Avoid Food Waste: Buy Produce That Lasts

I have a confession: in the past, food waste has been a HUGE problem at our house.  Lettuce has probably been the biggest offender, because we like our lettuce crisp and fresh, and it just doesn’t last that long.  But fruits have also been an issue.  We tend to buy them when we’re in the mood, usually buying too many of one kind, and then lose interest and sort of…forget they’re there.

But there is no excuse for throwing away money, and I’m ashamed to admit that we’ve done so.  We’re always disappointed when we discover a package of food that inadvertently got pushed to the back of the fridge, or produce that went past its prime.  Often we found ourselves saying, “I didn’t even know we had this.”

This article, 12 Fruits and Vegetables That Last For Months, has some helpful hints for which produce to buy.  While even these items can outlive their peak of freshness, they have the best chance of surviving long enough to be eaten, and it’s helpful to know how to store them to maximize their counter-top lifespan.

One thing I might add that we have been getting better at doing:  go through your fridge, freezer and/or pantry OFTEN.  Pitch the leftovers that just aren’t going to get eaten, before they become a bona-fide science experiment.  Take inventory of what things in there are approaching the end of their usability, and make plans to use them in a meal or snack as soon as possible.  Use frozen foods before they get frostbitten.  It’s best to do this BEFORE you go shopping, to avoid buying repeats of what you may already have on hand.

We have started developing a habit of having at least one designated “leftover night” per week.  This has dramatically decreased the number of things that get thrown out because they’ve become fuzzy.  I’ve also been trying lately to get into the habit of putting a little piece of tape on the lid with the date it was made (or writing on the ziplock bag), so we know what has the greatest urgency.

A note about stocking up:  while you may be able to “save” a lot of money by stocking up on items when they’re on sale, don’t forget to take into account how quickly you can actually use all of the items.  You’re not saving much if you end up throwing some of the items away because you didn’t use them before they expired.  This counts for “non-perishables” as well as produce.  Who wants to use a bottle of mustard that expired in 2009?

What are your favorite long-lived produce selections?  What else do you do to minimize food waste at your house?

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