Welcome back! This week the Real Food Experience challenged you to fill your plate with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. The best way to make sure you are eating a diet diverse in nutrients is to choose two fruits or vegetables with each meal. While this is excellent advice, it does create its own unique set of issues for busy folks.
A few years back when I started my real food journey, I went to the farmer’s market and bought everything that I could find. I wanted to fill my body with lots and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Then it happened………..before my family could eat all of the fresh produce, some of it started to go bad and needed to be thrown out. Wait………what?? Throw it out. I never had to throw out any of my processed food. It lasted forever. Obviously, things were going to be different now that I was on a mission to eat real food.
Today, I am sharing the basics of storing fruits and vegetables. “Fruit and Vegetable Storage 101” if you will. Use this as a guide to maximize your nutrition and minimize your food waste.
Fruit and Vegetable Storage Guide
Fresh: The most “fragile” of all produce. Should be used within a few days. Some can be left on the counter to ripen and then refrigerated. When you purchase your produce from a local source, it generally will last longer. The aging process of produce begins as soon as it is picked. Produce hauled across the country has started its aging process before you even take it home and will not last as long at home.
Frozen: Frozen produce is a wonderful alternative when fresh produce is not available as it maintains most of its nutrients when frozen. Quickly place frozen produce in the freezer upon arriving home from the grocery store. Do not allow it to sit out on the counter for too long. Keep frozen at 0*F or less. Plan to use before the “use by” date on the package. Most produce will last for about 6 months in the freezer.
Canned: Store-bought canned produce typically has less nutrients than its frozen relatives due to the extra processing. Still, better to eat canned fruit than a fast-food burger, right? Store your canned produce at room temperature. Pay attention to the “use by” date on the package. Most canned produce will last for about two years.
Dried: Dried fruits often get a bad rap. Dried fruit does pack plenty of nutrients, but because of the drying process it loses volume and concentrates the sugar. Because of its smaller size, we are likely to eat more. Moderation is key, but dried fruit is a wonderful option especially when you are on the go and certainly counts towards your daily fruit total. Be sure to store your dried fruit in a cool dark place because warmth makes dried fruit spoil faster. Use before the “use by” date on the package. Most dried fruits will last anywhere from 4 months to a year.
As we get back to the basics of healthy eating, it is important to always keep food safety in mind. Proper storage of your produce will assure that you maximize the nutrition and save money overall with less waste. Good quality food costs money, you certainly don’t want to waste that money. Enjoy all that produce has to offer……….fresh, frozen, canned, and dried are all great options for busy families. One simple tip that I use is to make sure to meal plan using my printable calendar. I then include fresh produce in my meals close to my shopping day and plan to use the less perishable produce later in the week. I throw out a lot less now and that is a good thing.
For more great tips and motivation to make healthier food choices, please join us for the Real Food Experience. You can join the Facebook group at anytime and jump right in. You can start at the beginning or join us anywhere along the way.