand how they went bad so quickly.

By the end of the week, your lettuce is wilted and turning brown, the zucchini your never prepared is now squishy and the strawberries are fuzzy. Next thing you know, $15+ in produce is in the trash can. According to the EPA, produce is the biggest food waste category in the home.

Canned and frozen produce can help reduce food waste and save money depending on the type of produce. However, sometimes fresh is cheaper, and you can’t get a green chopped salad in a can or the freezer section.

Using the following rules, you can buy your family fresh produce and never waste another vegetable or fruit.

1. Always Have a Fresh Produce Plan

Never buy fresh fruit or vegetables without knowing when and how you or your family will eat them. Will the produce be used in a recipe or eaten fresh with lunch or as a snack?

Make sure your meal plan uses up the most perishable produce first. For instance, if you buy iceberg lettuce over the weekend to have salads one night, have that meal earlier in the week rather than waiting until the following Friday and risk your lettuce going bad.

If you buy a produce item in bulk, such as a bag of apples or potatoes, you likely will have more than your family can eat in a short period. Make sure you know how to properly store extras so you can eat them up the following week or prepare them in some way for the freezer and eat them later in the month.

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2. Have a Backup Plan

Some weeks you’ll find it tough to stick to your meal plan, or maybe you discover you bought more than your family can reasonably eat. Don’t just toss that produce. Get creative. The freezer can be your best friend when it comes to eliminating produce waste.

Suppose you buy too many strawberries. Slice them up and freeze them. You can later add them to a smoothie or puree them with a bit of sugar to make a sweet strawberry addition to plain yogurt or ice cream. Be sure to make a note on your freezer inventory list so you don’t forget about them!

Slice and freeze bananas or freeze whole blueberries. Squeeze the juice from citrus and freeze it in ice cube trays for smoothies or to flavor water.

Potatoes can be cooked up and frozen in several different ways. Sautee leftover red pepper with some onion and taco seasoning and freeze to serve fajitas in a few week. Do something with every vegetable that isn’t eaten so you can toss it in the freezer rather than in the trash.

A Time-Saving Tip

Some vegetables need to be blanched before freezing to maintain their proper texture when thawed and cooked. This takes a bit of time.

However, frozen vegetables that will be used for smoothies or pureed for soups or a mash can just be tossed into a freezer bag or some other container to be used sometime in the following few weeks. Just don’t leave them too long, or they will get freezer burn.

You can even freeze greens, such as spinach or kale, without cooking them if you plan to blend them up in a smoothie or use them in a soup.

Every few weeks, take all leftover frozen vegetables and toss them into a pot of water or vegetable or chicken broth and add in any preferred spices or seasonings. Cook until all vegetables are soft, and use a stick blender to puree the entire pot into a vegetable soup. You can puree it a little for a chunkier soup or a lot to make it almost like a thick veggie broth you can drink with your meals throughout the week. It is an easy way to get some extra veggies in your weekly diet and make sure none of your fresh produce goes to waste.

Use leftover fruits and greens for a few weekly smoothies and you’ll use up almost every bite of produce you buy. Just about the only produce you might not want to put into the freezer is lettuce, although you could even puree lettuce into a soup.

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3. Know How To Properly Store Produce

A lot of produce waste comes down to improper storage. Do some research to determine how and where the produce you buy should be stored. Should it go on the counter, fridge or dark cupboard? Can it be stored next to other fruits and veggies? It may help to invest in some storage containers specifically designed for produce.

Proper storage will help ensure it is still good when you are ready to eat it. If you shop weekly for produce and store it properly when you get it home, you should not have any of your produce going bad before it is consumed. And if it does happen to start turning bad? Unless it is lettuce, toss it in the freezer as mentioned above.

4. Use Up Those Leftover Cooked Veggies

Some cooked vegetables do not reheat well. They become mushy and just don’t have a pleasant texture after being zapped in the microwave.

Leftover cooked vegetables can be frozen for use in soup, just like raw vegetables.

Are You Up to the Challenge of Never Wasting Another Vegetable or Fruit?

With current high food prices, the last thing you can afford to do is let fresh fruits and veggies go to waste. Here are some articles that can help you prevent produce waste and save money buying produce:

FAQs

Here are some quick answers to some commonly searched questions about produce waste.

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How can we not waste fruits and vegetables?

To ensure you don’t waste fruits and vegetables, never buy more than you’ll eat, have a plan for every piece of produce you buy, know how to properly store the different types of produce and learn how to freeze raw or cooked leftovers for another use.

How do you not waste vegetables?

The easiest way to not waste vegetables or minimize waste is to buy canned and frozen vegetables. These items have a much longer shelf life, although frozen vegetables must be used sooner than canned to avoid freezer burn. Then supplement canned and frozen veggies with small amounts of fresh produce to help minimize the chance of losing any to waste.

How can we prevent fruit waste?

One of the simplest ways to prevent fruit waste is to learn how to store the different types of fruit properly and always have a plan for eating them as part of a meal or a snack. You can freeze any excess before it goes bad to be used up in fruit smoothies.

Reviewed August 2022

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